Monday, February 06, 2006

The Doom Of Europe

Theodore Dalrymple writes about Europe's decline in today's Cato Unbound. He says Europe's decline is relative, and that widespread predictions of doom (by writers like Mark Steyn, for example) are predicated on the notion that historical hindsight, and current trends, can be used to forecast the future. This, Dalrymple says, may be quite unfounded: the future overturns most settled predictions.

Having thus hedged his bets, Dalrymple nevertheless gives a clear diagnosis of Europe's ills. An "immovable" political class, with its plans for a united Europe not desired by its citizens, and the "anti-economic" bureaucracy which, in almost every European country, fetters prospects of growth.

The typical reaction of "Europe" to the open global market is that it is a threat to its economic security and to "social justice". This leads to counter-productive protectionist measures - which in turn reinforce the self-fulfilling prophecy of the "evils" of the unfettered market.

Dalrymple also blames the weakened cultural confidence of Europe's political elite for contributing to the failure to assimilate Muslim immigrants.

Whilst much of his piece is unobjectionable right-wing lore, it is pessimistic in tone and clearly Dalrymple doesn't for a moment believe Europe can shake off its habit of decline. Admittedly, if Europe is concurrently failing at the economic, cultural and political levels, as Dalrymple asserts, then a large measure of gloom is perfectly justified.

At the same time, even if our decline is only "relative", Europe must soon be approaching the point where it no longer makes sense for poor people to emigrate into Europe. The flow should then start going the other way, and completely overturn the demographics of doom. And even if that doesn't happen, continuing decline will force Europe to confront and reform its sclerotic institutions - maybe in a peaceful way, if its politics allow such flexibility, otherwise in violence and conflict. The idea of a gentle continued "sleepwalk" to decline - Dalrymple's closing thought - seems the least likely scenario.

Cato Unbound ? Blog Archive ? Is ?Old Europe? Doomed?

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