I know I cover this subject quite a bit, but I do so because it’s critically important to the future of our world. Fareed Zakaria has a very astute piece on Europe’s continuing decline. Zakaria points out the usual litany of problems: an aging population, a stagnant economy, and cultural decline. Anne Applebaum also piles on at Cato Unbound. She writes:
I was reminded of a recent conversation with a friend, another American Europhile, now resident in East Asia. Sadly, we agreed that the Europeans who bash â€œwildâ€ Anglo-Saxon capitalism, who believe America is an unregulated jungle, and who feel smug and safe within their secure welfare states are deeply, deeply deluded. They havenâ€™t yet realized that the economic and social challenge presented by the successful societies of Asia is hundreds of times more dangerous to their way of life than the caricature theyâ€™ve created of the challenge presented by the United States, a country which is nearly as over-regulated as their own. If the rise of China continues apace, Iâ€™m afraid Dr. Dalyrympleâ€™s final phraseâ€”that Europe is â€œsleep-walking to further relative declineâ€”might even be too mild. At some point, itâ€™s also possible that Europeâ€™s decline, for all the reasons he listed, might even cease to be relative.
Why do I keep bringing up this topic? For the reason that in a globalized economy, if Europe declines, we all lose. Secondly, because Europe is a warning to us. We can see the liberal social experiment as they would have it in Europe. Europe is what they would like us to become, and it is becoming quite clear that experiment is failing there. If we fail to learn from the mistakes of others, Europe’s problems will soon be our own – and in some ways, we’re already facing some of the same problems they are.
We can’t expect to follow the same path as Europe and avoid the same results, and should we try our larger population and greater diversity will only mean our fall will be harder and faster. Already we’re seeing a push for more isolationism even though the supposed horrors that would befall us if we passed NAFTA never materialized. We’re seeing an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment that is binding our society in a web of red tape. While Hispanics aren’t as alienated from our societal values as Arab immigrants are alienated from European societal values, we cannot ignore the fact that unchecked illegal immigration threatens our economy and society as well. Europe’s bleak future could well become our own if we’re not careful to avoid it.
It is not too late for either Europe or the US to stray from the road to serfdom and start the necessary and vital task of reform. Margaret Thatcher already created a new renaissance in the UK, and her economic legacy continues on despite Tony Blair’s Europhile meddling. The Irish economy has gone from sickly to strong under the leadership of Bernie Ahern. The “center-right” is surging in European politics with victories in Portugal in Germany. In statist France, reformist candidate Nicolas Sarkozy’s political fortunes look strong for next year’s elections. Yet none of these leaders have quite the political will that the Iron Lady did.
Eventually, Europe will have to reform, just as we will. The great question which hangs over all of us is how bad things will get before that happens, and whether it will be a case of too little, too late.