Is Europe doomed?
I wrote on Friday that I don't buy the popular American theory that Europe is doomed. A few people have asked me why. Let me rephrase that: I have strong doubts. I have doubts about whether the facts support the claim, and I also doubt that the motives of those who believe it are purely rational.
The "Europe is doomed" argument is usually based on some of the following observations:
- Europe has an unsustainable welfare model. It's too lenient as it is, with substantial portions of the population living on disability pensions (up to 10%), on unemployment benefits (close to 10% in several countries), in early retirement and more. There's also the enormous public sector, high tax rates, short working hours, and general economic inflexibility. Demographics - the aging population - will make this worse, starting in about a decade, and lasting for about four more. There will not be enough workers around to pay the bills, and governments must resort to a drastic increase in taxes and/or immigration to retain the living standards pensioners will expect.
European multiculturalists will propose immigration as the solution to the age problem, which will make these problems worse. It will also be counterproductive, because of high unemployment levels among immigrants.
- Europe is intellectually depraved. It has lost its moral compass, and its sense of purpose. All it has left to define itself is anti-Americanism. Its intellectual elites will be easy prey to the sweet-talking of radical Islamists and other totalitarians, as demonstrated by the Iraq war. They will deny Europe's problems, smear reformers, and put the blame on outsiders. As the problems increase, the rhetorics will become more ugly.
These scenarios aren't always drawn to a full conclusion, but it sometimes looks like this: Severe economic problems, ethnic/religious turmoil, shallow intellectuals and shortsighted rulers. Europe has been down this road before, and it didn't go well. How long before the Americans are forced to come and bail us out again? How long before the first European country introduces Shariah, or a bankrupt ex-welfare state turns to fascism? How long before the EU collapses into civil war?
These are good points, and should be taken seriously. They've been made well by people like Steven Den Beste ..
[Karl Zinmeister] lays out the long term demographic problems that Europe faces primarily due to chronic low birthrates. That means that the population in most European nations is dropping, and the average age of the population is rising, and as time goes on there will be proportionally more retirees drawing government pensions compared to the number of workers in private industry who are producing goods and paying taxes. Short of some sort of drastic change in the fertility rate (which doesn't seem likely) the only solution to this is augmentation of the workforce via immigration. Unfortunately, Europe has also been far less successful than the United States at integrating immigrants into their societies and economies, and immigrants are more likely to land on the dole than they are to get jobs.
.. and Mark Steyn:
Europe is dying. As I've pointed out here before, it can't square rising welfare costs, a collapsed birthrate and a manpower dependent on the world's least skilled, least assimilable immigrants. In 20 years time, as those Dutch Muslim teenagers are entering the voting booths, European countries, unlike parts of Nigeria, will not be living under Sharia, but they will be reaching their accommodations with their radicalised Islamic compatriots, who like many intolerant types are expert at exploiting the "tolerance" of pluralist societies.
These are genuine challenges. But there is a difference between "hey, there's a dangerous turn just ahead, and if we don't slow down we're going to crash" and "there's a dangerous turn just ahead, and ohmygod the brakes aren't working". There are a few factors working to our advantage here:
- Uncertainty. This goes in both directions. We simply don't know the future. At most, we can see a few years ahead, cautiously predicting a turn in this direction or that direction, and being wrong half the time. The predictive powers of demographics should not fool us into thinking that we know what the cultural or political climate will be in 2020 or 2040. Any theory of Europe's future that depends on its people thinking like they think today is likely to be wrong. That goes for any nation. You are not the future - your unborn children or grandchildren are. How much can you really know about the world they will live in? How much did the people of 1950 know of 1970, or 1970 of 1990, or 1990 of 2003?
- Democracy. Norwegian ex-blogger Vegard Valberg wrote about the self-correcting ability of democracy a while ago, in a post similar to this one (part 1 | part 2). His point was that people do not simply wait for trouble to happen, and when trouble begins they don't simply wait for it to stop. They may deny trouble for a while, trouble more farsighted people has seen coming, but when they do see it, when they feel it in their daily lives, they try to solve the problem. That's human nature. The only way to prevent this from happening is through repression, and that's no longer much of an option.
Look at the right-wing reform movements that have gained popularity in Europe. The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway - these are countries that just a decade or two ago were strongholds of social democracy. Now the picture is fuzzy, with right-wing reformers in the shape of populists rearranging the political landscape, addressing the same issues I listed above. Perhaps these are not the right people to reform Europe. (Pim Fortuyn is not - he's dead.) Their nastier equivalents in some other countries certainly aren't. But perhaps by broadening the public debate, they're clearing the way for better reformers down the road. And at the very least they indicate that many Europeans want reform, and will vote for people who challenge conventional wisdom when they appear.
The counterargument to this is that Europe's democratic institutions are faulty. The EU gathers threads in the hands of a distant, undemocratic bureaucracy, and individual countries will soon loose the ability they once had to change their own course. And the media tends to uphold the myths of the elites instead of challenging them, and embraces consensus and unanimity when it should be out there on the battlefield of ideas. And to the degree that Europe is not democratic, does not have an open debate, change will be difficult. To the degree that the people who caused or denied the problems in the first place are able to entrench themselves in positions of power and influence, change will be difficult. But we do have democracy, and we do have freedom of speech. That's a formidable toolkit, one other countries with bigger problems envy us.
I'm not saying that Europe is going to do just fine. I'm saying that to convince me that Europe is doomed, (whether its doomed for collapse or doomed for the backwaters), you need to do more than point out the challenges. You also need to show that there is nothing Europe can do about them once they're too obvious to overlook. If you can't show that, you need to show that any reform movement will be unsuccessful, and that Europe will continue to freely choose very bad solutions. I doubt that any of this can be shown for Europe as a whole. Europe is still very diverse, with major economic, political and cultural differences, so you must be prepared to go down to the level of individual countries and explain whether all of them are doomed, or just some of them, and if so why them, and why not the others. With "Europe", do we mean all of it, the EU, Western Europe, or just France?
The burden of evidence is on the extraordinary claim, and I do think it's extraordinary to claim that the people of Europe will freely ignore obvious problems, follow ideologies daily experience keeps proving wrong, and listen to bad leaders, for a long period of time. Projecting what we have and know today into the future can tell us something, but this is the same method used by the environmentalists of the 70's and 80's who predicted that the environment was doomed. Our habitat would collapse within decades, food and resources would run out, etc. The people who made these predictions overlooked two factors: Uncertainty and science. The people who predict that Europe is doomed may be overlooking uncertainty and democracy.
The final reason I'm suspicous of these claims is on more general grounds. Humans have a natural weakness for predictions of doom. We don't find these predictions pleasant, but they're exciting, titillating, like the details of a murder case. No prophet of doom has ever bored an audience. We should always be on guard for predictions of the future that happen to be very exciting. Why, we should ask, of all the dull futures imaginable, did someone choose to predict an exciting one? Why, of all the predictions that have been made, are the exciting ones the most likely to be remembered and repeated? This is not a proof of anything, it just means we should be on our guard. If a prediction goes "and then this could happen, and then this could happen, and then this could happen, which would be extremely bad", and you find yourself thinking "yes I can see the chain of events very clearly", that's red alert. Forget chains of events. Think millions of paths hidden in the fog.
