Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mark Steyn on the Bad News for Europe

Mark Steyn has an insightful (and chilling) review of books dealing with the decline of Europe in MACLEANS.CA.

Steyn points out that the chief problems for Europe are:

1. Low birth rate

The difference between "anti-Americanism" and "anti-Europeanism" is obvious. In, say, 2025, America will be much as it is today -- big, powerful, albeit (to sophisticated Continentals) absurdly vulgar and provincial. But in 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case: 17 Continental nations have what's known as "lowest-low" fertility -- below 1.3 live births per woman -- from which no population has ever recovered.

2. Pampered youth, the future elite, who care not a wit about problems of the nation or the "lower class"
The trap the French political class are caught in is summed up by the twin pincers of the fall and spring riot seasons. The fall 2005 rioters were "youths" (i.e. Muslims from the suburbs), supposedly alienated by lack of economic opportunity. The spring 2006 rioters are "youths" (i.e. pampered Sorbonne deadbeats), protesting a new law that would enable employers to terminate the contracts of employees under the age of 26 in their first jobs, after two years.

To which the response of most North Americans is: you mean, you can't right now? No, you can't. If you hire a 20-year-old and take a dislike to his work three months in, tough: chances are you're stuck with him till mid-century. In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired. Especially if you belong to that first category of "youths" from the Muslim ghettos, where unemployment is around 40 to 50 per cent. The second group of "youths" -- the Sorbonne set -- protesting the proposed new, more flexible labour law ought to be able to understand that it's both necessary to the nation and, indeed, in their own self-interest: they are after all their nation's elite. Yet they're like lemmings striking over the right to a steeper cliff.

3. A welfare state that is causing intellectual and moral bankruptcy along with economic bankruptcy

However, if, like Clive Davis, you find Bawer and Berlinski too shrill, try Charles Murray's new book, In Our Hands. This is a fairly technical economic plan to replace the U.S. welfare system, but, in the course of it, he observes that in the rush to the waterfall the European canoe is well ahead of America's. Murray stops crunching the numbers and makes the point that, even if it were affordable, the European social democratic state would still be fatal. "Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," he writes. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant." If Bawer's book is a wake-up call, Murray reminds us that western Europe long ago threw away the alarm clock and decided to sleep in.
[emphasis mine]


Mike's America said...

Thanks for excerpting from both of Mark's recent columns. I had not read either one.

I need to do a better job keeping up with his columns.

Each one is a perfect "10" on the opinion writers scale.

He was on C-Span giving a speech a while back and he's as quick on his feet as he is on the page.

terrance said...


I think Mark Steyn is the best political commentator out there.

He cuts right to the chase on issues with both facts and satire.

That's why I have him linked twice on my sideboard. The Chicago Sun-Times column comes out every Sunday.