Monday, February 28, 2005

The future of Europe, such as it is...

Three years ago The Economist in a special report looked at the demographic differences between Europe and the US, and the implications thereof.

Its conclusion was that the future of Europe is dimming, while that of the US is still glowing...
"In other words, you ain't seen nothing yet. These trends suggest that anyone who assumes the United States is now at the zenith of its economic or political power is making a big mistake.

"There are plenty of other ways in which America could weaken itself economically or politically, but demography will offer a fine basis for future growth, and strength...

"In short, the long-term logic of demography seems likely to entrench America's power and to widen existing transatlantic rifts.

"Perhaps none of this is altogether surprising. The contrast between youthful, exuberant, multi-coloured America and ageing, decrepit, inward-looking Europe goes back almost to the foundation of the United States.

"But demography is making this picture even more true, with long-term consequences for America's economic and military might and quite possibly for the focus of its foreign policy."
Now, as French unemployment hits 10%, the subject is making its way in a perfect little storm across the blogosphere, and even the mainstream media.

Mark Steyn (if you don't read him, you should if only for the fun of it) expands in Austin Bay's comments section upon some thoughts he expressed in a recent column...

... right now, the only European country breeding at replacement rate is Muslim Albania.

Declining population isn’t necessarily a problem - my own New Hampshire town, for example, survived a 130-year population decline from 1820 to 1950 ... But New Hampshire’s entire social structure wasn’t founded on a welfarist model dependent on continuous population growth to sustain state benefits...

There are two ways you could deal with this - either reform of the welfare states or massive immigration higher than America at its pre-World War One immigration peak. No European politicians have the courage to address the former (openly), so they’ve signed on to the latter (silently).

In the end, the idea of using the Third World as your surrogate mother isn’t a long-term solution either: in 2020, a skilled educated Indian, Chilean, Chinaman, Singaporean will be able to write his own emigration ticket anywhere on the planet. Is it likely he’ll want to choose a part of the world where the basic tax rate will be 60%?

That means Europe will be almost wholly dependent on the Muslim world for immigration - and one of the features of super-tolerant anything-goes post-Christian Europe is that it radicalises hitherto moderate Muslims.

Look at the number of Islamist terrorists who are creatures of the Euro-Canadian welfare systems - Richard Reid the shoe bomber, Zac Moussaoui, Ahmed Ressam, even Mohammed Atta’s political character was formed in large part by his time in Germany.

A senior Dutch cabinet minister told me in 2003 that what really scared him was that young Dutch Muslims were more Islamist and less assimilated than the grandparents who’d arrived in the early Seventies....

There are two likely longterm outcomes of all this:

a) Europe will simply become Muslim, as is already happening in secondary Scandinavian and Benelux cities;

b) ... Europeans will see their declining economic fortunes, increasing crime, unaffordable welfare systems, etc, within the context of their demographic transformation, and some will react in the traditional European way - ie, violence, massive destabilisation, etc. Will this work in the long run? I doubt it. Like the “Take Back Vermont” campaign of five years ago, once you’re talking about taking it back you’ve already lost it...

... we’re already seeing the start of a continent-wide equivalent of the “white flight” from US cities in the Seventies: the Netherlands is now a net exporter of its own people.

So: you tell me how we get to the happy ending.

Progressive secular welfarism is a great life - but only for a generation or two. After that, it’s a death cult.

That was edited -- as they say, "go read the whole thing".

Meanwhile, Steyn has come out with a follow-up column, and the NY Times on the same day runs a story on white flight from the Netherlands.

And, simultaneously, a much longer article observing the Dutch situation in a good deal more detail appears in London's Sunday Times Magazine, offering among its lessons that this is what happens when a major tide of Muslim immigrants arrives in a nation with a society grown so permissive that ...
a magistrate ruled recently that an armed robber was entitled to a tax rebate on the cost of his gun as a tool of his trade
-- a bad combination, that.

My own personal friends and aquaintances in Germany and Sweden say much the same: the Swedes telling stories of Muslims that fit right with the above, and the Germans saying they they need immigrants but all the first-class ones go to what is still the land of opportunity, America -- Germany has grown uncompetitive even at attracting immigrants.

This is all well-worth remembering when facing up to the US's own social problems and future challenges in financing Medicare, Social Security and so on while maintaining growth and competitiveness in future generations.

Those are real enough, to be sure -- but the comparable problems facing Europe and Japan are much worse. (And those already in the pipeline for China may be worse yet, but that will be for another post).

So don't get down on the US just because it has some problems, while neglecting the larger perspective.

As The Economist said, it may well be that "you ain't seen nothing yet", the best for the US remains yet to come.