I also detect a mirror of European anti-Americanism here. After everything Europeans have said about the US, of how it is a disgrace to civilization, how its people are mindless sheep and its leaders potential fascists, how refreshing it is to point at Europe's problems and say the same things back. And who can blame them? Europe's intellectual elites are a snotty bunch, petty and out of touch with the world they live in. They're "making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep". Which warblogger's pulse rate doesn't go up when some Frenchman derides the simplicity of good and evil, throw about internationalist buzzwords like they were axioms, and shoots dead cows at you from over the castle walls? Europe's self-image is a balloon waiting to be popped, and Americans awakened to European anti-Americanism are natural volunteers for the job.
But Europe is not the enemy here. And it is much more than Chirac. Don't let your annoyance with the foreign policy of Germany and France fool you into delicious but simplistic counterattacks. If you can believe in Arab democracy, is European reform so far-fetched? History tells us not to underestimate humans who have the right to vote and the means to speak their mind, and that principle goes deeper than any temporary weaknesses in European culture.
Totoro, Chicago, U.S. | 2003-11-26 21:53 | Link
Good post! That's why I like to read your blog--you always have interesting things to say and to report. I also like to post in your comments section as a way of having an American-European dialogue.
As a former activist in the women's movement in the United States, I have a pretty good idea about how society can be changed. Maybe the analogy is like making a huge ship slowly change direction.
That is what I'm seeing happening now in Europe, and elsewhere. Slowly, slowly . . . new ideas are entering the media, the universities, the zeitgeist. I don't think Europe is doomed--I just think we need to talk about various problems so that Europeans and Americans will understand that we live in a new era that calls upon us to think new thoughts.
Ian Jennings, Berlin | 2003-11-27 05:31 | Link
Thanks, Bjoern. Excellent food for thought. You certainly articulated my reasons for pessimism about Europe precisely (but, given that I am a recent immigrant to Europe who is neither American nor British, I'm motivated more by disappointment than anything else - I'd have preferred a confident Europe which is capable of leadership, rather than the sorry resentful rabble it often appears to be). My sense is, after four years in Berlin, that Europe's future is torn between America and Islam, with anything distinctively European rapidly fading. Let's hope that your guarded optimism turns out to be more accurate, as my (German) wife is starting to get pretty annoyed with my pessimism:)
Johan | 2003-11-27 05:46 | Link
I lived a majority of my life in Europe, but I left Europe for good when I realized that Europe had been heading in the wrong direction for far too long, and there were no signs that the situation was getting better any time soon.
"Doomed" is an excessive word in my opinion, and may need to be defined better.
But the continent MIGHT not be doomed in regard to being a livable place for future generations. However, there is no doubt that massive changes need to take place soon in order for that to happen.
I am not optimistic that factors like democracy are likely to change the current dysmal Euro political climate.
As a Progressive Party leader in Norway used to say: "All the political parties in Norway are just different shades of socialism".
There is a lot of truth to that, unfortunately.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Hades | 2003-11-27 16:12 | Link
The above "Europe is doomed" scenario is, to a large extent, just the domestic US propaganda of the neo-cons.
Not that their individual points entirely lack validity. It's what they make of them in their "spin."
Their Manchesterish leanings are seen in their attacks on Europe's more advanced welfare state. In this connection, their efforts to turn the European retirement systems into points of conflict between aging, retiring whites and working, young immigrants parallel their very similar efforts in the US (the immigrants are Hispanics), as well as efforts in America to turn Social Security and Medicare into an inter-generational war.
Too, this endless flow of adverse propaganda against Europe's social democracy is intended to mask - FROM AMERICANS - the fact that America's harsher capitalist regime has NOT made American "Number One" in standard of living, or many other measures of domestic wealth and well-being, for quite some time, now.
Their hyperpuissance aspirations to global hegemony are seen in the "Europe is militarily insignificant, and will remain so" line. There is not the least reason why a united Europe cannot rise easily to superpower status. More likely, as Europe rises, wiser heads in the US will move over a bit to welcome the new player to the table. But that is not at all a future desired by the neo-cons, as you know.
Not a little of their racism is seen in their alarmism about immigration into Europe. This parallels the very same kind of hot button politics in the US domestic scene.
And the "democracy deficit" business is really overdone, too, don't you think? Especially coming from propagandists in a country whose most important political decisions are always made by totally irresponsible, life-tenured judges or a chief executive with powers far greater than authors of its constitution ever supposed.
Kalroy, California | 2003-11-27 20:53 | Link
Dunno Chickpea. I agree that there is no reason a united europe couldn't eventually pull its own weight, militarily, but what are the odds of that actually happening so long as a few EU nations continue to be more equal than the others and demand more priveleges than the others?
The rest of your rant is simple anti-American propoganda and unworthy of a response since it's extremely obvious that logic and reasoned debate will run off you like water off a duck's back.
To Bjorn, however, excellent points. I'm not one of those who believe Europe is doomed, but I do think some European nations are in for a hard time, but hard times and good times tend to be a reality that history demonstrates quite well. Certainly they could alleviate the bad times ahead by making some painful decisions now, but that's not a thing that human nature tends toward; but as you said when it becomes blatantly obvious to most then things start to get done.
sebastian holsclaw, California | 2003-11-28 09:27 | Link
I don't think Europe is doomed if it faces up to these challenges in a constructive way. I'm kind of glad Europe is facing the aging retirement population problem before the US has to--if you find a good solution we can adopt it. :)
The lack of immigrant assimilation is a bigger problem. One issue regarding immigration is that it may be too late to shift to assimilation by the time its lack is generally realized to be a problem.
Karl | 2003-11-28 18:43 | Link
Bjørn Stærk: "I also detect a mirror of European anti-Americanism here. After everything Europeans have said about the US, of how it is a disgrace to civilization, how its people are mindless sheep and its leaders potential fascists, how refreshing it is to point at Europe's problems and say the same things back. And who can blame them?"
Kalroy, California, responding to Marcus Tullius Cicero, Hades: "The rest of your rant is simple anti-American propoganda and unworthy of a response since it's extremely obvious that logic and reasoned debate will run off you like water off a duck's back."
The term "anti-americanism" is commonly used by people who are labelling the views of their opponents, rather than by people who are describing their own position. "anti-Americanism" is a term of vanity - few societies in human history have ever had such a high opinion of themselves to warrant an "ism" to describe themselves - and it's compareable to the terms anti-Sovietism" and "anti-Roman." The US currently IS, and the Soviet Union and the Roman Empire once were extremely powerful societies based more-or-less on concepts of control. Such attitudes toward opposing views, comes as a byproduct of power and the vanity that comes with power.
