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Towards an Imperfect Union

A Conservative Case for the EU

Dalibor Rohac

In today’s Europe, deep cracks are showing in the system of political cooperation that was designed to prevent the geopolitical catastrophes that ravaged the continent in the first half of the twentieth century. Europeans are haunted, once again, by the specters of nationalism, fascism, and economic protectionism. Instead of sounding the alarm, many conservatives have become cheerleaders for the demise of the European Union (EU). This compelling book represents the first systematic attempt to justify the European project from a free-market, conservative viewpoint. Although many of their criticisms are justified, Dalibor Rohac contends that Euroskeptics are playing a dangerous game. Their rejection of European integration places them in the unsavory company of nationalists, left-wing radicals, and Putin apologists. Their defense of the nation-state against Brussels, furthermore, is ahistorical. He convincingly shows that the flourishing of democracy and free markets in Europe has gone hand in hand with the integration project. Europe’s pre-EU past, in contrast, was marked by a series of geopolitical calamities. When British voters make their decision in June, they should remember that while Brexit would not be a political or economic disaster for the United Kingdom, it would not solve any of the problems that the “Leavers” associate with EU membership. Worse yet, its departure from the European Union would strengthen the centrifugal forces that are already undermining Europe's ability to solve the multitude of political, economic, and security challenges plaguing the continent today. Instead of advocating for the end of the EU, Rohac argues that conservatives must come to the rescue of the integration project by helping to reduce the EU’s democratic deficit and turning it into an engine of economic dynamism and prosperity.

For the author’s video on Brexit, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFReUnO05Fo
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 202Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-7063-3 • Hardback • April 2016 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4422-7064-0 • Paperback • April 2016 • $29.00 • (£19.95)
978-1-4422-7065-7 • eBook • April 2016 • $27.00 • (£17.95)
Series: Europe Today
Dalibor Rohac is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies European political and economic trends. He is concurrently a visiting fellow at the Max Beloff Centre for the Study of Liberty at the University of Buckingham and a fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. Rohac’s analyses and commentary have been published widely, including in the New York Times, Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and the Wall Street Journal.
Chapter 1—Europe’s Hubris and Nemesis
Chapter 2—What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?
Chapter 3—Meet the Discontents
Chapter 4—Europe’s Pressure Points
Chapter 6—Better Off Out?
Chapter 7—How Conservatives Can Save the EU
About the Author
Towards an Imperfect Union mounts a formidable defense of the rationale of the European project. Mr. Rohac also makes a powerful metaphysical argument for maintaining the union. Conservatives tend to be skeptical of radical and irreversible change. The consequences of breaking up the European Union are not foreseeable and could very well be unpleasant. Stepping into the unknown in this way, Mr. Rohac concludes, is not something that any true conservative should be doing.
The Wall Street Journal

In seven short chapters that are accessible and well documented, Rohac explains how the EU has generated unprecedented peace, democracy, and economic growth in Europe. Progress such as this would not have been possible with authoritarian tendencies, belligerence, and protectionism. The book warns of similarities between the pushback to a stronger EU and the isolationism of the interwar period that contributed to WW II. Because of this danger, Rohac debunks the arguments that attract European conservatives to become Euro-skeptics: loss of national sovereignty, excessive bureaucratic regulation, or too much power given to economic elites. Rohac looks at current European trends: the endless Euro crisis, growing resistance to the free movement of people, and the absence of a common asylum and border policy. Backed by an extensive cohort of conservative thinkers, Rohac argues that the solution is a more powerful set of European institutions. This conclusion may seem counterintuitive because nowadays many conservatives embrace nationalistic sentiments. Nevertheless, the analysis is solid. In the final chapter, Rohac recommends changes to EU institutions to improve levels of citizen representation and, of course, economic growth.

Summing Up:
Recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates.


