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Europe's Melancholy, Long Withdrawing Roar
By Ed Driscoll · February 6, 2006 12:48 PM · The Cartoon Kingdom · The Future and its Enemies

Theodore Dalrymple has a typically superb essay titled, "Is 'Old Europe' Doomed?" on the CATO Unboard Website. If you'd like to place the Great Cartoon Crisis of 2006, and The Great Burning Citroen Crisis of 2005 into context, this is a must-read piece:

This feeling of impotence is not because of any lack of intelligence or astuteness on the part of the populations in question: if you wanted to know why there was so much youth unemployment in France, you would not ask the Prime Minister, M. Dominque de Villepin, but the vastly more honest and clear-headed village plumber or carpenter, who would give you many precise and convincing reasons why no employer in his right mind would readily take on a new and previously untried young employee. Indeed, it would take a certain kind of intelligence, available only to those who have undergone a lot of formal education, not to be able to work it out.

The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century.

What exactly is it that Europeans fear, given that their decline has been accompanied by an unprecedented increase in absolute material well-being? An open economy holds out more threat to them than promise: they believe that the outside world will bring them not trade and wealth, but unemployment and a loss of comfort. They therefore are inclined to retire into their shell and succumb to protectionist temptation, both internally with regard to the job market, and externally with regard to other nations. And the more those other nations advance relative to themselves, the more necessary does protection seem to them. A vicious circle is thus set up.

In the process of course, the state is either granted or arrogates to itself (or, of course, both) ever-greater powers. A bureaucratic monster is created that takes on a life of its own, that is not only uneconomic but anti-economic, and that can be reformed only at the cost of social unrest that politicians naturally wish to avoid. Inertia intermittently punctuated by explosion is therefore the most likely outcome.

As I wrote back in November, during the Paris riots:
The now-defunct Ottoman Empire was the first of several countries over the previous century to be dubbed "The Sick Man of Europe". But economically and socially, Europe as a whole increasingly looks to be the Sick Man of the World, with dire--and now immediate--consequences for all of its population.

Of course, it is possible to end a malaise and restore vitality, but the EU's endless bureaucracy is far too entrenched--and far too blind--to allow such measures to actually be implemented.



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