But right now, the E.U. project isn’t advancing democracy, liberalism and human rights. Instead, it is subjecting its weaker member states to an extraordinary test of their resilience, and conducting an increasingly perverse experiment in seeing how much stress liberal norms can bear.
That stress takes the form of mass unemployment unseen in the history of modern Europe, and mass youth unemployment that is worse still. In the Continent’s sick-man economies, the jobless rate for those under 25 now staggers the imagination: over 40 percent in Italy, over 50 percent in Spain, and over 60 percent in Greece.
For these countries, the euro zone is now essentially an economic prison, with Germany as the jailer and the common currency as the bars. No matter what happens, they face a future of stagnation ”” as aging societies with expensive welfare states whose young people will sit idle for years, unable to find work, build capital or start families.