The Left is bubbling with ideas. They’re just the wrong ones.


February 23, 2019

The Left is bubbling with ideas. They’re just the wrong ones.

By Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/21/the-left-is-bubbling-with-ideas-theyre-just-the-wrong-ones

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IT is refreshing to see the Democratic Party bubbling with new ideas. But this new thinking seems starkly different from the party’s reform efforts of the past three decades. The wonky proposals of the Clinton-Obama era were pragmatic and incremental, and they mixed market incentives with government action. Today, we have big, stirring ideas — and that could be the problem.

In their zeal to match the sweeping rhetoric of right-wing populism, Democrats are spinning out dramatic proposals in which facts are sometimes misrepresented, the numbers occasionally don’t add up, and emotional appeal tends to trump actual policy analysis.

Image result for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was confronted recently by Anderson Cooper on CBS’s “60 Minutes” about an egregious misstatement concerning Pentagon spending, she responded, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

Perhaps this casual attitude toward facts explains the way that she and many others on the left have misrepresented the deal that New York offered Amazon to bring a new headquarters there. She claimed New York was going to give away $3 billion to Amazon that could have been used to pay for schoolteachers and subways. But as Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) explained, “This was a deal that was going to bring $27 billion in revenue to the state and city for things like public education, mass transit, affordable housing. And that $3 billion that [Amazon would receive in] incentives was only after we were getting the jobs and getting the revenue.” Moreover, $2.5 billion of those incentives were not specially crafted for Amazon, but rather were preexisting tax credits that it would have qualified for. In return, Amazon would have directly created at least 25,000 high-quality jobs, upgraded infrastructure in Long Island City and offered new educational opportunities. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Post.)

The merits of any such incentive programs can be debated but the idea that, if New York unilaterally disarms, other cities and states will stop offering their own incentives is beyond naive. This was a chance for New York to gain leadership in the technology industry, further diversify its economy away from real estate and finance, and add new dynamism to the sometimes-forgotten borough of Queens. For all those who worried about Amazon crowding out low-income housing, a community activist smartly predicted to me what will happen to that part of Long Island City. Come the next recession, he explained, real estate developers will snap up the land, turn it into luxury condos, and take a 25-year tax break in return for reserving a smattering of apartments for the “middle class” (meaning people earning $125,000). But the thrill of denouncing “the world’s richest man” is apparently worth all this wreckage.

Or consider the race by prominent Democrats to embrace Medicare-for-all. A variety of expert studies have estimated the total increased government spending for such a program at between $2.5 trillion and $3 trillion a year. Few of the many proposals being floated would likely raise anything close to that revenue. The Medicare-for-all plan by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has zero out-of-pocket costs for patients, which would make it even more generous than plans in Europe and Canada. And if a herculean effort were made to raise revenue for Medicare-for-all, there would be few easy avenues left to fund any of the other ambitious proposals on the new Democratic wish list.

Universal health care is an important moral and political goal. But the U.S. system is insanely complex, and getting from here to single-payer would probably be so disruptive and expensive that it’s not going to happen. There is a path to universal coverage that is simpler: Switzerland has one of the best health-care systems in the world, and it’s essentially Obamacare with a real mandate. No one on the left is talking about such a model, likely because it feels too much like those incremental policies of the past.

Or consider the tax proposals being tossed around on the left, including a wealth tax championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). I understand the appeal of tapping into those vast accumulations of billionaire loot. But there is a reason nine of the 12 European countries that instituted similar taxes have repealed them in the last 25 years. They massively distort economic activity, often incentivizing people to hide assets, devalue them and create dummy corporations. Faced with a wealth tax, most rich people would likely value and transfer assets the questionable way that Fred Trump did in passing his fortune on to his children.

