Veering from Left to Right
Funder on the Impossibility of Das Leben der Anderen

Laqueuer: Europe's Doomed. Moravcsik: Fiddlesticks!

This blog's been getting pretty dialectical lately, so let's have another thesis-antithesis post. Walter Laqueur pronounces on Europe's future in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

In brief, by the turn of the millennium, at the very latest, it should have been clear that Europe was no longer on the road to superpower status, but that it faced an existential crisis — or, perhaps more accurately, a number of major crises, of which the demographic problem was the most severe. That began to be recognized almost immediately, but there was confusion, because the crisis seemed intractable — it had been discovered too late. One could only hope that the newcomers indifferent or hostile to European values would gradually show more tolerance, if not enthusiasm, toward them, or that multiculturalism, which had been such a disappointment, would perhaps work in the long run.

Those were not exactly strong hopes, and they certainly do not explain the illusions of some foreign observers, particularly Americans, who continued to claim that the 21st century would be Europe's. They maintained that there had been a revolution in Europe, of which Americans were not even aware. Europe had a vision of justice and harmony very much in contrast to the American dream, which no longer existed. The European vision emphasized the collective, in contrast to the narrow stress on individualism in the United States. It preferred the quality of life to amassing money. Americans had to work harder than Europeans, had fewer holidays, did not live as long as the Europeans, and, generally speaking, enjoyed life much less. Europeans were selfless, it was argued. As one observer put it, power politics was a thing of the past; Europe's main weapons were justice and the law. Coming from Europe, that idea would spread all over the world and become the main instrument in world politics.

Now for the antithesis: Europe's doom isn't inevitable. Let's not forget that many who predict it also desire it, for a variety of reasons ideological and economic (not that Laqueur belongs in this category). If Walter Laqueur gets you down, I'd suggest Andrew Moravcsik's cautiously optimistic assessment:

To most who live in Europe—or have visited lately—all this [doomsaying] seems wrong, even absurd. As the European Union turns 50 this week, let us consider all that has been achieved. Europe arose from the ashes of the Great Depression and World War II to become whole and free. Half a century ago, only a utopian would have predicted that, today, one can traverse Europe from Sweden to Sicily without encountering a border control and—most of the way—using a single European currency. Or that a tariff-free single market would exist, cemented by a common framework of economic regulation.

Europe is now a global superpower of world-historical importance, second to none in economic clout. It has constructed one of the most successful systems of government—the modern social-welfare state, which for all its flaws has brought unprecedented prosperity and security to Europe's people. It is the single most successful advance in voluntary international cooperation in modern history. The original European Economic Community of 1957 has grown from its founding six members to 27, knitting together just under 500 million people from the western Aran Islands of Ireland through the heart of Central Europe to the Black Sea. Its values are spreading across the globe—far more attractive, in many respects, than those of America. If anything, Europe's trajectory is up, not down. Here's what the critics get wrong.

Now for my two cents. Laqueur thinks that opposition to America's foreign policy and values, especially as embodied by the Bush Administration, drove many commentators to overestimate Europe's prospects. It's a sort of wishful thinking: "I find Europe's approach so much more pleasing and consonant with my views, therefore it must be the wave of the future."

I don't disagree with Laqueur on many points. It's become clear that there are worrying fissures at the heart of many European countries. Further, Europe's stock (as a shining beacon of reason and conciliation compared to the U.S.) has hit a new high against the background of the Bush administration, but will fade once someone halfway competent enters the White House. I'm not quite as pessimistic about Europe's demographic future as Laqueur, but there's no doubt that a demographic time bomb is ticking, and the people who might be able to defuse it are still bickering bitterly with each other.

I'm a Europhile not because I think European values will prevail, but because I think they should prevail. Sure, Europe's social welfare systems do saddle it with some competitive disadvantages. That's why I found the parts of Jeremy Rifkin's European Dream -- the parts in which he assumed away these disadvantages -- so unconvincing. They're there, and they're found not only in some EU and national policies, but also in the mindset of many denizens of Europe. However, from what I have seen and experienced, Moravcsik's thesis holds: the competitive disadvantages are greatly outweighed by the benefits social welfare systems bring to European residents. And there's no question that many of the foreigners I talk to here in Germany are quietly impressed by Germany's social-welfare system. Many of the leaders of the countries these people come from promise their residents a welfare state, but Germany actually delivers one. As long as the vast majority of the world's population continues to prefer welfare-state models to unrestrained capitalism, the European dream will remain alive.