There's some interseting online commentary by John Bourke at:
Excerpts from the article:
Of course the inherent irony of articles like these is that they are proof in themselves of the very cultural arrogance that the rest of the planet finds objectionable about America in the first place. It epitomizes exactly just that: to automatically assume that the only conceivable reason why everybody disagrees with you could only be because you are so wonderful in the first place.
As someone who has, I can say that if they have done so, then they will clearly know that the frequently trotted out idea that jealousy is at the root of all anti-Americanism is delusional nonsense and something that is the commonly held view of those with little understanding of the opinions of people outside the US.
Implicit in the arrogance of such a misguided view is the failure to recognize that much of the rest of the international community has got legitimate concerns over how the US has conducted itself internationally, particularly in terms of its foreign policies over the years.
There exists now and has existed for many years the concern that America is country which, whilst paying enormous lip service to its respect for the principles of democracy and freedom, has in reality been altogether too inconsistent and selective about who is chooses to allow to enjoy such things, much of which depends on which way the winds of political expediency are blowing at any one time.
"When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."
"I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future. I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction."
John F. Kennedy, Amherst College, October 26, 1963
fred lapides | 2003-11-28 22:33 | Link
One phrawse caught my attention. "If you believe in Arab democracy etc etc" No. I do not believe in Arab democracy. Show me a country with a muslim majority and then show me a democracy.
Oblomov | 2003-11-28 23:17 | Link
I'm surprised to see no mention of Eastern Europe and the likely consequences of its integration in the EU. On the crudest level it would mitigate the demographic trends described, but it is bound to cause some deeper changes in European outlook.
However, one must also remember that Europe has been declining relative to the rest of the world for a century at least, and this trend would likely continue in the next century. It is almost inevitable that Asia will overshadow Europe in a few decades.
Anyway I find it difficult to imagine any future for Europe bright enough to justify its current arrogance.
John Anderson, RI USA | 2003-11-28 23:25 | Link
I do not believe Europe is "doomed", but I hope some changes in the EU and EC are made before such can only be done by destroying those institutions.
Leif Knutsen, New York | 2003-11-28 23:50 | Link
Years ago, the Economist published a special year-end edition called "The Heretic's Almanac" which they (or someone else) should publish regularly. The point is that any extrapolation is fallacious because of self-correcting mechanisms. The most famous are of course market forces (more than "democracy", imho). There is always a risk that a trend becomes self-reinforcing (e.g., Nazism in 1930s Germany).
So although I think you're being your usual thought-provocative self in the entry, I am a little confused as to what the whole premise is.
First of all, what is "Europe?" As you point out, it's not one place, one economy, one society, or one political system. Finland and Portugal are both members of the EU, but it's entirely conceivable that the two countries are heading in entirely different directions in the next 10-20 years.
Second, what does it mean to be "doomed?" Full societal disintegration? Economic collapse? Less influence in geopolitical affairs? Is Europe doomed if France loses its seat on the Security Council to India?
I think that Europe would have a lot to gain if Europeans worried just a little less about how "American" they're becoming. All too often, it seems to me that it's better to be less than America if that's the only way to be different. As a Norwegian resident in the U.S., I'm pretty aware that there are pros and cons of either place, and also that there are similarities.
There are some tough decisions ahead, but there are ways to solve them. Huge investments are being made both in the U.S. and Europe in service and industrial productivity. To the extent that Europeans have more capital to invest, the returns will accrue to them even if the product of labor is imported through offshore outsourcing.
I think the EU is overreaching in its political agenda, but I'm confident that will self-correct. Agriculture in Europe will benefit tremendously if protectionist barriers are lifted, although it will mean that more fields in Norway will be abandoned and more agriculture will be industrialized throughout. But I'm rambling...
Kalroy | 2003-11-29 03:42 | Link
Such attitudes toward opposing views, comes as a byproduct of power and the vanity that comes with power.
Entirely opinion, and despite an entire paragraph I see no valid argument for the veracity of that statement. I suggest you look more towards grammer and word etymology for the reason the use of "anti-Americanism" rather than simply "anti-American" is used. Consider both these sentences: "His anti-Americanism was blatant." "His anti-American was blatant."
So far as I can tell your argument is that the US is vain when grammatical usage is correct. Kinda whacked dude.
And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.
Bjørn Stærk | 2003-11-29 10:40 | Link
Karl: I'm aware of the danger of calling someone "anti-something". I use anti-Americanism not as a synonym for "disagrees with Bush", or even "hating America", (because there are many who disagree with Bush who aren't anti-American, and many anti-Americans who don't _hate_ America). I use it in the very specific sense of believing that the US is a constant negative source of influence on the outside world, economically, culturally, politically and of course militarily. If you tell me that "what Bush is doing in Iraq is wrong", that's an opposing view. If you tell me that "American imperialist forces are at work again", that's anti-Americanism. Central in it is the inability to distinguish between "the US", (which is a timeless, abstract concept), and the particular people who at all times have made decisions for it. There's almost an anthropomorphic quality to it - assigning human-like thought and motivation to "the US" that lasts beyond the four-year presidential terms. It's the same anthropomorphism as when anti-semites speak of Zionism as if it were some kind of timeless, supernatural evil.
Fred: "No. I do not believe in Arab democracy." Then Bush is wasting his time in Iraq. Then he should hand over the rains to some local strongman, and not risk instability on a democratic experiment we know will fail. Right?
Oblomov: "I'm surprised to see no mention of Eastern Europe and the likely consequences of its integration in the EU." I agree, but I decided to focus more on general objections to the theory than specific ones. The problem with the theory is not just that it overlooks specific factors such as Eastern Europe in making its predictions, but the fact that it makes such bold, sensationalist predictions at all.
Leif: "First of all, what is "Europe?"" "Second, what does it mean to be "doomed?"" It's not my theory - don't blame me if it's vague. And the meme "Europe is doomed" does seem to have spread throughout the blogosphere, so it's worth attacking even if I'm not entirely sure what it means. Steven den Beste is pretty specific about _what_ that doom will be (economic collapse->fascism), but like everyone else he glosses over internal differences. I suppose I could have made it clearer that this makes the theory almost meaningless. Norway has a better starting point, for instance, in the aging crisis than many other countries - we'll have somewhat fewer elderly, and we have oil to cushion the impact. We're also not in the EU. A useful theory would factor in such differences.
Taco | 2003-11-29 21:00 | Link
I have a few thoughts on the subject, but no time to articulate them. Just a short note on 'what is Europe?'
| 2003-11-29 23:15 | Link
The above comments indicate that Europeans from various nations will have to find solutions to their various problems without blaming the United States or "Zionists" and "Jews" for what ails them. I don't see any other way around it.
Finding scapegoats won't do the trick.