There are smarter, better ways to address inequality — raise the capital gains tax to the same level as income taxes; increase the estate tax; and get rid of the massive loopholes that make the U.S. tax code one of the most complex and corrupt in the world. But again, this is less stirring stuff than burning the billionaires.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on “60 Minutes” reminded me of a July 2016 exchange between former House speaker Newt Gingrich and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. Camerota explained that, contrary to Gingrich’s insistence, FBI data showed that violent crime in the United States was way down. Gingrich responded that it doesn’t “feel” that way to people. “As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel, and I’ll let you go with the theoreticians,” he said.We already have one major party that now routinely twists facts, disregards evidence, ignores serious policy analysis and makes stuff up to appeal to people’s emotions and prejudices. If the Democrats start moving along this path as well, American politics will truly descend into a new dark age.

 

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Washington Post

 

 

Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World


February 17, 2019

Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/14/anti-semitism-has-spread-through-the-islamic-world-like-a-cancer

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)

In recent weeks, attention has focused on two freshman Democratic members of Congress, Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), both of whom are Muslim and have made critical statements about Israel and its most ardent American supporters. Their tweets and comments have been portrayed by some as not simply criticisms of Israel but rather as evidence of a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the new left.

I don’t know what is in the hearts of the two representatives. But I believe that Muslims should be particularly thoughtful when speaking about these issues because anti-Semitism has spread through the Islamic world like a cancer. (Omar and Tlaib are not responsible for this in any way, of course, but they should be aware of this poisonous climate.) In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League did a survey in more than 100 countries of attitudes toward Jews and found that anti-Semitism was twice as common among Muslims than among Christians, and it’s far more prevalent in the Middle East than the Americas. It has sometimes tragically gone beyond feelings, morphing into terrorist attacks against Jews, even children, in countries such as France.

It might surprise people to know that it wasn’t always this way. In fact, through much of history, the Muslim Middle East was hospitable to Jews when Christian Europe was killing or expelling them. The great historian Bernard Lewis once said to me, “People often note that in the late 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Arab countries. They rarely ask why so many Jews were living in those lands in the first place.”

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Bernard Lewis and Henry Kissinger

In his seminal book, “The Jews of Islam,” Lewis points out that in the Middle Ages, when polemics against Jews were commonplace in the Christian world, they were rare in the Islamic world. In the early centuries of Islamic rule, he writes, there was “a kind of symbiosis between Jews and their neighbors that has no parallel in the Western world between the Hellenistic and modern ages. Jews and Muslims had extensive and intimate contacts that involved social as well as intellectual association — cooperation, commingling, even personal friendship.” One shouldn’t exaggerate the status of Jews back then — they were second-class citizens — but they were tolerated and encouraged to a far greater degree in Muslim societies than in Christian ones.

Things changed in the Muslim world only in the late 19th century, when, according to Lewis, “as a direct result of European influence, movements appear among Muslims of which for the first time one can legitimately use the term anti-Semitic.” Muslims worried that the British, who came to rule much of the Middle East, were favoring the small non-Muslim communities, especially Jews. Muslims began importing European anti-Semitic tropes such as the notion of blood libel, and noxious anti-Semitic works started to be translated into Arabic, including the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

What supercharged all these attitudes was the founding of Israel in 1948 and the determination of Arab leaders to defeat it. In their zeal to delegitimize the Jewish state, men such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser promoted all kinds of anti-Semitic literature and rhetoric. Arab states became vast propaganda machines for anti-Semitism, brainwashing generations of their people with the most hateful ideas about Jews. Even the supposedly secular president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, declared in 2001 that Israelis were “trying to kill all the values of the divine religions, with the same mentality that brought about the betrayal and torturing of Christ and in the same way that they tried to betray the Prophet Muhammad.” Religious states such as Saudi Arabia were just as bad, if not worse.

Decades of state-sponsored propaganda have had an effect. Anti-Semitism is now routine discourse in Muslim populations in the Middle East and also far beyond. While some Arab governments have stepped back from the active promotion of hate, the damage has been done.

It should be possible to criticize Israel. As Peter Beinart has written, “establishing two legal systems in the same territory — one for Jews and one for Palestinians, as Israel does in the West Bank — is bigotry. . . . And it has lasted for more than a half-century.” It should be possible to talk about the enormous political influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. I recall senators privately worrying that if they supported the Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC would target them. (Of course, this is true of other lobbies and is not the only reason senators voted against the deal.) These are legitimate issues to vigorously debate and discuss in the United States, just as in Israel.

