Monday, February 13, 2006

EU Delusions vs. Reality

The leaders of the European Union fancy their trans-national organization to be a future counterweight to the United States, both militarily and economically. But despite their grandiose visions and vaulting rhetoric, the likely future for the EU and its collection of aging welfare states is far less glorious than the legions of bureaucrats firmly entrenched in Brussels suppose. Than handwriting is on the wall, notes Fareed Zakaria and it spells decline very clearly.

It's often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the EU has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the U.S. and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (Britain is an exception on most of these measures, lying somewhere between Continental Europe and the U.S.)

People have argued that Europeans simply value leisure more and, as a result, are poorer but have a better quality of life. That's fine if you're taking a 10 percent pay cut and choosing to have longer lunches and vacations. But if you're only half as well off as the U.S., that will translate into poorer health care and education, diminished access to all kinds of goods and services, and a lower quality of life. Two Swedish researchers, Frederik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S." In many European countries, the percentage would be even greater.

For all the talk of the "success" of the "European model" (read: quasi- or outright socialism), the fact remains that across the continent, European economies remain stalled, stagnant or in decline. The only economic bright spots in the EU are the former East Bloc nations, which having emerged from the wonders of Soviet command economics, are notably reluctant to experiment with the same bad ideas because Brussels wants them to, and the United Kingdom, still energized by the reforms of Margaret Thatcher.

The stagnation in Europe has greater consequences than just the current economic data. Long term investment in society is falling too, as the best minds seek better compensation elsewhere.

Talk to top-level scientists and educators about the future of scientific research, and they will rarely even mention Europe. There are areas in which it is world-class, but they are fewer than they once were. In the biomedical sciences, for example, Europe is not on the map, and it might well be surpassed by much poorer Asian countries. The CEO of a large pharmaceutical company told me that in 10 years, the three most important countries for his industry would be the United States, China and India.

And then there is the time bomb. Native European populations are no longer replacing themselves, causing their numbers to shrink even as those same populations age. Fewer young workers to support teetering, costly welfare systems; fewer young minds with fresh ideas and the tenacity and boldness to pursue improbable dreams. A geriatric state doesn’t produce Silicon Valley. Worse, by importing millions of non-Europeans in a vain effort to hide their demographic collapse and prop up their welfare system, the Europeans have succeeded in deluging themselves with a burgeoning population of low IQ immigrants hostile to the European cultures that they are now colonizing.

In 25 years, the number of working-age Europeans will decline by 7 percent, while those over 65 will increase by 50 percent. One solution: let older people work. But Europe's employment rate for people over 60 is low: 7 percent in France and 12 percent in Germany (compared with 27 percent in the U.S.). Modest efforts to allow people to retire later have been met with the usual avalanche of protests. And while economists and the European Commission keep proposing that Europe take in more immigrants to expand its labor force, it won't. The cartoon controversy has powerfully highlighted the difficulties Europe is having with its existing immigrants.

What does all this add up to? Less European influence in the world. Europe's position in institutions like the World Bank and the IMF relates to its share of world GDP. Its dwindling defense spending weakens its ability to be a military partner of the U.S., or to project military power abroad even for peacekeeping purposes. Its cramped, increasingly protectionist outlook will further sap its vitality.

The global uproar over the Mohammed cartoons has probably convinced most Europeans that Islam is incompatible with Western values like freedom of anything. But it remains to be seen if they can take the next logical steps: banning further Muslim immigration and begin bribing, convincing, or forcing those Muslims already in Europe to leave on their own. The Muslim crisis in Europe is only going to get worse. And nastier.

But the Muslims are only taking advantage of Europe’s self-inflicted weakness. In order to stabilize their societies, Europeans need to extirpate the sources of their weakness: the socialist economics that have turned their countries into larger, more colorful versions of the AARP, and the multiculturalist poison that has taught them to hate themselves, their values and their civilization.

US foreign policy should be reoriented to aid such a change in Europe. Just as after WWII the US waged a campaign (covertly and not) to persuade the Europeans to disgorge their colonial possessions, now the US should focus its efforts on helping Europe regain a sense of itself. It is not in America’s interest to see a weakened and declining Europe. The loss of the homeland of Western Civilization would be a disaster for the West, and only deprives the US of its natural (if cantankerous) allies. Of course, that would require the US to abandon the multiculturalist, globalist crap that dominates its own thinking. That, unfortunately, isn’t likely any time soon.


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