Clem Snide | 2003-12-01 15:59 | Link
Although I agree that democracy is usually self-correcting, that premise assumes that a majority of voters will be rational. The anti-Americanism voiced in many parts of Europe since Sept 11 seems anything but rational - rather it seems to indicate a desire to blame scapegoats as a way of avoiding action on the real threats and problems. There are strong vested electoral interests in maintaining high unfunded pension entitlements and inflexible labour markets. The political cowardice shown by European politicians in dealing with these issues and with the Islamic menace is pretty discouraging. If Sept 11 isn't enough to wake up Europe, it's hard to imagine what will. One can imagine a vicious circle of economic failure and social strife being blamed on America, and as the situation worsens and genuine reform becomes more painful, the scapegoat-blaming option becomes more and more a political necessity. This is already happening to some extent in France and Germany. Also I do not underestimate the influence of Arab oil money. Self-interest is a powerful motivating factor both for arab tyrants and greedy bureacrats & politicans. Of course many European countries may wake up in time to avoid economic collapse or civil war, but if the big offenders France and Germany don't, this will affect many other countries.
Stuart | 2003-12-02 00:20 | Link
Fascinating thread, and there is far too much here for me to be able to comment on each post individually. But I'd like to throw out an idea about the elites that Bjorn mentioned, to see what people think.
Using France as an example, apparently much of the French elite was educated in ENA (National School of Administration) or some comparable institution in a very small group of institutions. The elite in the US tends generally also to have been educated in a relatively small circle of institutions centered in the Northeast and California. This similarity of educational upbringing creates a situation comparable to the computer world: it's easy to spread a virus quickly becuase most PCs run the same Microsoft software. Similarly, it's easy to have bad ideas become conventional wisdom, or intellectually attractive, when the people getting the "best" education are getting the same stuff taught to them. That's especially true when they then tend to keep mingling in the same circles, and where the media speaking is largely by them and to them.
Obviously this is a broad generalization; people are individuals and don't necessarily respond the same way to lessons or even to general social atmosphere. Nevertheless, it does appear in broad brush to be true. Also, if I may venture an impressionistic view, this problem seems to be more prevalent in Europe than the US. America is gargantuan as compared to any one European country, and the elites, though influential, are relatively small in size, so the effects of the intellectual inbreeding are tempered by the different sensibilities emanating from the much larger parts of the population that, whether by choice or circumstance, did not go to the "best" schools.
But most of Europe, being heavily influenced by socialism, and being heir to Roman and Napoleonic governmental structures (as distinct from the decentralized common law model that prevails in the US), has much bigger chattering and administrative classes relative to population. Government does more so more people are in it. Centralized government empowers elites. The elites from ENA and similar schools thus are more influential almost by definition. And because social mobility is much less pronounced in Europe, the effect of the "echo chamber elite" is magnified.
I tend to agree with Bjorn that democracy tends to be self-correcting. But I wonder how seriously the European elites take democracy. I still recall the howls of horror when Silvio Berlusconi was poised to win in Italy. I heard French and Belgians and Austrians muttering about how those crazy Italians must have taken leave of their senses. The entire EU experiment as well seems to be proceeding on non-democratic premises: witness the muttering about the Danish rejection.
This does not make me happy, even though as an American who has read much of the righteous claptrap issuing from the continent in the past couple of years I can't help just a bit of schadenfreude. Any intellectually honest American has to admit that the US is what it is because of its European patrimony - not ONLY because of it, but the influence is undeniable (Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu were Jefferson's and Paine's admitted influences, in varying degrees). And any American with a shred of economic sense recognizes that a prosperous Europe trading freely with the US helps make the US more prosperous (which is why I thought the steel tarrifs were an abomination).
So that's why the trends in Europe are alarming. I just have trouble seeing how the social structure, so heavily dependent on unresponsive elites, is going to change readily enough to meet the challenges. I can't see anyone dismantling the welfare state or even cutting it by much - witness what happened in France a few years ago, with massive strikes, when Juppe tried to reform some things. In countries ruled by socialist-leaning elites whose populations make it a point of aping their "betters," change will be very very difficult.
Call this arrogant Americanism, but it seems to me that Europe needs a strong dose of the kind of anti-authoritarian individualism that pervades American thinking and, not incidentally, keeps the elites restrained.
M, Italy | 2003-12-02 09:24 | Link
Well said, Bjorn.
It's amazing how some can even come right out and say "well, but Europe is Germany and France". No, that's Germany and France! duh! Everyone who wants to talk on and on about France or Germany, please stop referring to either country as Europe, stop taking France as a representative model for all that's going on in Europe when it's just one in 24 countries, each of them vastly different for language, culture, history, etc. -- and most of all stop talking with such apocalyptic assurance about places you don't know or haven't been to or haven't lived long enough to get a clue - because puts you on a par with the professional antiamericans. It does.
And just like they have no clue (and so should have no say) in the political domestic choices made in America - like, gun laws, medical care, etc. the usual items of the lefties mantra -, I wonder, what's the story about Americans being so concerned about welfare choices by European countries. What do you care? People in one country may be happier with a different system, or if they're not happy they'll change it, but it's not your taxes so why bother. Criticise the foreign policy by all means and all items affecting international relations, but why should you have a say in the domestic affairs when you have no direct way to assess them?
There's enough of a sudden surge of self-styled Middle East super-experts, no need for the same about Europe really...
Obviously there is deeper schadenfreude element to these apocalyptic reactions. (Though I wouldn't know that they're that popular. Doesn't seem to me. Blogs are hardly indicative... I've never personally heard the doomed mantra from American friends and colleagues. It seems more of an op-ed phenomenon). It's all part of the old clichés in relations between America and Europe, it's a mirror thing. Also, especially today, it's convenient to imagine certain problems affecting every country world-wide can be confined to one place and ignored in one's own. That highly selective attitude is especially noticeable in the "Europe is doomed" crowd.
Amusing, in many ways. Cos it is so identical - even if different in motivations - with the most classic knee-jerk antiamerican bias. Oh well.
Perhaps the world is already Arabicised. There's no need of Jihad really. :-))
Australia | 2003-12-02 15:13 | Link
Visit this site where there are many discussions on the furure for Europe, especially in light of the migration of Islamists into Europe.
The forum is here:
Bjørn Stærk | 2003-12-02 16:41 | Link
Stuart: "I just have trouble seeing how the social structure, so heavily dependent on unresponsive elites, is going to change readily enough to meet the challenges. I can't see anyone dismantling the welfare state or even cutting it by much - witness what happened in France a few years ago, with massive strikes, when Juppe tried to reform some things."
I can't see that happening in France either _today_. But most countries aren't France, and even France might not be France in 20 years. If Europe's problems are real, and not phantoms, they will become more apparent with time, and people will become more aware of them. No elite undefended by guns can go against people's wishes for long. That's no guarantee for _good_ change, of course, but major problems always lead to _some_ change, and even deeply flawed democracies have the potential for good change.
