The Iron Man?

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Congratulations are in order for Britain, which has vetoed the latest scheme to try to paper over Europe’s problems and declared its intention to stand apart. It seems that Prime Minister Cameron is steering for the course illuminated by Prime Minister Thatcher in her famous speech at Bruges, Belgium, where she declared that Britain would hang back from a full embrace of the new Europe, saying: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level.”

That was back in September 1988, well before the Maastricht Treaty and the scheme to cast aside the fiat currencies into the use of which Europe had fallen and to create a continent-wide fiat currency called the euro. Mrs. Thatcher didn’t deny the European component of Britain’s history; on the contrary, she celebrated it, referring back to as far as the 300 years that Britain was part of the Roman Empire. But she voiced a certain skepticism that has inspired a generation opposed the idea that Britain should submit to European rule.

In a way, she tried to have it both ways. On the one hand, she was full of praise for the idea of Europe. On the other hand, she recognized that what was happening in Brussels and capitals of the so-called European project was animated by the dirigiste, socialist, regulatory mindset. Our instinct at the time — we speak here of the editors who conduct these columns — was with the so-called Euro skeptics, and the instinct has grown only stronger over the years. We just don’t think much good will come of the European union.

Savage as a divided Europe has proved to be over the years, a united Europe will only be so much more dangerous. We don’t mean to suggest that the individual European countries are without their charms — or heroes. But it’s hard to think of the European Union adding much value to any one of them. For Britain, with its tradition of liberty, we’ve always thought the better course would be strengthening of the special relationship with America. It would be a better course for both Britain and us.

Ordinarily one could suggest that Mr. Cameron’s stand adds up to an opportunity for America — and that President Obama would spring for it. But the president maintains little interest in the so-called special relationship. He started off his term by sending so many signals of uninterest that members of parliament in London actually issued a call to stop using the phrase special relationship. Given the fact that the European crisis is coming to a head over the euro, what exactly might Mr. Obama have to offer anyhow?

On Mr. Obama’s watch, after all, the value of the American dollar has collapsed to less than a 1,700th of an ounce of gold, barely half of the 850th of an ounce it was worth on the day Mr. Obama acceded to the presidency. This collapse didn’t start under Mr. Obama, and the dollar has gained a bit of value in recent days. But the dollar is worth only a fraction of what it was worth when Mr. Obama acceded, and America has little to offer Europe except a lower interest rate on fiat scrip. How much clearer things would be if America — or any country — had sound money.

No doubt the story in Europe isn’t over. The fight is already underway to undercut Mr. Cameron in his own country. “The empty chair resolves nothing,” the Financial Times whinged. But there are also lively voices of support. One of our favorite, Daniel Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, quoted Bismarck’s famous salute to Disraeli — “The old Jew! That is the man.” Maybe Mr. Cameron will spend an evening over the holiday watching the about-to-be-released movie of Mrs. Thatcher, “The Iron Lady,” in which Meryl Streep utters the line: “I may be persuaded to surrender the hat. The pearls are absolutely non-negotiable. That is the tone that we want to strike.”


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