Unfortunately, by phrasing the issue as the two new representatives sometimes have, they have squandered an opportunity to further that important debate.

 

Fareed on Developments in Venezuela


February 11, 2019

Fareed on Developments in Venezuela

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/7/the-american-left-needs-to-find-its-voice-on-venezuela

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The Trump administration faces a test in Venezuela. It must pursue a foreign policy that helps usher out the odious regime of President Nicolás Maduro without triggering a backlash against perceived U.S. “imperialism.” It must support a political transition that doesn’t threaten the old guard so much that it fights to the end. And the United States must join other nations to help a country that has virtually been destroyed over the past decade. All this requires careful diplomacy, multilateralism and quiet pressure, not bombast.

But Venezuela also poses a challenge for the Democratic Party. Can it find its voice on Venezuela, and foreign policy more generally? There are worrying signs that the new Democratic foreign policy could turn out to be a reflexive isolationism that is not so different from President Trump’s own “America First” instincts.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said, “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said, “We cannot hand pick leaders for other countries on behalf of multinational corporate interests.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted, “We must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups.” Leftist hero Noam Chomsky and several dozen other academics and activists have signed a letter largely blaming the crisis in Venezuela on U.S. actions.

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Does one really have to explain that Venezuela’s problems have been primarily caused by its own nasty government? That the Venezuelan people have not been allowed to determine their own future or pick their own leaders for years, going back to Hugo Chávez’s rule? The current government has clung to power by rigging elections, crushing opposition parties, muzzling the media and using lethal force against protesters. During a single week in January, pro-Maduro forces allegedly killed at least 30 people and arrested at least 850, according to the United Nations.

The Chávez-Maduro regime has destroyed what was once Latin America’s richest nation, producing an almost unimaginable inflation rate of 1 million percent. (Prices double approximately every 19 days.) The simplest, bleakest indicator of how bad things are in Venezuela is that since 2015, an estimated 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country. That’s about 10 percent of the country, equivalent to an exodus of 33 million Americans.

But millions more Venezuelans are staying and fighting. They have come out in droves to vote against this government, almost driving Maduro out in 2013 despite an unfair election, and successfully bringing an opposition parliament to power in 2015. For the past few years, Venezuelans have organized massive protests against the regime, enduring tear gas, arrests and killings. They have rallied behind an opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, and are using a constitutional process to shift control of the government from the regime to the elected parliament.

Over the years, the Venezuelan government has used its oil wealth to support anti-American movements throughout Latin America, from Cuba to Nicaragua. It has deep ties to drug traffickers, and it is well documented that the nation has developed ties with Iran and even Hezbollah. The Maduro regime is, not surprisingly, being supported by a rogues’ gallery of strongmen, including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

There is a larger debate to be had about the path forward for a progressive foreign policy. There is appropriate skepticism about a U.S. defense budget that is $700 billion and growing. There are lessons to be learned from the overextension of American power abroad, from interventions that have gone on too long. Policy toward Venezuela will require tact, caution, regional engagement and more. But to shield us from the dangers of mistakes and bad actions, the answer is surely not resolute inaction.

Image result for A Foreign Policy for the Left,” political philosopher (and card-carrying leftist) Michael Walzer argues t.

In a brilliant book released last year, “A Foreign Policy for the Left,” political philosopher (and card-carrying leftist) Michael Walzer argues that the default position of the left has tended to be inaction. The world is complicated, U.S. power can be misused, information is never enough, so best to just stay out.But those criteria could be a counsel for inaction at home as well. After all, a swift transition to Medicare-for-all would also be fraught with complexities and risks.