[Rohac] argues persuasively that the EU is a force for peace and prosperity that, on balance, promotes the precepts of the libertarian philosopher Friedrich Hayek. He argues that rather than seek to weaken Brussels, conservatives should work to strengthen and reform EU institutions. Rohac does not paper over the union’s flaws, especially the growth- inhibiting euro. But he concludes that the answer to Europe’s problems is more union, not less…. [His] book is an original corrective to unthinking (and often mendacious) Euroskepticism on the right.
Foreign Affairs

What makes this volume a ‘conservative case’ is that, in the grand sweep of European history, the past 70 years of steady integration have been the most peaceful and productive. This is not, Rohac argues, a coincidence, and those Euroskeptics who believe that not merely halting but reversing the integrationist trend would produce even better outcomes are falling for a 'nirvana fallacy.' That's usually a criticism directed at starry-eyed leftists, but here it fits: For far from being 'conservative,' undoing the EU would be fundamentally radical, as it is 'difficult to think of any more ambitious, larger-scale alteration of the existing political order in Europe than that of discarding the project of European integration altogether.'
The Weekly Standard

The free-market argument against Brexit is laid out in a new book ... by Dalibor Rohac.... Rohac, a native of Slovakia, is a true-blue conservative who wrote a series of articles harshly criticizing EU policies such as farm subsidies. While standing by those criticisms, he writes that ‘in the past two years, I have come to the realization that, for all its flaws, the European project has been beneficial for the continent.... To keep the European project alive,’ Rohac writes, ‘it has to be turned into a visible—in fact, anostentatious—engine of economic prosperity.’ He argues for making the EU more democratically governed, decreasing regulation, and increasing competition. Member nations should do more to get their fiscal houses in order.

Written prior to the British vote on European Union membership, this account of the rise of euroscepticism challenges what the author sees as the sceptics’ nationalist, fascist and protectionist rhetoric. Rohac believes that political conservatives should support the EU as a means of protecting democratic principles and advancing economic prosperity.
Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

If you think that ‘Euroscepticism’ is a conservative project, then think again: Dalibor Rohac makes the Hayekian case for the European Union—and it will surprise you.
Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and director, Transitions Forum, Legatum Institute

There is a conservative, freedom-based case for the European Union, and this book is the very best place to find it. This is a highly original and readable treatment of some of the most important issues facing the world today.
Tyler Cowen, Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and general director, Mercatus Center

In this timely and convincing study, Dalibor Rohac holds up not just the European Union but integration itself as the best road to peace and prosperity—and he does so from a conservative perspective. His message is critically important for those on the right and on the left who are in the process of undermining the West’s single most outstanding achievement since World War II.
Charles Gati, Senior Research Professor of European and Eurasian Studies, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

Timely, powerfully argued and well researched—Rohac nails the factual errors and logical flaws in the conservative Eurosceptic case.
Edward Lucas, senior editor, The Economist

Dalibor Rohac has written a very important book. He convincingly undermines the arguments of the fundamentalist opponents of the European Union while equally skillfully unmasking the EU’s weaknesses and excesses and pointing out the necessary reforms.
Leszek Balcerowicz, Warsaw School of Economics; former minister of finance, Poland

Dalibor Rohac's Towards an Imperfect Union is perfectly timed before the British referendum on staying or leaving the European Union. Nor could his 'Conservative Case for the EU' be more precisely targeted. The author has the perfect credentials too: a Central European Thatcherite working at the Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives—that is, people whom Edmund Burke and Adam Smith would recognize as such—should urgently consider what is nostalgia for the world of Westphalian nation-states and what is the least-bad, really existing arrangement for the European half of the Western world. Rohac provides persuasive arguments for improving rather than dismantling the EU with a welcome voice of reason in a dangerously unhinged world.
Radosław Sikorski, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland

-Provides a unique conservative, free-market argument for the European integration project

-Acknowledges the merits of arguments made by the EU’s critics and actively engages with them

-Synthesizes a broad spectrum of scholarship in political science, institutional economics, and public choice, as well as in economic history

-Engages the debate at a time of the EU’s deepest crisis as the UK girds for its historic referendum about continued membership

• Winner, A Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2016 (2016)