Dear Europe,

As I’m sure you are acutely aware, currency unions don’t really work without political unions to back them up. The fledgling United States found that out the hard way in 1783, and you’re finding it out the hard way now. We fixed this problem by adopting a particular constitution. I don’t think ours would work out that well for you, but you should consider it’s better parts. If you want to adopt a new strong federal constitution, here’s what you should do.

Gather a bunch of delegates and let them work in secret. Since it’s 2015 and everyone has cell phones now, I recommend that you ask the United Kingdom nicely and see if they’ll offer up Ascension for you and then quietly engineer an “accident” with the network up-link or whatever. The important part is that everyone in attendance needs to feel like they can say the crazy ideas that you’ll need to save your continent without it damaging their local political careers back home. Secrecy, at least at first, will be a big help to you.

Get some low level worker to throw a monkey wrench into the air conditioner. Don’t drop the requirement that everyone wear a suit. You need people willing to compromise if you want this to work. Nothing pushes people to work together for the common good like extreme discomfort. Your people are in agony because they are in an untenable political situation. Your delegates should be in similar agony in a similarly untenable thermal situation.

Officially, give the delegates just enough power to resolve whatever crisis you use as an excuse to make this happen. Trust them to immediately and incredibly overstep their authority. When they get back, whatever they passed will have to be subject to referenda anyway, so before they depart, give them a good solid wink and nod and let them know what they’re really supposed to do.

At this point your convention is starting to look a lot like Philadelphia in 1783. This is by design. If I thought that anything less would solve your problem, I would have recommended that instead. You should secretly invite observers from The United States, Canada, China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Brazil, Chile, and India. These observers should be kept absolutely silent during official meetings of the delegates and somewhat tipsy after hours. They should all be experts in the history, law, or governance of their home nations. Their very presence should be denied by everyone. See if you can get one of the Americans to be Lawrence Lessig; not a hard requirement.

This part is to the delegates themselves: (Hi Mr. Lessig; Big fan!)

Start by thinking through what Europe is and what Europe needs. Collectively, you’ll need to have a good command of modern European history back through the Napoleonic wars and the French Revolution. Pay particular attention to the unification of Germany. Obviously, you should read about the American revolution and the drafting of the United States Constitution, but your main focus should be on what you are, who you want to be, and what you need. Don’t get caught up on what we could have done better; that way madness lies. Think about the economy of Europe: who sells what to whom? Who is dependent on whom? Who sets economic policy? Is this ideal for all of Europe, or does it favor some nations or even constituencies within nations over Europe as a whole? What is the foreign policy of Europe? What should it be? What rights, freedoms, and social policies does Europe stand for? Why those and not others? These are the questions your constitutions and your Constitution must answer. Enumerate them carefully, and mull over them as long as you need to.

The following would not be a bad model for a constitution of Europe. You will reject almost all of it. But it would be good to know why.

The portfolio of The Federal State of Europe should, at minimum, consist of foreign policy, governance of the European Central Bank, and pensions along with unemployment assistance. Our federal government does far more than this, but there’s always time in the distant future to add to a portfolio. Focus now on a minimum viable government. The only one of those three that is even sort of controversial is the pensions. This should be the purview of the federal government because it provides a very easy way for the federal government to have the strong help the weak. This is why no one spoke of throwing Florida out of the United States during it’s housing crisis. Of course, individual nations would be free to provide additional internal income redistribution schemes. The English would be free to provide nothing extra, and the Swedes would be free to provide so much as to make the Federal pension practically irrelevant. But the Federal system must be empowered to unify the economy quickly.

The federal systems of power should look very different than the national systems of power. It would be a disaster for there to be a German party, a French Party, an Iberian party, etc. in a federal European legislature. For this reason, you should design a system that fosters a two-party political system at the federal level, while retaining multiparty parliaments at the national level. What you want is for the conservatives in England to ally with the conservatives in Germany rather than the liberals in England. Often the quickest way to unification is an enemy, and you should make them clear. For this reason, the portfolio of what I’ll call the Concert of Europe (hey, if you’re going to make obscure history jokes, you might as well make them audacious enough to be funny) should consist of pensions, unemployment insurance, and economic policy. You want these things close to the people, and legislative bodies have largely proven themselves at least better able than anything else to handle this sort of thing. Don’t bother with a bicameral legislature, it’s far more trouble than it’s worth. Do involve a gobsmackingly large number of people. It’s 2015, electronic voting can make seats too worthless to sell. Federal legislators should have day jobs.

A unary executive should exist, and have control over foreign policy. Thanks to the complexities of NATO, you will not get a chance to provide for common defense. Allow that this might have to be a constitutional amendment. This executive will need to be able to sign treaties, staff a bureaucracy, maintain embassies, conduct social science, negotiate with foreign powers. Give this position just enough power to do those things.

I’m going to punt (It’s like kicking the can down the road, only the road is grass, the can is a pigskin, and the pigskin is really a pointy ball made of cow leather) on a judicial system. It will need to resolve issues between nations, and between the federal system and individuals or nations, but it’s not clear at all to me how big it needs to be to do this or what powers it should have. You might be able to get away with nothing more than vastly expanding the bureaucracy of the Hague.

Some random parting thoughts in no particular order. Abolish national citizenship and issue European passports. The full faith and credit clause worked out really well for us. Try not to let 98 percent of the activity of your government be allowed by a single vague sentence called “the elastic clause.” Immediately nationalize all pensions and debt; debt is pretty good at keeping a country together.

The final thing you must decide is how many countries need to ratify the new constitution before it takes effect. You will need Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium (though they’ll ratify anything), and Spain. Additionally, you will need one of Finland or Austria, one of Italy or Portugal, and two of Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, or Poland. The rest are ancillary. Figure out a politically acceptable way of saying that.

Get the referenda passed (I note that you’re pretty good at that by now) and people will be saying “The Nations of Europe is” any day now.

Good Luck,

—Kiefer of America