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National success

Successful nation states have been built not on race, but on liberal political institutions and a dominant language or culture. But the EU is not a nation or a state, and is neither democratic nor culturally coherent. We should think twice about abandoning the liberal nation state - the best institution we have

By Ian Buruma   December 1998

Eighty years ago one of the most successful, most liberal, most enlightened European empires came to a sorry end. The dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian empire left a resentful Austrian rump surrounded by rampant nation-states, each with its own version of ethnic nationalism, mostly concocted in the 19th century from various myths and legends. Vienna was a grandiose imperial capital without an empire. The reason for the end was defeat in the Great War. But the empire had become a crumbling, decadent edifice well before then. Its last years produced a wonderful generation of satirists, musicians, playwrights, dream-interpreters and dreamers of…

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