Walzer makes a powerful case that “in a world beset by wars and civil wars, religious zealotry, terrorist attacks, far right nationalism, tyrannical governments, gross inequalities, and widespread poverty and hunger, [the world] requires intelligent leftist attention.” One additional example: You cannot tackle climate change without a deep and continuing engagement with the other 95 percent of humanity.“Our deepest commitment is solidarity with people in trouble,” Walzer writes. Right now, there are millions in trouble in our hemisphere who are trying to help themselves. They deserve the active support of the American left.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Washington Post

In defense of the elites


February 5, 2019

In defense of the elites

 

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/31/in-defense-of-the-elites

This year’s World Economic Forum, more than usual, prompted a spirited round of elite-bashing, which has now become the trendy political posture on both the right and left. On one side, President Trump and Fox News hosts slam the out-of-touch establishment that, according to them, has run things into the ground. On the other side, left-wingers decry the millionaires and billionaires who, in one author’s phrase, “broke the modern world.”

Underlying these twin critiques is a bleak view of modern life — seen as a dysfunctional global order, producing stagnant incomes, rising insecurity and environmental degradation. But is this depiction, in fact, true? Are we doing so very badly that we need to bring back the guillotines?

On the simplest and most important measure, income, the story is actually one of astonishing progress. Since 1990, more than 1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty. The share of the global population living in these dire conditions has gone from 36 percent to 10 percent, the lowest in recorded history. This is, as the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, notes, “one of the greatest achievements of our time.” Inequality, from a global perspective, has declined dramatically.

And all this has happened chiefly because countries — from China to India to Ethiopia — have adopted more market-friendly policies, and Western countries have helped them with access to markets, humanitarian assistance and loan forgiveness. In other words, policies supported by these very elites.

Look at any measure from a global perspective and the numbers are staggering. The child mortality rate is down 58 percent since 1990. Undernourishment has fallen 41 percent, and maternal deaths (women dying because of childbirth) have dropped by 43 percent over roughly the same period.

I know the response that some will have to these statistics. The figures pertain to the world in general, not the United States. Things might have improved for the Chinese, but not for the denizens of rich countries. That sense of “unfairness” is what is surely fueling Trump’s “America First” agenda and much of the anger on the right at the international system. (More bewilderingly, the left, traditionally concerned about the poorest of the poor, has become critical of a process that has improved the lives of at least 1 billion of the world’s most impoverished people.)

When criticizing the current state of affairs, it’s easy to hark back to some nostalgic old order, the modern world before the current elites “broke” it. But when was that golden age? In the 1950s, when Jim Crow reigned in the United States and women could barely work as anything more than seamstresses and secretaries? The 1980s, when two-thirds of the globe stagnated under state socialism, repression and isolation? What group of elites — kings, commissars, mandarins — ran the world better than our current hodgepodge of politicians and business executives?

Even in the West, it is easy to take for granted the astounding progress. We live longer, the air and water are cleaner, crime has plunged, and information and communication are virtually free. Economically, there have been gains, though crucially, they have not been distributed equally.

But there have been monumental improvements in access and opportunity for large segments of the population that were locked out and pushed down. In the United States, the gap between black and white high school completion has almost disappeared. The poverty gap between blacks and whites has shrunk (but remains distressingly large). Hispanic college enrollment has soared. The gender gap between wages for men and women has narrowed. The number of female chief executives at Fortune 500 companies has gone from one to 24 over the past 20 years. Female membership in national legislatures of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries has almost doubled in the same period. No countries allowed same-sex marriage two decades ago, but more than 20 countries do today. In all these areas, much remains to be done. But in each of them, there has been striking progress.

I understand that important segments of the Western working class are under great pressure, and that they often feel ignored and left behind by this progress. We must find ways to give them greater economic support and moral dignity. But extensive research shows that some of their discomfort comes from watching a society in which these other groups are rising, changing the nature of the world in which they’d enjoyed a comfortable status.

