Europe Turning Away From Socialism?

Newsweek has an interesting piece on a revival in interest in capitalism among European youths. With European countries like Germany and France continuing to have excessively high rates of unemployment and a social safety net that is rapidly becoming torn and tattered, it’s not surprising that many young Europeans are rediscovering some of their own intellectual tradition:

In Germany, the Banking Association is helping change attitudes by supplying instructional materials explaining markets to more than 20,000 teachers. “A few years ago the Education Ministry would have kicked us out,” says the association’s Wilhelm Bürklin. One participating social-studies teacher, Christel Stoldt at Winkelmann High School in the town of Stendal, reports rising interest among students about how the market economy works. “I have to overcome a lot of prejudice against companies and entrepreneurs,” she says. In France, the Centre de l’Entreprise has sent several hundred teachers on internships to companies. Director Jean-Pierre Boisivon says they often return astonished that the corporate world isn’t the Darwinian struggle between bosses and workers they’d been taught it was. Junior Achievement, a U.S. organization promoting student entrepreneurship, now has three dozen European chapters and plans to reach 5 million students by 2010. JA Europe chief Caroline Jenner says that 30 percent of the kids who participate in its programs later start their own companies, compared with just 7 percent in the general population. “How else are we going to get jobs for 19 million unemployed Europeans if we don’t teach kids that entrepreneurship is OK?” she asks.

Indeed, she’s right. Europe’s stagnating political and economic culture is greatly influenced by the way in which the state has wormed its way into every facet of life. The disconnect between the grandoise promises made by European governments and the reality of high unemployment, low economic growth, and less opportunity grows larger every day. Europe has the benefit of a highly educated populace, excellent infrastructure, and centuries of culture – all they need know is for the state to get the hell out of the way. However, given the way in which the state has traditionally controlled key sectors of the economy, the cozy relationships between big businesses like Airbus and the government also provide an additional barrier to competition.

When a country like Ireland can go from virtually Third World conditions to one of the most advanced and vibrant economies in Europe, people take notice. As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success, and as the experiment in European state socialism founder, many Europeans are discovering that their own noble tradition from Adam Smith to Fredrich von Hayek provide a guide for a better future.

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