February 16, 2006 [LINK]

More Euro-pessimists speak out

I was wondering what Charles Kupchan would say about Fareed Zakaria's Euro-pessimism, and thanks to Instapundit, I found out. Theodore Dalrymple recently posted an essay, "Is Old Europe Doomed?" at Cato Unbound. He begins by granting that history does not proceed in linear, deterministic fashion, but warns, "Nevertheless, it is undeniable that a pall of doom does currently overhang Europe." Clincher:

The principal motor of Europe's current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century.

The result of this obsession: dwindling work opportunities for native Europeans, and the encouragement of a vast "informal sector" of immigrants willing to take up the slack. As the youth of Europe long for cushy, public sector jobs, while rejecting the ethos of capitalism, productivity will continue to lag. Dalrymple's interpretation of social norms under these conditions is particularly troubling:

The goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the economic cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake itself.

In response, Georgetown professor Charles Kupchan wrote that Dalrymple's piece "is essentially a Europhobic rant." (It did not strike me that way at all.) To Kupchan, things in Europe are not as bad as they seem, and some statistical trends indicate continued vitality in the European economy, especially if you leave out Germany. (How ironic; Germany used to be the motor of the European economy!) Oddly, Kupchan treats Europe's low birth rate as an exogenous trend, when it is really one of the clearest symptoms of socio-economic stagnation. I think he is whistling in the dark.

Cheney's misfire

Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of his friend Harry Whittington has provided great fodder for comedians and Bush-bashers, and an inordinate amount of attention from the news media. The only real "lessons" to be drawn from it, however, are rather banal: "Safety First." "Accidents happen." One could certainly fault the Veep for poor public relations in this incident, but that has never been one of his priorities. The sorrow he expressed in the interview with FOX's Brit Hume yesterday was obviously sincere. Hunting without the proper permit is a more serious matter, however, and Cheney should pay the maximum fine to set an example.