TLDR: The disintegration of Europe & liberalism

by Timothy Garton Ash (highlights provided for you by Annotote)

it seems to me more persuasive to date the postwar period from 1945 to 1989, or at the latest to 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“ The period of European history after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 might be called, in shorthand, “post-wall.” But then we face a further question: Are we still in that period? Or did the post-wall era end … sometime between the high point of early 2005 and the low of today?

the financial crisis of 2008–2009, which started in the US but rapidly spread to Europe, has initiated a new period characterized by three larger crises: of capitalism, of democracy, and of the project of European integration.

A young liberal hero of 1989, Viktor Orbán, is now a nationalist populist leading Hungary toward authoritarianism and explicitly praising the “illiberal” example of Xi Jinping’s China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Border controls have been reimposed between Schengen countries (“temporarily,” of course), in response to the flood of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — areas where our so-called European foreign policy has proved little more than waffle. To cap it all, a brave attempt to complete the unfinished business of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has been rewarded with Russia’s unilateral armed seizure of Crimea and ongoing violent intervention in eastern Ukraine

[Some] argue that a “neoliberal train,” put on track in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and Ronald Reagan’s United States, began “to cross Europe in 1989” … its crucial features, as applied in Eastern Europe, were liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, and that its consequences in social dislocation and growing inequality were very damaging.

the one thing worse than having a neoliberal transformation of your economy was not having a neoliberal transformation.

Southern Europe may be supplanting Eastern Europe on some Western Europeans’ mental maps, taking its place as the imagined, backward Other … at the heart of the Southern European tragedy: the profound design flaws of the eurozone and inadequate remedies offered by the creditor countries of Northern Europe, meaning mainly Germany.


it was a big mistake to create the eurozone with its present design and size — a common currency without a common treasury and shackling together nineteen quite diverse economies. Intended to foster European unity, the “one size fits none” euro is actually dividing Europe.

we who believe in liberty and liberalism must fight back against the advancing armies of Trumpismo. The starting point for fighting well is to understand exactly what consequences of which aspects of the post-wall era’s economic and social liberalism — and of related developments, such as rapid technological change — have alienated so many people that they now vote for populists

Those highlights just saved you 20 minutes, so take 1 minute to check out Annotote…