All sincere republicans make the same mistake. They believe in the existence of public spirit in Europe. Amiable delusion! Public spirit is the generous emotion of young nations, of new peoples. In selfish old Europe, private interest has taken its place.
Wilkie Collins - Poor Miss Finch
Public spirit is the generous emotion of young nations, of new peoples. I like the sentiment here, even though Collins is writing through one of his characters and from another age. There is something old and ungenerous about European political life, something stultifying and meanly grandiose which turns even the most worthy scheme into a pompous, bureaucratic nightmare.
A free trade area roughly similar to the EEC was far enough for a bunch of old nations. It was all we needed to recover from World War II, put the past behind us and build a better future. But the grand panjandrums couldn't leave it there, were too stupid to limit their dull-witted calculations to what is possible, what is desirable, what will actually work.
private interest has taken its place - and on a scale Collins never could have imagined. It hasn't played itself out either - not by a long way.