My non-econ reading lately has been Timothy Garton Ash Homelands: A Personal History of Europe. I describe it as an elegy because of its melancholy narrative trajectory: from World War II and “never again”, through the ups and downs of the European project, to the brutal invasion of Ukraine today. today’s hard-won ‘illiberal democracies’ – won freedoms and mass immigration pressures – which will only intensify as climate change drives conflict and destruction.
Like the author, I lament how our European citizenship has been taken away from those of us in the UK, by a narrow margin, by voters who have been lied to by lying and greedy politicians and businessmen . And at the same time recognize the challenges that the EU itself faces. No wonder the book ends by quoting Gramsci on pessimism/optimism. But also Vaclav Havel: “Hope is not a prognosis. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. …. It is not the belief that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense no matter how it turns out.
So not encouraging reading, at least for those who are likely to pick up a book on Europe. But one captivating readingby someone who has had a front-row seat to most of the key meetings and “where were you when…” events (especially the fall of the Berlin Wall) of the past 40 years.
PS For those who haven’t read it, Garton Ash’s The dossier: a personal story is a must read.