Steven “Spock” Den Beste has a three part essay up on the difference between Europe and America, and some predictions as to what the future holds for Europe. In particular, I found this passage fascinating:
(T)he general trend in Europe is to continue to reduce the work week while continuing to implement policies which give businesses a disincentive to invest and hire. If there’s any way out of this trap, I haven’t seen any discussion of it.
There are really only a few ways this can end. First, the voters in Europe could come to their senses and face the reality that their current policies are unsustainable. They’d have to accept a radical reduction in entitlements, a radical reduction in business regulations, and a lot of other changes all of which would be viewed in the short term as being hostile to labor and friendly to business. There would have to be broad acknowledgement that Socialism isn’t economically sustainable. But before there can be any chance of that kind of political change, things are going to have to get a lot worse. And if things do get worse, that’s probably not how the voters would react.
For one thing, the kind of people who would feel that way and help push the system socialism won’t be there. Europe has a safety valve to release capitalist sympathizers: they emigrate to the US. People who hate the US system will stay behind and it will be those who will end up trying to solve this. (It’s one of several ways in Europe is badly damaged by brain drain.)
So what’s far more likely is that the voters will blame business leaders. They’re generally thought of as villains now, and eventually someone will point out that if business leaders are unwilling to take the risk of expansion, then the government will need to force them to do so. The business leaders should be making their decisions on the basis of social conscience, not in crass pursuit of profit. Profit is evil anyway, and if the leaders refuse to serve their nations the way they should, well then we’ll damned well force them to do what’s right. And that way we can get job growth without having to eliminate the extremely important and obviously just job protection regulations or reward the filthy money-grubbing capitalists with tax cuts.
As I’ve noted, I’m slogging through Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for the first time, and that is her entire premise in a nutshell.
I’ve said in here before that she never made a point she wasn’t willing to beat to a bloody pulp, but that doesn’t mean she was wrong.
I disagree with a lot of the Objectivist philosophy, but when it comes down to describing the behavior of socialist governments and the people willing to live under them, she was, apparently, spot-on.
Steven concludes, though, with this cheery prediction:
So in the end what you’ll get is economic collapse. There are various ways in which this can play out, but none of them are good. And as long as Europe is locked in this economic death-spiral, they are unlikely to be a military threat to us, and at least that’s a blessing.
But what comes after the collapse or emerges politically during the collapse? The historical record suggests a new rise of Fascism is the most likely outcome. In the midst of economic chaos, with a huge population of unemployed and people who are dissatisfied, charismatic leaders will appear who will blame the problems on foreigners and claim they can solve the problems if only they’re given unrestrained power. Once elected, they abolish elections, dismantle most of the programs which are causing trouble, and actually do improve the business climate. But they do other things, too, and few of them are likely to be good.
The classic example of this is the rise of the Nazis after the fall of the Weimar Republic, but that’s by no means the only example of that kind of thing from European history. Historically speaking, when things go to hell in a handbasket, Europeans tend to look for charismatic and nationalistic demagogues who promise them pride and glory in exchange for strict obedience. That’s a price Europeans have seemed almost eager to pay.
We can’t discount the possibility that in fifty years the EU and most existing national governments in Europe will be gone, replaced by a new Fascist dictatorship, which among other things chooses to make the investment in a modern military and which hopes to use it in yet another round of world conquest.
And we might not be able to interfere before this point, because France has nuclear weapons. Even though Europe won’t have the ability to threaten us using conventional forces for the next few decades, they do have the ability to threaten us with nuclear conflagration. Of course, if they nuked us we’d also nuke them, but the threat of it means that we might not be able to significantly interfere to prevent the rise of a new Europe-wide Fascist state, which could follow historical patterns and become militaristic and expansionist.
If that happened, the world would become a very interesting but much less safe place.
Which doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies for the future my grandchildren will be living in. But I think Steven makes a very strong case, the same as that made by Alexander Tytler. I just hope that we are able to avoid the same fate here. A lot can happen in 50 years.