One worries where this will all end up. If Europe doesn’t get its collective political act together to solve the eurozone crisis, prosperity will be set back and dangerous political fragmentation to the extremes will set in – as it did, tragically, in the 20th century. If Europe succeeds in converging toward stern German standards in a globally competitive world, what will become of the convivial cultures of the south?
Yes, the trains must run on time. Taxes must be collected. But one worries where the logic of harmonization will ultimately lead. As a converging Europe opens services to the winds of competition across the single market, will the mom and pop shops found on every corner consolidate into Walmarts, the cafes into Starbucks, pensiones into Holiday Inns, and the countless trattorias into homogenous restaurant chains?
For a glimpse of the future, take a look at the most productive – but most sterile and least charming and convivial – place on the planet: Silicon Valley. The buildings that house the information revolution are featureless blocks, save for the designer logos of Yahoo!, Intel, or Oracle, surrounded by manicured lawns crisscrossed by wide boulevards. Nothing is architecturally distinct.
Though connectivity is the main business, ambling pedestrians are nowhere to be found, save for the occasional lone jogger. On a recent visit to Santa Clara, the only sign of convivial life was a gaggle of Indian software engineers, lonely and far from home, swirling beers at Pedro’s, a faux Mexican cantina.