Good point about intellectual inbreeding. It really is disturbing how alike Norwegian journalists and pundits think about some subjects. If the antidote is to have more "operating systems", well, one is found on the internet. All Norway's journalists, at least the current generation, go to the same small number of schools. On the national level, they exist in the same newspaper-"sphere", jumping from one national newspaper to the next every so often. No wonder they act like one entity. But Norwegians who write on the internet - on Usenet, in web forums, in blogs - are usually self taught writers and pundits, they have wildly different backgrounds, and aren't very good at walking in line. If that force could be exploited, if it could be directed onto the mainstream media level, like what's beginning to happen in the US, it might pop the newspaper-sphere, open it up for some new ideas.
A Dagbladet editor recently said that the "man in the street" will never influence the public debate. He could be right, but it won't be for lack of me trying.
Kat | 2003-12-02 17:10 | Link
I often wonder about Europe’s nasty self-destructive tendencies..it has been in the past expressed in a myriad of ways nationalism/fascism/communism so many isms but what are the root causes. A friend of mine was discussing the fact that the Enola Gay was going to be put on display and the controversy that surrounds the US in the dropping the A bomb on Japan. He wanted to know if I regretted that action. In truth I don't for many different reasons but specifically Japanese culture was so wrapped up in the notion that dying was honor in the service of the Emperor. They had to face death on a massive scale to begin to appreciate that life/survival was a valid notion. Not being Japanese I can't truly speak for the culture but it seems that their nasty self-destructive tendencies where curbed or focused in other directions. Maybe the war taught them how to live instead of die. My question has Europe had that moment or is this just another pause between madness.
Andrew Hagen, USA | 2003-12-06 05:45 | Link
Reply to article.
BTW, in response to a commenter, Turkey is a Muslim-majority democracy.
Warren Eckels, USA | 2003-12-06 07:14 | Link
Certainly the Euro is doing well enough. It was getting weaker and weaker until the day when ordinary people could use it to purchase underwear. Now it's up almost 50% from its low, at US$1.20. France and Germany are being criticized for 4% current-accounts deficits; the US is fast approaching 5%.
Bjorn makes a point about small, national European chattering classes. The problem is that it is rather hard to maintain a large and diverse elite in a nation with fewer than five million people. The number of journalism schools that Norway can support is severely limited. If anything, a closer European Union would at least give Europeans 24 chattering classes to choose from, instead of one.
Europe is probably losing its preeminence in world culture; but that is not strictly a function of European decline. More nations are producing more artists, and the European share is thus fated to fall.
The demographic influence of immigration has been mentioned as a possible road to European doom. It ignores the fact that many of the immigrants are fleeing precisely what the xenophobes fear. I doubt that many European Muslims miss the morals police on every corner dispensing lectures and beatings.
And, finally, the first step to recovery is the realization that something is wrong. It appears that Europeans have taken the first step.
David Blue | 2003-12-20 00:44 | Link
"As the minorities grow in size, conservative/radical Muslims will become a major political and cultural force in Europe, turning it away from liberal democracy, and possibly causing civil unrest in the process.
European multiculturalists will propose immigration as the solution to the age problem, which will make these problems worse."
This appears to me to be likely.
Also, the outgoing European population seems to have reached a cultural age where strength, babies and so on no longer appeal. Comfort, self-indulgence, state care and short term peace and quiet are more attractive. (And those brawling, bawling, chest-beating Americans are naturally repulsive.) The emerging successor population has quite different values of course. For the declining, this kind of tension will be a depressing irritant, not a challenge. The temptation to reduce potential social tension by seeking common ground regarding, for instance, Zionists, will be strong. That means that even though there are obviously going to be large, unassimilated remnant populations for a long time to come, they are going to sidle toward values of the sort that the new Europeans can more easily tolerate. That will make life interesting for people far beyond Europe. (Neo-Ba'athist Germany, just to illustrate the idea, would not necessarily be a problem only for Germans.)
That's my main concern: not that Europe can't accommodate Islam, resulting in anything from ghettos to actual unrest, but that it may indeed accommodate itself to the great transition, maybe on Islamist terms, or certainly if there is a solution at all on radically new-European terms; and that the out-going old-Europeans will efficiently pass on their weapons and ways of war to the successor peoples of Europe, together with a consensus set of values that may (not will) balance both Islamism and a selection of agendas familiar from the history of Europe. I'm concerned about how the coming Europe, shaped as it will (not may) be by its experience as triumphant successor peoples, may define itself in relation to remnant instances of the superceded culture, like Australia. And I'm concerned about its military potential, for what I might call "the rest of the West."
Your main counter-argument is the power of democracy. Democracy is good at solving some problems but not others. If your problem is not making babies, there is no democratic solution to that. If your problem is population replacement, there's no democratic solution to that. If your problem is to change who is in power, democracy is terrific at that. So it's obvious who will solve their problems, in the long run, and who will be the problems that will be solved. Democracy will "self-correct" all right, by redefining the problem as you. Then it might or might not be of any further value.
Your other argument is uncertainty. I agree with that wholeheartedly. We're just guessing. We don't know. What may come might be better for the holdout Europeans than seems likely now. Or equally, it might be much worse. How well has denial and "hoping for the best" worked so far?
I do not find the idea of modern-decline Europeans forming right wing parties and solving their problems plausible. You can form parties, sure. Then do ... what? Nothing, or rather the same thing as always but in a more begrudging manner, because there is nothing that can be done, precisely by modern-decline moral standards. Western white "racist, sexist and homophobic" (to the tune of "Istanbul or Constantinople?") guilt will, morally rightly, prove stronger than modern-decline Europe's will to live. It could be utterly feeble and still pass that test, whereas actually it is huge and thoroughly institutionalized. So anti-racist and effectively pro-future forces, as well as internationalist elites that can gain valuable moral kudos by opening the floodgates but won't have to live with the consequences, will prove much stronger than the evil forces of reactionary and ultimately aimless prejudice.
I think the joker is the deck is the economic crisis to which Steven den Beste points. You might experience such a breakdown that though you will want to purchase temporary calm by paying aliens to wipe you out in the long run, you simply won't be able to afford it. In an ideal scenario, after some scuffles, you might experience a miraculous baby boom too, from some wildly lucky alteration in you way of life forced on you by the crash. (I don't believe it, but hey all this is just guessing, so why not guess optimistically?) In that case, I think what you already have locked in with your demographics is something like the late Roman Empire, hopelessly split between incompatible Christian and pagan cultures, always with the possibility of an armed disagreement simmering, and bound for an irreversible alteration as soon as the armed forces in any state are in some working majority of a new-European culture that does not respect the antique constraints of the relic population.
You also point to the diversity of Europe. This is very true, but I don't think it matters much which countries advance nearer to the next type of European civilization first. Europe used to be "Christendom," but it will obviously never be anything like that again. (OK, European Christianity might make a comeback. So might the Roman religion: all things are possible.) Europe's image as something worth holding onto is composed of unity/union, and a negative idea of not being other things. As that brittle identity is taken apart by new and increasingly uncompromising new-European states - and more to the point, highly dynamic populations - in the middle of the European map, the fantasy of a Europe that is post-Christian but not yet positively anything else may look less worth getting charged up about. It's not a question of whether the once-precious heirloom gets broken. In demographic terms it already is broken.
