The Brussels and Strasbourg parliaments, though both monstrous, differ architecturally.
Strasbourg is the more menacing in appearance—if for no other reason than its uncanny resemblance to Bruegel’s Tower of Babel. The shape and scale of the two edifices is so similar that there is a long-standing rumor to the effect that the architect was directly inspired by the Flemish master’s work, now hanging in Vienna. Be that as it may, the parallel is eerily apt. The Tower of Babel was a symbol of the overweening ambition of which human beings are capable. It was brought down, as the European Union will eventually be, by irreconcilable differences among peoples who spoke different languages.
How long must we wait for that happy outcome? It’s hard to say. There is, as Adam Smith observed, a deal of ruin in a nation—or in a union. Plenty of powerful interest groups are making a handy living out of the European Union: not just the Eurocrats, but the NGOs and charities and big corporations and consultants and contractors who parasitize it. Milton Friedman was on to something when he wrote of “the tyranny of the status quo.”
Still, the day must eventually come when the European Union and its institutions are one with Nineveh and Tyre. Perhaps the buildings might be put to more productive use: I’ve always thought that they have the right sort of dimensions to be universities. Perhaps they will be preserved as monuments to the megalomania that seized Europe’s leaders in the second half of the twentieth century. Perhaps— particularly in Brussels, which will soon have a majority Muslim population—they might be turned into madrassas. Or perhaps they will simply be left to crumble, like the statue of Ozymandias.
So, if you get the chance, visit them while you still can. Look upon the European Union’s works. And despair.