After 400 years of slavery, segregation and discrimination in the United States, blacks have been moving up. After thousands of years of being treated as structurally subordinate, women are now gaining genuine equality. Once considered criminals or deviants, gays can finally live and love freely in many countries. The fact that these changes might cause discomfort to some is not a reason to pause, nor to forget that it represents deep and lasting human progress that we should celebrate.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Dr. Fareed on DAVOS without America


January 28, 2019

Dr. Fareed on DAVOS without America

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The atmosphere at the 2019 World Economic Forum reflects the global picture perhaps more genuinely than in years past, and the painting is not very pretty. The mood here is subdued, cautious and apprehensive. There’s not much talk of a global slowdown, but no one is confident about a growth story, either. There is no great global political crisis, yet people speak in worried tones about the state of democracy, open societies and the international order”. — Dr.Fareed Zakaria

A Davos without America mirrors a world without America: The United States has withdrawn from the world.

DAVOS, Switzerland

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/24/a-davos-without-america-mirrors-a-world-without-america

The atmosphere at the 2019 World Economic Forum reflects the global picture perhaps more genuinely than in years past, and the painting is not very pretty. The mood here is subdued, cautious and apprehensive. There’s not much talk of a global slowdown, but no one is confident about a growth story, either. There is no great global political crisis, yet people speak in worried tones about the state of democracy, open societies and the international order.

The White House scrapped the official U.S. delegation’s trip to this year’s conference — an outgrowth of President Trump’s spat with Congress — providing a perfect metaphor for the broader outlook: The United States has withdrawn from the world.

Meanwhile, Europe is distracted, divided and despondent. Of the continent’s three major leaders, only one, Germany’s lame-duck Chancellor Angela Merkel, even showed up. British Prime Minister Theresa May did not attend because of turmoil over Brexit. French President Emmanuel Macron chose not to come because he faces ongoing populist protests from the right and left. In this environment, there is a gaping absence of leadership in Davos from the usual defenders of liberal democracy and the rules-based international system.

This does not mean that any new global leaders have stepped into the void. Contrary to some speculation, China is playing a more muted role at the forum than in the past. It sent a respected statesman, Vice President Wang Qishan, with an anodyne message aiming to reassure the world that Beijing seeks “win-win” solutions and global cooperation. This probably reflects the reality that — politically and economically — China faces its own challenges at home, with slowing growth and President Xi Jinping trying to tighten his grip over China’s vast society. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces a tougher-than-expected fight in upcoming national elections, so he didn’t show up, either.

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It is not really the dawn of dictators, few of whom came, perhaps a reflection of the fact that global norms and fora like Davos still do not celebrate strongmen. Although Western democracies may be flagging, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold a much weaker hand than most people realize. They, too, along with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, stayed home. Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, did attend and gave a much-anticipated speech, but it was barely six minutes long — and was received with decidedly mixed reviews.

The one area of consistent optimism among the attendees remains technology. Executives from multinational corporations such as Novartis and Cargill spoke about the next great technological opportunity — leveraging artificial intelligence to make their companies far more efficient and productive. This is a trend that they see as inexorable, forcing them to adapt or watch the competition grow. Executives and experts alike foresee that another layer of white-collar jobs could be at risk — those involving routine analytic skills. But chief executives here voiced optimism that it will all work out.

Businessmen and executives are more openly pessimistic about trade. They worry that a U.S.-China trade war could spill over across the world. Whether it happens, it seems clear that the great expansion of globalization is over. For the past 15 years, there has been no significant forward movement on trade, and many minor setbacks. This hasn’t yet translated into large-scale protectionism and tariff wars, but it is a new stagnancy.

If the West is divided, so are other regions. Almost no Arab leaders showed up to last weekend’s Arab League meeting in Beirut, relegating the summit to even greater irrelevance than usual. Latin America is now split between leaders such as the right-wing Bolsonaro and the new leftist president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The leaders of several smaller countries (all of whom insisted on staying off the record) described the world as adrift and lacking in any collective purpose, with only voices about narrow self-interest and conflict being heard. “When the Americans are engaged, we have a sense of direction,” one of them said to me. “We might disagree on some points, but at least there is a larger conversation, some efforts at cooperation. Now the only energy is negative — worries about retreat, trade wars. That’s not a world in which it is easy for us to move forward. We are all stuck.”

