A continent hurtling toward the abyss

In 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case.

By MARK STEYN
April 8, 2006 21:30
A continent hurtling toward the abyss

europe map 88. (photo credit: )

I've had a recurring experience in the last few months. I'll be reading some geopolitical tract like Sands Of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, And The Hazards Of Global Ambition by Robert W. Merry, and two-thirds of the way in I'll stumble across: "With the onset of the Iraq War and European opposition, many Americans embraced a severe anti-European attitude. 'To the list of polities destined to slip down the Eurinal of history,' wrote Mark Steyn in the Jewish World Review, 'we must add the European Union and France's Fifth Republic." If the best evidence of the pandemic of anti-Europeanism in the United States is a Canadian columnist writing for a Canadian newspaper (Jewish World Review is a plucky New York Web site that happened to reprint a piece of mine from Toronto's National Post) that would seem to be self-refuting. Until now. Two books have just hit the shelves - While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within by Bruce Bawer, and Menace In Europe: Why The Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too by Claire Berlinski. In media-speak, two of anything makes a trend, and Clive Davis doesn't care for this one. Davis is a perceptive commentator for The Times of London and, in reviewing Bawer and Berlinski for The Washington Times, he sniffed: "What worries me about books like this is that they risk reducing Europe to a caricature in much the same way as Stupid White Men turns America into one big Wal-Mart with drive-by shootings." That's unfair, and does a disservice to both authors. For many Europeans - and Canadians - the Stupid White Men school of anti-Americanism is a form of consolation: the Great Moron may be economically, militarily and culturally dominant but we can still jeer at what a bozo he is. Bawer and Berlinski, both genuine American Europhiles, have a serious purpose: in his titular evocation of the young JFK's book on pre-war European appeasement, While England Slept, Bruce Bawer makes plain that he wants to wake Europe up - and, if it's too late for that, then at least to wake up America. He's a homosexual who moved to the Continent because he was weary of the theocratic oppressiveness of redneck America and wanted to live his life in the gay utopia of the Netherlands. Alas, when he got there he found the gay scene had gone belly up and, theocratic oppressor-wise, Pat Robertson has nothing on some of the livelier Amsterdam madrassahs. Both books are somewhat overwrought - Miss Berlinski dwells on her own relationship with some Muslim lad who later figured in Zadie Smith's hit novel White Teeth, and Bruce Bawer is reluctant to give up on the idea that a bisexual pothead hedonist utopia is a viable concept rather than, as it's proving in the Netherlands, a mere novelty interlude; his book might have been better called While Europe Slept Around. NONETHELESS, if Clive Davis thinks this is anti-Euro rotten fruit-pelting, that's more of a reflection on the complacency of the Continent's own commentariat. The difference between "anti-Americanism" and "anti-Europeanism" is obvious. In, say, 2025, America will be much as it is today - big, powerful, albeit (to sophisticated Continentals) absurdly vulgar and provincial. But in 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case: Seventeen Continental nations have what's known as "lowest-low" fertility - below 1.3 live births per woman - from which no population has ever recovered. All those heavyweight scholars who immortalized between hard covers my cheap Eurinal-of-history aside did so because it was so self-evidently risible. Well, it looks a lot less so in 2006 than it did in 2002. The trap the French political class are caught in is summed up by the twin pincers of the Fall and Spring riot seasons. The Fall 2005 rioters were "youths" (ie, Muslims from the suburbs), supposedly alienated by lack of economic opportunity. The Spring 2006 rioters are "youths" (ie, pampered Sorbonne deadbeats), protesting a new law that would enable employers to terminate the contracts of employees under the age of 26 in their first jobs after two years. To which the response of most North Americans is: You mean, you can't right now? No, you can't. If you hire a 20-year old and take a dislike to his work three months in, tough: chances are you're stuck with him till mid-century. In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired. Especially if you belong to that first category of "youths" from the Muslim ghettoes, where unemployment is around 40-50%. The second group of "youths" - the Sorbonne set - protesting the proposed new more flexible labor law ought to be able to understand that it's both necessary to the nation and, indeed, in their own self-interest: they are after all their nation's elite. Yet they're like lemmings striking over the right to a steeper cliff. WHEN MOST of us across the Atlantic think of "welfare queens," our mind's eye conjures some teenage crack whore with three kids by different men in a housing project. But France illustrates how absolute welfare corrupts absolutely. These Sorbonne welfare queens are Marie-Antoinettes: Unemployment rates for immigrants? Let 'em eat cake, as long as our pampered existence is undisturbed. The only question about Europe is whether it's going to be (a) catastrophically bad or (b) apocalyptically bad, as in head for the hills, here come the Four Horsemen: Death (the self-extinction of European races too self-absorbed to breed), Famine (the withering of unaffordable social programs), War (civil strife as the disaffected decide to move beyond mere Citroen-torching) and Conquest (the inevitable victory of the Muslim successor population already in place). I'd say Option (b) looks the better bet, for a few if not all Continental nations: United they'll fall, but divided a handful might stand a chance. However, if, like Clive Davis, you find Bawer and Berlinski too shrill, try Charles Murray's new book, In Our Hands. This is a fairly technical economic plan to replace the US welfare system, but, in the course of which, he observes that in the rush to the waterfall the European canoe is well ahead of America's. Murray stops crunching the numbers and makes the point that, even if it were affordable, the European social democratic state would still be fatal. "Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," he writes. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant." If Bawer's book is a wake-up call, Murray reminds us that western Europe long ago threw away the alarm clock and decided to sleep in. The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group.


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