June 18, 2007


Sour and in Decline (Suzanne Fields, 6/18/07, Real Clear Politics)

In "The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent," Walter Laqueur describes how Europe's promise after World War II, its amazing recovery through the Marshall Plan, led to the belief that its "soft power" would become a unifying force and give birth to common institutions. "The recovery was not just economic," he writes. "Not only were European living standards higher than ever before, but also welfare states were established, providing essential health and other services and free education. No one any longer had to fear disease, old age and unemployment." Europe was not Utopia, but Europeans believed in their future.

The optimism did not last long. Those who wrought the miracle were Europeans -- Frenchmen, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Yugoslavs. The immigrants drawn here by the miracle, numbering in the millions, came from the Middle East and Africa. They didn't want to return to their countries of origin, nor did they want to adjust to the customs of their adopted homeland. Assimilation was something to avoid. Attitudes didn't change with the following generation. While unassimilated immigrant birthrates soar, the Europeans soon failed even to replace themselves.

Demography accelerates intellectual and economic decline, and the "quality of life" founders. The economy fails to sustain the growth that once inspired robust confidence. Unemployment rises along with government payments to the unemployed. Students stay in college for as long as they can find a reason for not getting a job; the student population grows to 10 times the size in earlier generations. Welfare and medical costs soar. The ambitious individualism of American capitalism is scorned as a model. The Europeans love their 35-hour workweek and their five-week vacations, and there's no recognition of the hard fact that making money to pay for the good life requires skill, ambition and competition.

It is presumably just a function of race that folks can recognize that the welfare state made inner city blacks dependent on government to their detriment, not least by atomizing their society, but have been resistant to the fact that the Marshall Plan just helped do exactly the same thing to white Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2007 7:25 AM

OJ -

Check your URL link, I think it is incorrect.

Posted by: Andrew X at June 18, 2007 9:02 AM

Have to believe the US made a significant mistake by subsidizing the defense of Europe during the Cold War, thus preventing the Europeans from having to make hard choices between defense and welfare programs.

As to the efficacy of "soft power," hey if your only tool is a hammer...

Posted by: Rick T. at June 18, 2007 10:09 AM

Soft power alone isn't worth a tinker's dam. "Just sign your name to that check all pretty-like, I'll fill in the rest," said the thug.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2007 11:30 AM

It's hard for me to see how a mere four years of economic assistance to help rebuild Europe and encourage free trade is quite the same thing as a welfare state. Sure, Europe went soft Left after the war, but that didn't really have anything to do with the Marshall Plan.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 18, 2007 12:21 PM



Posted by: oj at June 18, 2007 12:30 PM

Rick - Europe was culturally sick long before 1945. Had we not defended them, they would have surrendered to the Soviets, and sustained Soviet communism another fifty years.

Posted by: pj at June 18, 2007 1:37 PM