Forsaking The Past

The inestimable Paul Johnson has an excellent piece on how Europe has turned its back on its own history:

The fundamental weaknesses of the EU that must be remedied if it is to survive are threefold. First, it has tried to do too much, too quickly and in too much detail. Jean Monnet, architect of the Coal-Steel Pool, the original blueprint for the EU, always said: “Avoid bureaucracy. Guide, do not dictate. Minimal rules.” He had been brought up in, and learned to loathe, the Europe of totalitarianism, in which communism, fascism and Nazism competed to impose regulations on every aspect of human existence. He recognized that the totalitarian instinct lies deep in European philosophy and mentality–in Rousseau and Hegel as well as Marx and Nietzsche–and must be fought against with all the strength of liberalism, which he felt was rooted in Anglo-Saxon individualism.

Had the French rejected the European Constitution because it was an economic, social, and political straightjacket that eroded the most basic freedoms that keep a society stable and prosperous they would have done a great deed. Instead the French rejected the EU Constitution because they felt it was insufficiently contemptuous of “Anglo-Saxon liberalism.”

What Europe is embracing via their “social market” is less some new ideology for the 21st Century, it’s a throwback to the Dark Ages. State socialism is in form a more “enlightened” form of feudalism. Instead of the feudal lord controlling the serfs, the state takes the place of the lord and the serfs remain subserviant to the state. The arguments that European quality of life is better than that of the United States is prima facie foolish. One’s quality of life is diminished in a culture where 1 out of every 10 workers is unable to find work. Being on the government dole is deeply destructive to the values of self-reliance that make a society strong, and the success of a society is not measured by the size of its welfare programs, but on how few people need it.

The EU has no intellectual content. Great writers have no role to play in it, even indirectly, nor have great thinkers or scientists. It is not the Europe of Aquinas, Luther or Calvin–or the Europe of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Half a century ago, Robert Schumann, first of the founding fathers, often referred in his speeches to Kant and St. Thomas More, Dante and the poet Paul Valery. To him–he said explicitly–building Europe was a “great moral issue.” He spoke of “the Soul of Europe.” Such thoughts and expressions strike no chord in Brussels today.

Europe has a rich intellectual history descending from great thinkers like Locke, Kant, Montesquieu, and Hayek. Yet Europe has embraced the ideologies of destructive narcissism and state control that have led to some of the most horrendous human suffering in all of history. Instead of looking to those Europeans who stood on the side of freedom, the European Union and the European populace seems all too willing to embrace the ideologies of ever-expanding state control.

F.A. Hayek warned Europe about the perils of the road to serfdom – and yet Europe has apparently failed to heed the warnings of some of its greatest minds

7 thoughts on “Forsaking The Past

  1. “One’s quality of life is diminished in a culture where 1 out of every 10 workers is unable to find work.”

    Kind of like our own?

  2. Kind of like our own?

    Except our economy has an unemployment rate of 5.2%. Our total labor underutilization (unemployed + “discouraged” workers) is right around 10.2%. Eurostat doesn’t give a figure for labor underutilization like the BLS does, but estimates I’ve seen have placed it as high as 25%. Assuming the same ratio of comventional unemployment to total labor underutilization, the EU average is 17%.

  3. At least Europe has an intellecutal history. The same cannot be said of America. This country has always been hostile to science and academics, except perhaps during the Cold War when suddenly we needed scientists to compete with Russia. I’m not saying this country hasn’t produced the occasional great thinker, and certainly we’ve got a lot of ingenuity. But the culture here has always been suspicious of intellectuals. The current administration is especially bad. Quite frankly, the attitude pisses me off. They want the things science provides them with, but they attack the institutions that create more scientists, dictate to us what we can and cannot do in our laboratories, regulate what we can teach children in schools, and in general are hateful of the “elite”.

    I really need to create an army of giant mutant insects with which to rule the world. Then they will pay. Oh, yes.

  4. Jay:

    Our unemployment rate is still far lower than it should be. Europe is a step ahead of us in that respect. I’m looking forward to the days of full unemployment, myself…


    There is a perception that America is hostile to the development of an intellectual class, but haven’t we created plenty of homegrown intelligentsia? From the Federalist and the founders through the Pragmatism of Dewey, Peirce, and James and the Transcendentalism of Emerson, Thoereau and Whitman, on to the 20th century, with the Chicago-school economists and philosophers (mostly imports, but still American), the Analytic philosophy tradition that has been developed jointly by American and British academia, the “American Existentialism” of Humanistic and Existential psychology, the vast outpouring of scientific research, and now the emerging Integral and Transhumanist schools of thought (both centered in America), I’d say we’re doing pretty well for only two centuries on the job. That, and we’ve largely avoided the anti-humanistic tendencies of much of continental thought- if there is any great American intellectual virtue that we have, it is moderation. Whatever extremism is to be found in our academia is largely an import (though I think that much of the furor over postmodernist “nihilism” destroying our universities is exaggerated- our university system is still the envy of the world, and for every intellectual moron I’ve met, I’ve met ten professors of great intellectual rigor and openness- though this might just be a trait of instructors at private colleges in the upper midwest!)

    (In related news, I was just accepted to the Master of Liberal Arts program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico… so I’ll have plenty of time to further my knowledge of the western canon in the next two years…)

  5. So why does a large portion of America still believe in Young Earth Creationism? Because they’re smart?

  6. “So why does a large portion of America still believe in Young Earth Creationism? Because they’re smart?”

    I didn’t say that Americans in general were all that bright- but really, are the numbers of French who still take Marxism seriously any lower? There’s plenty of bull on both sides of the sea…

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