Of course, none of this means Europe is "doomed". That's silly. The land mass will still be there whatever happens. The concept of "European" won't go away, it may just refer to different peoples with a different religion, culture and so on. Think of Christian North Africa. It certainly wasn't "doomed" or anything like it. But it altered, as Europe will. That's life, things change.
Check out the old movie "Zardoz." Sure it's only a science fiction story, but it says something true. Enclaves like that can't last forever. You've got to look to the future, you can't hang onto the dead past. There is a solution, and at the end, Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) understood it.
PeeWeeMadman | 2004-01-28 13:02 | Link
Firstly, I find it extremly amusing when people call libertarianism/conservatism/statedarwinism for an exiting new idea. The idea is certainly not new, it was prelevelant i Europe during the nineteenth century, and it caused a total social mess. The reason it work in the US, is because americans actually believe that you are in full control of your own destiny, even if the idea is totally obsolete. The americans actually believe that the social mobility in their country is extremly high, and are therefore more willing than others to be treated unfairly. It should be mentioned that social mobility in the US really aren`t that high, and that several studies has found it to be larger in the nordic countries and Canada than in the US. Serious studies show social mobility in the US and UK to be rather low compared to some other countries. I have hovewer seen some rather bogus studies to prove that the social mobility in the US is very high. One was the study where they claimed that of the five poorest percent in 1975, half were amongst the richest in 1995. This study was complete idiocy, because the ranked STUDENTS as among the poorest in society! Another fun one was the study which revelaed that four in five american millionaers did not inherit their first million. Well, this only say that they did not inherit their first million, not that their parents were not millionares! If you have a super rich daddy, you will be rather incompetent to not be able to make a million before you daddy "buys the farm".
When it comes to jobs, where are they suppose to come from in the amount to put everyone off welfare and disability? Actually, the work participation rates in the nordic countries are very high! They are actually equal to the american and japanese work participation rates! The problem in the nordic countries are actually that to many work part time, not that people don`t work. The high level of people on welfare must therefore be attributed to other factors than laziness and lack of jobs alone. One reason can be small family sizes and many women in the workforce, that makes it less natural that many people should be supported by their own familiy. I really think that most of these attacks are just a poor excuse to flood the labour market with poorly educated labour, to form a service sector underclass like they got in the US.
When it comes to these so-called reformers, which is a funny word because what you really want is to bring european society a hundread years back in time, aren`t really that different from the other parties! Carl placed the progress party between the Labour party and Høyre when he was interviewed about where in the political landscape the Progress party stands. Many also makes a point that those who votes for the Progress party, and also those who in a larger and larger degree inhabit important positions in the party, are now members of the exactly same groups that has most to lose from a libertarian economic policy. In Denmark, the so-called reformers got elected by promising the voters that they really weren`t gonna reform that much after all. You also see a clear tendency that like liberalism in the US, right wing policies are often most popular with young people, than older people. You often change your mind when you becomes 35 years old and understand that you are not going to get rich after all. Everyone certainly are not better off in the US than in Europe. USA is the best country in the world for the middle class and over, but if you are just a "mediocrity", Europe should be prefered.
When it comes to birthrates, cutting the welfare state is certainly not going to increase the birth rates. Because it is the most generous to young families european welfare states that have the highest birthrates in Europa. "Low welfare" countries like Spain, Italy and Japan are the worst offenders when it comes to not having babies, so I really don`t see how that is going to help.
I must also say that the claim that Europe is governed by elites are just ridiculous, when you compare it to the US. Europe is elitist allright, but our elites have representatives from Labour AND capital. In the US the elite is compromised almost entirely of the elite of the private sector. Also, unlike the US the EU tries to make life worth living for all their inhabitants, not just the most successfull like in the US.
Bjørn Stærk | 2004-01-29 14:30 | Link
PeeWee: "I find it extremly amusing when people call libertarianism/conservatism/statedarwinism for an exiting new idea."
The field of economics has progressed a bit in the last 100 years. There are ways to do things that work, and ways to do things that don't work, and we know that partly because we've seen what happens to countries that do/don't do those things. One of the _general_ principles that seem to work very well is that economic decisions should mainly be left to citizens. The state is rarely qualified to make them on behalf of us. If you define right-wing reformers as those of us who are guided by that principle without being commanded by it, and I think you should, there's no basis for your strange fear of a return to "state darwinism", whatever that is. There are probably fringe libertarians (objectivists etc.) who believe in the absolute mini-state, and who attribute a moral dimension to state interference that isn't warranted, but I'm not one of them, and they're not in any position to influence politics. There's a difference, for instance, between believing that the state shouldn't have a monopoly on health services and education and believing that the state should have absolutely nothing to do with health and education, ever. Allowing patients to choose which public or private hospital they want to be treated in is healthy reform. Forcing all citizens to rely exclusively on private health insurance is lunacy. Argue against what people believe - not what you think they might have believed a 100 years ago.
And what I believe is that we should remove unimportant regulations, clean up the tax system, and rethink the purpose of the welfare system. Regulations: Too many of them, way too many. It's not the government's job to micromanage society. If a regulation isn't _clearly_ beneficial, then we should remove it, even if it doesn't do much harm, just to clean things up. Taxes: Again, too complicated, too much micromanagement. We don't necessarily have to introduce a flat tax system, but it should be simple. If politicians want more money, they should raise the general tax level, not make up some specific tax against a politically incorrect vice (like drinking or smoking). And the welfare system needs to be reoriented towards its primary purpose: A safety net for the poorest. It goes without saying that for the middle class, it doesn't matter financially whether welfare is public or private. If you pay an average amount of taxes, then you could also afford the average amount of welfare, and the average amount of education for your children - which is no less than what the state offers you. But public welfare deprives you of choice in a way that reduces overall efficiency. If you believe another doctor could do the job better than the one at your public hospital, that's your problem. You're stuck, and your public hospital knows this. This again reduces the incentive for public hospitals to do a good job. All public employees aren't bureaucrats, but from the point of view of productivity, they _behave_ like bureaucrats. So the smaller the public sector, the more efficient our welfare will be. One way of doing this is to say that welfare is a state responsibility, but that it's up to _you_ who the state will pay to provide you that welfare. This is what we should do first. Another way of doing this is to say that if you're poor, the state ensures your welfare. If you're not poor, it's largely your own responsibility. The benefit of doing this is that taxes can be reduced by a large degree _without_ any less welfare for the poor. The result is better welfare, more prosperity.
"The high level of people on welfare must therefore be attributed to other factors than laziness and lack of jobs alone."
