Frederick Kempe: Why I prefer Europe to America

From a speech by the editor of 'The Wall Street Journal Europe' to the IESE Business School in Barcelona

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For all America's current soul-searching about its war on terrorism, I would argue that Europe is a far more exciting place to live than America at this point in history. That's because while America has largely defined what it is and what it stands for, Europe is in the process of self-definition.

Let me demonstrate. This is a dollar. You see how dirty and worn it is. And you know how many Americans use it. And you're relatively certain that Alan Greenspan knows how to manage it. This is a boring currency.

Here's a crisp 10-euro bill. This is an exciting currency. We don't know how many countries will use it in the end, we're not totally sure the European Central Bank knows how to manage it, and we're not altogether sure one interest rate does fit all. It's one of the boldest economic experiments humankind has seen, and you're smack in the middle of it.

Now imagine I'm holding before you an American map. It's looked just that way for some time and is likely to do so for some time into the future. Imagine a European map from pre-1990, with the Soviet bloc in red. Now look forward to what this same map will look like in 2010 with the new entrants to the EU. Europe, in short, hasn't even decided yet where its borders begin and end. It's now engaged in a constitutional convention to help determine its future shape. America had its constitutional convention some time ago.

America, for better or worse, has defined itself. Europe, on the other hand, is in the throes of self-definition even as the world passes through the wrenching and in some ways revolutionary changes brought on by the dual shocks of globalisation and the information era. Thus, you will shape both a more global and more European world.

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