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just wish you'd kick the limey's ass

You must hate the Internet where you can't out-argue your opponents with your fists anymore. Shit, I mean if this goes on you'll eventually have to grow up after all.

Marek Möhling

> Now that's a funny definition of "America works". The aboriginal people of Australia have
> done their thing for 40,000 years, now here's a model that's proven to work.

Capitalism sucks, while hunter-gatherers rule? QED? Martin, in the Krâvanh Mountains there's still a tiny gang of Khmer Rouge in dire need of helping hands to lead the Workers' Party of Kampuchea to ultimate victory. Get yourself an inexpensive last-minute flight to Bangkok, go to the beach, jump into the water, turn left, swim past Khlong Yai, and cross the border. Don't let the sharks bite off the few things needed even in frugal life. Or is it anarcho-primitivism, that you're after? They count Theodore Kaczynski and Wolfi Landstreicher among their ideologues - no joking.

> Just wish you'd kick the limey's ass

Judging by the BBC video mentioned before, I'd say they're making an awful good job at that themselves. I've always been a Limophile of sorts, so that's a sorry assessment.


@ Marek

Marek, you're back. In good form, too. Just wish you'd kick the limey's ass (see below). "Sorry little country." Man, if that isn't dissin'.

Marek Möhling

> Its values are spreading across the globe—far more attractive, in many respects, than those of America

That's Moravcsik's cautiously optimistic assessment's pivot. Now, where do these values spread among our neighbours - assuming it's our neighbours that count, particularly in immigrations issues - there's not much of a Chinese, Indian or Latin American migratory wave to be seen. What do the Muslim people vote for, in the few occasions they're given the choice? Secularists or Islamists? We might want to speculate on Turkey's AKP's earnestness, but speculation on Algeria's FIS, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iran's Ahmadinejad or Palestine's Hamas should be moot, while Saudi-Arabian, Jordanian, Syrian, Yemenite, or Moroccan rulers know better than to ask their people. And the list goes on. It's a bold assumption that those alienated by their ruling clique's ineptness come to us in search of freedom first, and mere economic livelihood second.

What other neighbours have we got? Apart from Putin's Russia that is, sliding back deep into the last century just now. The "people who might be able to defuse" something, "still bickering bitterly with each other," have a name: electorate. Unfortunately, should you fancy neither green, red nor brown fascism, stunned navel-gazing is your option. As for the time bomb ticking, here's some footage - from the BBC of all places; yes, the times are a changing. It's called "White Fright." Dear, dear, did good old BBC suddenly decide to ask the BNP to have their shows named? I guess not - maybe they were just frightened. Anyway: info and impressive video footage of neighbours not being too happy with each other, Jack Straw weighing in. Christopher Hitchens gives some background - I didn't care to check what better informed, staunchly anti-Zionist commenters like Juanito Cole have to say about it; I'm glad to see that we're leaving Steyn for Laqueuer after all. And, hey: though Hitchens is no Trotskyite any more, he's still staunchly anti-Zionist. Hopefully this lends him some credibility in some quarters. Then again, who am I kidding... we're in an elitist little corner of blogland, as fellow commenter Martin knows.</injoke off>

> And there's no question that many of the foreigners I talk to here in Germany are quietly impressed
> by Germany's social-welfare system

That's the ones who don't need it badly or at all. Ask local Muslim youth, who mostly do, and you'll find out that Hobbes was right: (you read that here before, I know)

To have received from one, to whom we think our selves equall, greater benefits than there is hope to Requite, disposeth to counterfiet love; but really secret hatred; and puts a man into the estate of a desperate debtor, that in declining the sight of his creditor, tacitely wishes him there, where he might never see him more. For benefits oblige; and obligation is thraldome; which is to ones equall, hateful.

Moreover, an increasing number is way past the point where they wished themselves just equal. Here's Mickey Mouse teaching children who's the boss. The local Arab communities imbibe it via satellite dishes - the Turkish have their frequencies, too. But don't fear: our Minister of the Interior is quite busy appeasing their most fervent self-appointed representatives.

Sociologist Bassam Tibi--not without faults himself-- once posited a desideratum he labeled Euro-Islam. Suave Islamist Tarek Ramadan tright to the hijack the term, with some success, as nitwits even rewarded him with the long craved for tenureship. Euro-Islam has a reality, though: it's with the Alevites, who make up about one third of German Muslims of Turkish descent. Both Sunni and Schia orthodoxy regard them as heretics, and persecute them to this day, even here - so much for Euro-Islam's popularity. Besides, if polls are to be believed, there are about twenty percent of German Turks who don't overly care about their creed, except for ChristmasId al-Fitr. About fifteen per cent, the pious rest of rests, is--possibly--represented by our minister's Islamist interlocutors, who claim to speak for all. Where it not for the World's Ummah lurking even in the heads of those who profess not to be alarmists, the occasional search warrant is all they would get.