Laziness is (usually) the wrong word. Lack of motivation, perhaps? There's a clear correlation between the laxity of the disability pension system and the number of disability pensioners, one that in no way can be explained by differences in actual disability. Norway and the Netherlands are good examples. The same is probably true for unemployment. There are usually jobs available. But they're not always the jobs you want, so if the state is kind enough to pay you 70% of your former income in unemployment benefits, why not wait a bit longer for something better to come along? It would be irrational not to. Reducing benefits increases the motivation to find a new job soon. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, unless you believe that having a good job is a right.
"Carl placed the progress party between the Labour party and Høyre when he was interviewed about where in the political landscape the Progress party stands."
Yes. Make up your mind. Do these "so-called reformers" want to turn back the clock 100 years, or are they no different from the social democrats? You seem to be blaming the terrain for not fitting your map here. Remember: Terrain first, map second. I have no idea who you're firing at here, who these dangerous right-wingers who want to "bring european society a hundred years back in time" are. I wouldn't defend them if they existed, and I'm not convinced they do exist. A name or two would help.
As for the Progress Party, I think they do want change, but in the direction of a more efficient welfare system, not the abolition of it.
" You also see a clear tendency that like liberalism in the US, right wing policies are often most popular with young people, than older people. You often change your mind when you becomes 35 years old and understand that you are not going to get rich after all."
I think you'll rather find a clear tendency that _radical_ policies are most popular with young people. Radical right-wing ideologies that paint the world in clear black-white colors, but also of course radical left-wing ideologies that do the same. And if you believe that young Scandinavians are more fascinated by the radical right than by the radical left, that's news to me. I sure haven't noticed it. I have noticed that the right is growing, but to claim that it is _more_ popular than the left among young people seems to me premature, (unless you can point to some specific numbers).
In any case, using age as an argument for or against anything is always a bad sign. Some people seem to get smarter with time, others just make their stupidity more sophisticated. Which is it with you? I don't know, and I don't care to speculate. Ideas stand on their own.
"When it comes to birthrates, cutting the welfare state is certainly not going to increase the birth rates."
Depends on where you cut. Welfare isn't an on-off switch, which you either have or don't. High birthrates should be encouraged, unemployment and public sector waste should not.
"I must also say that the claim that Europe is governed by elites are just ridiculous, when you compare it to the US. Europe is elitist allright, but our elites have representatives from Labour AND capital. In the US the elite is compromised almost entirely of the of the private sector. Also, unlike the US the EU tries to make life worth living for all their inhabitants, not just the most successfull like in the US."
The elite I'm mostly concerned with though is the educated elite, the people in media, politics and academia who set the tone of the public sphere. These are victims of a classic feedback loop effect, which reinforces a particular set of leftist ideas that through lack of opposition has been rotting intellectually for decades. The ideas were original once, and I respect the people who pushed them through then against the opposition of earlier, equally rotten ideas, but today they are dead and must be replaced or at least rethought. I'm thinking on for instance multiculturalism, a healthy reaction to xenophobia that has itself turned racist and anti-democratic. I'm thinking of feminism, which began by fighting against discrimination, and now fights _for_ it, through its believe in equality of result over equality of opportunity. There's also anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism, which were healthy reactions to the dogmatic pro-American and pro-Israeli views of the early Cold War, but today are just vehicles for national chauvinism, pacifism, the remains of weak anti-semitism and other irrationalities.
PeeWeeMadman | 2004-01-29 18:24 | Link
Fistly, when it comes to welfare, I want a system when the state pays but the consumer choose where they want the service to be produced. The kind of system as the progress party and Venstre wants. I do support "Venstre", not the Labour party.
I do hovewer do not think that concentrating the welfare state on the poor is such a good idea. The tried that in the US, and it by and large a total failure. The problem with concentrating the welfare state is that it removes the middle classes incentives to support it. The middle class will think, "why the heck should we pay taxes, when the state only cares for the poor". The result can be damaging in two respects. Firstly, the middle class may very well vote the system away, because the really don`t see the use for it for themselves. Secondly, removing the middle class from the system will remove an extremly vocal group from it. If the middle class get poor services, they will complain and demand better service, something which gives a strong incentive to improve the services. If hovewer the services are only for the poor, they will become very poor, because the poor won`t have the strength and leverage to protest if the services are substandard or even missing.
This can only be applied to welfare. Some people think that the purpose of the social safety net tis to help the weak. I don`t agree. Most people, most don`t admit it, view it as a kind of insurance. An insurance that they won`t be struck to hard if something goes wrong. A middle class person would therefore think that they also should get support if they lose their job! They feel that they also should get some help to get by, while the search for a new job that fits their qualifications. If the middle classes don`t get this help, they will not support the welfare system in elections. If you look at the world, this is fairly obvious. In the US the welfare system were directed more or less directly at the poor, and it got abolished. I think that the reason it failed is because the middle classes felt that they got nothing out of it at all, and it was just as well to abolish the whole thing.
And why should people with education take unqualified jobs, when there are more than enough of unemployed unqualified labour? This ultimately hurts the poor, because one of the problems the poor have is that "every idiot" can take the jobs they got, and the wages suffers as a result. The only consequence of this, is to further increase the surplus of labour for lowskilled positions, further making life tougher on the poor.
It is also funny how someone have the strangest excuses to claim that "everyone could get a job". It is just sad when someone claim that all 200.000 without a job(including "disabled") can get a job if they want, just because there are 50 unfilled positions at a plant in a small town in northern Norway. Also, many of the jobs that are vacant over time are jobs without qualified applicants. Telemarketing is NOT a job that anyone can do properly! The large number of these job is therefore not relevant.
When it comes to unemployment, I really don`t fell that you answered my point, that the work participation rate is extremly high in this country! Why should the job creation rates in this country be higher than anywhere else? If we actually had had 50 percent of the workage population at work like Italy, I would be concerned, but the truth is that we are doing much better than the continental countries. This also affects your claim that strong unions and high wages makes it difficult to get a job. If high wages makes it difficult to get a job, why isn`t the norwegian work participation rates poorer than that of other industrialised countries. We do work few hours, that is correct. But the claim that a low proportion of norwegians are working are directly false.
Also, I do feel that everyone that works deserves a decent wage. I do not feel that it`s right that people should work hard for lousy wages, the way they do in the US. Also, if the employee is desperate to get a job, the employer will know this, and the employee may be treated poorly. I therefore feel that full employment is not a good thing. I feel that it is better to keep people on welfare or retrain them, than dropping wages and working conditions in the service sector to make it take up the slack, and serve as a societal garbage bin like it does in the US. I do not feel this is right, and it is the main reason why I hate the right.
When it comes to unions, I do agree that they are not a blessing in all respects, but I find the alternative much less apealing. I also feel that you are rather ahistorical here, because people HAVE to work to get by in a capitalist or socialist society. You are presenting proposals that caused several violent labourmarket conflicts earlier in our history. Because in an unregulated society, you will will have a proportion of the population with nothing to lose. I do support the norwegian party "Venstre", and supports "citizen wages" as a substitute for unions and regulations.
But this isn`t a good way to debate. Are you active on the debates on VG, Aftenposten or the youth organizations for "Høyre" or "Fremskrittspartiet".