This, then, is the post-American world. Not one marked by Chinese dominance or Asian arrogance. Not an outright anti-American one, but one in which many yearn for a greater U.S. presence. One in which countries are freelancing, narrowly pursuing their own interests, and hoping that the framework of international order remains reasonably stable. But with no one actively shoring up the international system, the great question remains: In a world without leaders, will that system over time weaken and eventually crumble?

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

 

The two issues that undermined the E.U.


January 21, 2019

The two issues that undermined the E.U.

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/17/the-two-issues-that-undermined-the-eu

As we watch Britain go through the paroxysms of Brexit, it is easy to view its decision to leave the European Union as an act of foolishness, a self-inflicted wound that will impoverish Britons for years. Europe is Britain’s largest market, taking in almost half of the country’s exports. Losing special access to it is a high price to pay for some symbolic gains in sovereignty.

But the Brexit debacle also shines a light on Europe itself, and what one sees is a continent and a political project that have stopped working — at least for many of the people at its Western European core. I say this as an ardent supporter of the European Union. The United States and the E.U. have been the two main engines behind a world based on open markets, democratic politics, liberty and law, human rights, and global welfare. These values will probably be eroded worldwide if the strength and purpose of either of these centers wane further.

For the past three decades, the European project has been wandering off course. What began as a community of nations cooperating to create larger markets, greater efficiency and political stability has become obsessed with two massive issues that have undermined its central achievements.

The first was — after the Soviet Union’s collapse — the rapid integration of many new countries that were far less economically and socially developed than the E.U.’s original members. Since 1995, it has expanded from 12 countries to 28. Originally focused on opening up markets, streamlining regulations and creating new growth opportunities, the E.U. soon became a “transfer union,” a vast scheme to redistribute funds from prosperous countries to emerging markets. Even in today’s strong economic environment, spending by the E.U. accounts for more than 3 percent of Hungary’s economy and almost 4 percent of Lithuania’s.

his gap between a rich and a poor Europe with open borders inevitably produced a migration crisis. As Matthias Matthijs pointed out in Foreign Affairs, from 2004 to 2014, about 2 million Poles migrated to Britain and Germany and about 2 million Romanians moved to Italy and Spain. These movements put massive strains on the safety nets of destination countries and stoked nationalism and nativism. The influx into Europe of more than 1 million refugees in 2015, mostly from the Middle East, must be placed in the context of these already sky-high migrant numbers. And as can be seen almost everywhere, from the United States to Austria, fears of immigration are the rocket fuel for right-wing nationalists, who discredit the political establishment that they deem responsible for unchecked flows.

The second challenge consuming the European Union has been its currency, the euro. Launched more with politics than economics in mind, the euro has embodied a deep structural flaw: It forces a unified monetary system on 19 countries that continue to have vastly different fiscal systems. So when a recession hits, countries do not have the ability to lower the value of their currency, nor do they get substantial additional resources from Brussels (as U.S. states do from Washington when they go into recession). The results, as could be seen for years after 2008, were economic stagnation and political revolt.

Brexit should force Britons to think hard about their place in the world and make the adjustments that will allow them to prosper in it. But it should also cause Europeans overall to take stock of their project, a great idea that has gone awry. The European Union needs more than tinkering; it needs to return to first principles, rediscover its central purpose and question which aspects of its current system are no longer working, affordable or manageable. As former British prime minister Tony Blair told me in an interview this week for CNN, it’s crucial that “Britain thinks again but Europe also thinks again.”

Europe is foundering. Although some Americans seem to delight in this prospect, it is bad for our country.

“By the middle of the century, you’re going to live in a multipolar world,” Blair said. “In those circumstances, the West should stay united and Europe should stand alongside America, because in the end . . . we’re countries that believe in democracy and freedom and the rule of law. . . . Otherwise, we’re going to find that as this century progresses and my children and grandchildren work out where they stand in the world, the West is going to be weaker. And that’s bad for them and bad for all of us.”

c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group