Europe enjoyed a common currency regime 2000 years ago under the Roman Empire. Back then, as today, there was no single common language, rather limited workforce mobility, and quite an active trade network, yet the Roman Empire brought relative internal peace to a wide area. As the European debt crisis unfolds, it seems unlikely that the euro will achieve anything approaching the success or longevity of its distant predecessor, the sestertius.
What’s the Big Idea?
Europe’s fundamental sin is actually simple. The peculiarity of the Roman political system was its taste for ‘subsidiarity’. The imperial government usually restricted itself to the essentials—military defense and the rule of law—while letting local authorities manage their own affairs. But the E.U. has evolved in a way that undermines the principle thatit is always better for a matter to be handled at a local level than by a centralized authority.