PeeWeeMadman | 2004-01-30 16:21 | Link
Okay, when it comes to the Progress party wanting to take society back a hundread years, there were some in the party that wanted exactly that, but the got thrown out at Bolkesjø in 1994. Hagen thought it right to act before these maniacs brought that party down below 5 percent again. The reason I stated bringing back society a hundread years, is because I suspected that you wanted it. Though the Progress Party today apperears to be rather moderate, just like the danish party "Venstre", they still got a lot of supporters that want the nightwatcherstate back.
saatey | 2004-06-09 16:16 | Link
Europe is indeed retrogressing.Many of its people are glossly hypocrites.They say it is a Christendom continent.But,you have to live in Europe and see where it is going.Its inhabitants are tied down.They are jealous of America because America gives its people all the opportunities they need to enhance their God given rights.In Europe people do not like America.They say Americans are pompous they are extravagant and arrogant.But,It is the other way round.Europeans have lose theis integrity .They accomodate people who do not like or respect their cultures.They give in to intolerant people who are not in the habit of assimiliating.Churches are being turned into a den of drinking place for wine and beer.
William Morales | 2004-10-20 05:41 | Link
I find it amusing that those of you who are DENYING Europe's demise either ignore or fail to address adequately the principle reasons for Europe's decline.
On Demographics alone, Europe will cease to exist shortly. The current numbers make it impossible to deny, the European population is terminally ill and is vanishing at an astonishing rate. All of the misplaced optimism and declarations of how backwards America is cannot change the fact that Europe, the very people who make up the continent, won't even exist much longer. So how can Europe survive?
I'd like to see someone actually address this instead of glossing over it and pretending that it isn't a problem.
In only a handful of generations, the seed of the great people that once inhabited the continent will be permanently wiped off the face of the Earth.
Unless a radical cultural transformation takes place that places value on such things as European traditions and family life, Europe wil continue to wither away. The continent and people that were once the spark of the world will pass on with not so much as a pathetic wimper.
steve carter | 2005-03-11 16:39 | Link
Travelling throughout the US what jumps out at the knowledgeable tourist is the virtual absence of America's longheld social problem -- racism. America has truly confronted, debated, & changed what was its worst problem. It did this because it fundamentally believed that nothing was more important than tackling this. Europe has had a similar problem, a centuries-old problem of anti-Semitism. How successful has Europe been in confronting & transforming itself? Remember, the political expedient of pursuing or allowing a pogrom against Jews had its historical roots in Russia & Europe. And frankly, in neither Russia nor Europe has anti-Semitism been confronted. Quite the contrary, leftist hatred of Israel, the institutionalization, legitimization, & mainstreaming of anit-Israel & anti-Semitic discourse very strongly proves to me that Europe is not evolving, it is not confronting its problems, it is not embracing a dynamic future by correcting a basic injustice that has permeated its history.
If America was dynamic & growth-oriented & all of that, BUT had failed utterly to change its past racist beliefs, then I would not be able to see a progressive future for the US. But this is not the case, which makes the case all the more convincing for me that America will, quite unintentionally, become 'more' central to global culture, while Europe is evolving in quite the opposite direction. Europeans seem to see no need at all to confront their oldest social problem. Accordingly, other social problems are receiving the same superficial gloss. Anti-Americanism & anti-Semitism are indicative of Europe's reluctance to grow, adapt, correct injustice, & change proactively.
assman | 2005-03-13 18:32 | Link
I think Europe is doomed but not because of immigrants or because of morals or even the welfare state. The reason Europe is doomed is deeper. It is that Europeans are to opposed to change and dynamism. They are too in love with static models. The future of the world is not American, it is a RADICALIZED version of America. Even Americans may not be able to deal with the enormous changes and extremely rapid advances that will happen in the future. In the future people will be extremely individualistic, the world will be in context flux such that every single year the whole world will literally reinvent itself, people will be in constant flux in their morals, values, ideas opinions etc. The future will be a world of complete uncertainity, no planning, extremely fast change and nothing to cling to. Americans, Chinese and some developing nations may be able to deal with this because they have youthful populations and their countries are already rapidly altering. Europeans with their ageing populations and technocratic ideals are going to have a very difficult time. Of course there is a good chance no one will be able to deal with this and every single political system in the world will be destroyed. Personally I believe that every country is doomed.
lake powell | 2005-04-22 00:10 | Link
Distributor | 2005-08-10 17:56 | Link
Pauline Papa, Paris | 2005-08-25 12:51 | Link
I really enjoyed the fact that some of the opoinions published in your site brought up as an example of a democratic muslim country the turkish state, a state where till 1983 was under dictatorship, a state where the corruption is high, a state where the military and the generals still make decisions. It is commonly know that for any decision made in Turkey in matter of politics there is a national council made from both the Prime Minister and the general of the turkish army. How democratic is that?
Christine Avouri | 2005-08-25 13:01 | Link
Yeh Turkey is a democratic country practicing genocides against the Greeks, the Armenians, the Georgians, the Bulgarians, the Serbs and after vanquishing all from their territory (a stolen from the Greeks and the Armenians territory of Asia Minor since the Turks are a mongolic tribe from a place called Chinese Turkestan in the borders of China. That is the real Turkey there they should return ). They are so democratic that they even today perform genocides against the Kurds who till 1923 helped throwing the greek population of Asia Minor a population of 5.000 years settled there out of their homeland
paul | 2005-08-25 13:20 | Link
Even today in Turkey who wants to enter the European Union practice the white cells for her prisoners who belong to minorities, the 80% of women in Turkey is being beaten by their husbands and Turks citizens make large demonstrations outside the Oecomenic Patriarchate in Constantinople. NO PLACE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN "DEMOCRATIC" TURKEY. I am also astonned to see that there are people in this world that ingore history. They don' t even know from where the Turks came from, or the fact that Jerusalem fallen under islamic laW IN 600 AD by the Arabs. The Arabs practice tolerance and let the christian pilgrims in the City but when the Turks capture Jerusalem in 1000 AD they forbided the entrance to Christians and started killing them. The Crusaders fought the Turks not the Arabs!!!! And please read some history for instance the pillage performed by the Turks in 1453 in Constantinople. Have you forgotten people the souls of Greeks, Genoese, Venitians, Germans defenders of the city of Constantinople and their sacrifice for Europe? Their blood is in your hands
parenting, domestic discipline | 2006-02-24 01:21 | Link
Kaka79493 | 2006-05-07 18:58 | Link
I've just been staying at home not getting anything done. I guess it doesn't bother me. Shrug. I haven't been up to anything. I haven't gotten much done today.
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TerraTaco: Home: Doomed or not doomed?, November 29, 2003 11:36 PM
Is Europe doomed or not doomed? That's the question. Bjørn Stærk doesn't think so. We all like to believe in the picture above, but unfortunately the pessimists are always right in the end. Sitenote: While I was looking at...
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