January 14, 2007


Why Europe Abandoned Israel (Richard Baehr, 1/14/07, Real Clear Politics)

Let us look at some numbers: The EU now has 27 countries with a GDP over $13 trillion. The EU countries have almost 500 million people. The United States with 300 million people, also has a GDP of about $13 trillion, so obviously per capita GDP is much higher in the US than in Europe (60% higher per capita in fact). Europeans claim that the greater income disparity among Americans means the real gap in per capita income is narrower between most citizens of the US and Europe.

Add Turkey and the non-EU Eastern European nations, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro (reuniting Yugoslavia within the EU!), and the EU could soon be well over 500 million people. Russia has another 150 million people, Ukraine 40 million, though these countries are not currently considered potential members.

But there is little or no population growth within Europe, and with the exception of some of the Eastern European economies, Ireland and Scandinavia, relatively slow economic growth overall. In the US, the 1950 population of 150 million has doubled 55 years later. In the US, we have replacement population growth from the birth rate, plus immigration, mostly from Mexico and East Asia. Europe's population, which grew only 20% the past 55 years, is now stagnant, and headed downward sharply, given today's low birth rates.

Defense budgets in Europe are dropping. The US defense budget is larger than the next 20 largest defense budgets in the world combined. The European solution is to solve problems multilaterally, and not by military means. Why? If a military solution is required, then Europe must follow the American lead and be in America's shadow. This is a dignity issue. If international problems are addressed multilaterally, then Europe has 27 EU nations, and in international forums like the UN, Europe has more than 30 votes, and the US just one.

But there is also an attitude or life style issue at play between Europe and America.

Western Europeans want to believe that all international disputes can be resolved amicably, or as they call it, diplomatically, and multilaterally. Deal with diplomatic issues in Geneva or at the UN. Resolve economic problems in Davos. Address war crimes disputes in Brussels. One explanation for this somewhat naïve view of addressing the world's problems is that Europe is militarily and spiritually weak and willing to appease those who might threaten the European life style. The Europeans' new ethos is the New York Times' editorial page social philosophy writ large: tolerance for everything - euthanasia, gay rights, drugs, abortion, Islam. The only intolerance that is allowed is towards Christianity, America, and Israel. Bruce Bawer, who left America for what he thought was a better place in Western Europe, has documented the spiritual emptiness of this new multicultural ideology in his recent book While Europe Slept.

Look at lifestyle issues. In the US, average hours worked per year is close to 1900. In Germany it is now below 1400. Europeans work less, retire earlier, and are better secured cradle to grave through an extensive and expensive social net than we are here. But this social system is paid for with much higher taxes than I believe would be accepted in the United States. And the high cost to business to pay its share for this rich safety net means few workers are hired, hence close to 10% unemployment is a near constant level for some countries on the continent. The population in Europe is aging almost as quickly as Japan's. Europeans have the lowest birth rates in the world. All countries in Europe except Ireland, have below-replacement fertility rates. Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain have an average of 1.1 or 1.2 births per female of child bearing age. In Northern Italy, the fertility rate (number of children per woman of child bearing age) has fallen below 1, a first in world history.

The most up to date demographic forecasts project that every single European country will have a smaller population in the year 2050 than today with the possible exception of Ireland and France. Ireland has a high birth rate by European standards. France still has sufficient immigration to counter declining fertility rates. Some of the former Soviet states already have declining population. In Russia the death rate is now 1/3 greater than the birth rate. Russia may be half its current size in 50 years, as might some of the Baltic States. Italy is projected to be 1/4 smaller. Every minute on average, there are 3 births and 4 deaths in Russia. Mark Steyn in his new book America Alone, argues that demography is destiny. He concludes, a bit hyperbolically, that Europeans are in the throes of a death spiral.

So Europe's population is aging and declining, and workers want to work less. This creates huge social issues. Who will do the work that Europeans increasingly do not want to do themselves (maid service, child care, working with the elderly, dishwashers)? Who will pay the taxes to support the social services which are skewed, as in the US, towards the elderly, a rapidly growing bloc? [...]

In Europe the elites have a far different role than they do in the United States. The elites of Europe are the coffee shop philosophers: leftists who romanticize the violence of Che Guevara, Yassar Arafat, and the Sunni killers fighting our forces in Iraq. They fancy themselves revolutionaries fighting western hegemony, colonialism, militarism, imperialism, etc. In the US we have such people too. They make up the humanities faculties of most colleges and universities, particularly at elite schools.

In America the leftist academics prepare petitions and write their drivel for academic conferences, but they really do not much affect public policy. Yes, there is a soft leftist mind set that wafts out of academia and courses through the media that has a real influence over the messages that are communicated in our society. This is what Bernard Goldberg has written about in his book Bias. But it is not the harsh anti western nihilistic nonsense that is so prevalent in academia. It is easy to forget that in the 1960s, the Kennedy administration seemed to take half of Cambridge, Massachusetts with it to Washington. That kind of academic influence on policy, whether in a Democratic or Republican administration, no longer exists.

Europe is very different. The elites are public intellectuals and have a major role in making government policy. [...]

Jews are now less than 2% of America's population, down from 4% in 1950, and our numbers have declined from six to just over five million, according to one population survey, and held steady at six million according to a more recent survey. Muslims and Arabs may together be 3 to 4 million, certainly not the 6 to 7 million they claim, but their numbers are rapidly growing.

The decline in church membership in America is in the liberal Protestant churches - the Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians - the groups least sympathetic to Israel. Their members, of course, behave like most liberal Jews: they read the New York Times, listen to NPR, vote Democratic, and attend Michael Moore movies.

Evangelical Christians and practicing Catholics, on the other hand, are growing in numbers. And especially among evangelical Christians, support for Israel is very strong. This community, which has an above average number of births, is growing as a share of the population. That is good for political support for Israel here.

In Europe, the number of practicing Christians has fallen very far very fast. In Europe the elites routinely ridicule Christianity ( in fact they ridicule all religions, other than Islam), in the fashion of Bill Maher or Maureen Dowd. Europeans now have the lowest church attendance in the western world. In Britain, of those who attend Anglican church services, more than half are African or Caribbean blacks. There are exceptions of course - Ireland and Poland are countries where many white Europeans still go to church. Current estimates are that 10% of Europe's population are practicing Christians, about double the number of Muslims on the continent. What is left - the vast majority of Europeans - are secular humanists or anti-religious right wingers, and Israel has no biblical or moral significance for either group.

In the case of the secular humanists, Israel's alleged misbehavior with the Palestinians is viewed as a thorn in the side of good relations with their Muslims. Israel's strongest supporters in Europe, much as in America, are the religious Protestants on the continent.

It's sort of strange to even ask the question of why a continent that has abandoned God has abandoned His Chosen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2007 10:01 PM
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