What Europe Really Needs

Wall Street Opinion Journal Paul Johnson Friday, June 17, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

The Continent has turned its back on both the past and the future.

That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters. What ought to depress partisans of European unity in the aftermath of the rejection of its proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands is not so much the foundering of this ridiculous document as the response of the leadership to the crisis, especially in France and Germany.

Jacques Chirac reacted by appointing as prime minister Dominque de Villepin, a frivolous playboy who has never been elected to anything and is best known for his view that Napoleon should have won the Battle of Waterloo and continued to rule Europe. Gerhard Schröder of Germany simply stepped up his anti-American rhetoric. What is notoriously evident among the EU elite is not just a lack of intellectual power but an obstinacy and blindness bordering on imbecility. As the great pan-European poet Schiller put it: “There is a kind of stupidity with which even the Gods struggle in vain.”

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.

In fact, for an entire generation, the EU has gone in the opposite direction and created a totalitarian monster of its own, spewing out regulations literally by the million and invading every corner of economic and social life. The results have been dire: An immense bureaucracy in Brussels, each department of which is cloned in all the member capitals. A huge budget, masking unprecedented corruption, so that it has never yet been passed by auditors, and which is now a source of venom among taxpayers from the countries which pay more than they receive. Above all, règlementation of national economies on a totalitarian scale.

Comments

  1. A quote, no source: “Europe functions today as a grand museum. It is home to much of the world�s great art, literature, philosophy, architecture, libraries, churches, and museums in the traditional sense � and oh, the food! Unfortunately, this treasure is largely lost on the Europeans, who have been culturally bankrupt and politically socialist since at least the end of The War. Given their embrace of the inferior fare at McDonald�s, Europeans� appreciation of even their own food is suspect.

    Rather than studying the masterpieces of the past, in order to create new ones, Europeans today often are simply satisfied to know that previous Europeans created great works, to patronize cultures that have not, and to smugly believe that their neglect of one legacy, and frivolous elevation of the other, makes them superior to the rest of the world.”

    And another with a source, “A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.” – C.S. Lewis

    Being of European descent and born there, I don’t like visiting anymore. Europe and I have grown apart and I feel a stranger where I once grew up…

    I wish them well, but I am sceptical about their future. I think we’re observing the extinguishing embers of a once vibrant culture. Europe is morally/religiously bankrupt and its demographic suicide is the outcome of its rejection of God. After all, if everything is here just through blind chance, through random permutations, what point is there to plan for the future. If there is no God, what is the purpose of going on?

    From a scientific point of view, we can observe the fascinating danse macabre of a dying civilization. From a personal point of view we are observing a great human tragedy…

  2. Caneel,

    It isn’t just Europe. According to the Foreign Policy Research Council:

    “To maintain long-term population stability, a society’s women must bear an average of about 2.1 children per lifetime. According to projections of the U.S. Census Bureau, Europe’s total fertility rate (or TFR births per woman per lifetime) is about 1.4. Indeed, nearly all the world’s developed regions – Australia and New Zealand, North America, Japan, and the highly industrialized East Asian outposts of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea – are reporting sub-replacement fertility. (Israel remains an exception.) But sub-replacement fertility is clearly no longer mainly a developed-nation phenomenon. If the Census Bureau’s projections are roughly accurate, just about half the world’s population lives in sub-replacement countries or territories.

    Apart from Mongolia, according to the Census Bureau, all of East Asia is sub-replacement, as are Thailand and Burma in Southeast Asia, Kazakstan and Sri Lanka in South-Central Asia, many Caribbean societies, and most South American countries.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise, given received notions about the Arab/Muslim expanse, is the recent spread of sub- replacement fertility to parts of the Arab and the Muslim world. Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon are now sub-replacement countries, as is Turkey. And there is the remarkable case of Iran, with a current TFR of under 1.9, which is lower than the United States. Between 1986 and 2000, the country’s TFR plummeted from well over 6 to just over 2. If modernization and Westernization are the handmaidens of sustained fertility decline, as is often supposed by students of demography, both terms are apparently being given a rather new meaning.”

    The worst case is China, of course, with its mandatory one-child policy, forced abortions, child-killing, and developing massive gender imbalance. In the end, it isn’t just Europe that is dying. Much of the world is. Among Western nations, only the U.S. is bucking this trend.

    Europe isn’t uniquely sick, but it is sick. Europe desperately needs to rediscover not only its religious roots, but also its roots in economic freedom. At the same time, however, I think we need to focus on the fact that this is a global problem and not spend quite so much time singling Europe out for discussion.

  3. Glen,
    thanks for the information. I was, dimly only, aware that some Asian countries are facing similar problems. Europe, however, hurts on a personal level.