> Do you think that that we should enter a war of 'outpopulating' the Muslims even though we would wreck
> the world even faster with it?

No, Andrew doesn't want that. Possibly, he's just becoming that tad less pc than you presently are - some would call that left dissent, honoured by tradition, while others know this to be pure evil. Anyway: how about having less Muslims of the reactionary variety (cf BBC's Blackburn example) immigrate, in favour of Philippines, Ghanaians, or Brazilians happy to become capitalists of our lovable--not to busy--social-democratic variant™, while giving Africa it's due? We could start by cutting down on protectionism and stop fondling dictators', kings', and chieftains' balls. Speaking of which: recently our much famed coordinative council of Muslims asked for thirty per cent "neutral or positive media coverage" on Islamic issues, as the Spiegel reports. They didn't pull that out of their head - they were citing studies by Migrationsexperte Hai Hafez who asks for the same since long in gentler terms, using the Süddeutsche or taz, too often sympathetic mouthpieces of his ilk. He's a tenured professor, of course.

How about having our security agencies go on watching over the council's members, while *not* inviting them to high profile conferences? After all, nobody would do that with Ron Hubbard's spooky followers or blue-eyed members of the NPD, who dislike our societies basics as much as their brown-eyed brethren from the Milli Görüs and the Muslim brotherhood.



Ah, so you're British. I just took a look at your blog (Grayblog) and it offers anyone researching culture shock a fantastically rich source of material.

You wrote:

Just now wanted to go to a restaurant around the corner that serves ‘traditional’ food. It was closed. On a holiday. In fact they are closed all Sundays and holidays. Must be part of the tradition not to serve customers when they have the most time to eat out.

This is, as you know, one of your milder attacks on Germans and German culture. Listen, Germans have different priorities than people in Britain. And yes, the state does intrude quite a bit on people's lives, certainly in comparison to the US and Great Britain. But understand that the majority of Germans are completely comfortable living that way -- it's their culture, not yours.

I urge you to use what intelligence you possess to locate and examine the underlying set of values that produces all the surface differences you see around you in Germany.



Thanks for supporting my claim, by offering the example of the Aborigines as evidence, that one economic model will not fit the immense variety of cultures we find in the world today. What worked for the Aborigines will probably not work for Germans and what works for the Germans probably won't work for Americans. Why? Choices of economic arrangement, to some extent, reflect cultural values.

Before tossing out another barbed aspersion like "poor little country" -- by the way, there are 300 million people with a GDP of over 13 TRILLION in that "poor little country" -- I wonder whether or to what extent you agree with the idea that a country's economy reflects its culture.

Listen, if you're content living in Germany, I'm happy for you. I myself am glad that there are many different kinds of economic arrangements around the world. I disagree with both those Americans and Germans who would like to see ONE SYSTEM adopted by all the others.


@ Martin

I dare say you're right, old chap. Forget both the Americans and the Europeans.

I'm taking the next flight to Australia.


What do you think?

I think that your sorry little country has barely been around for 200 years and the current economic model (finance, transportation, energy), I dare say, not even for 50 years. Now that's a funny definition of "America works". The aboriginal people of Australia have done their thing for 40,000 years, now here's a model that's proven to work.



I first lived in West Germany back in 1987-88 and have, since then, traveled all over Europe. I have also traveled through Asia. But way back in West Germany in 1988, when I lived in a small village along the Neckar River, I learned something really simple but very important. People do things differently in different cultures for reasons that make sense in their country. Germans will wait at stop-lights until the light says "walk," British will queue without thinking, while Chinese will create something like a football scrum to get onto a bus or train. Those behaviors make sense in those cultures and they are connected to a set of central value hierarchies. Similarly, economic structures reflect those central sets of values and shared historical experience. So, what works in one country may not work in another country for a variety of reasons, the majority of them being cultural.

You are happier living in Germany where people do not feel comfortable taking the risks that Americans do. Fine. As you know, there are many Germans who live in the States because they enjoy the rewards they earn here for the risks they take and the fact that the taxes are not as high. Good for them, too.

Germans (and people like you) prefer the social-welfare model more. Excellent. But do not expect Americans (and Germans who come here to live) to want to import a system that militates against the core values of a country of immigrants where individual intiative and risk-taking have always been key to success here.

I vividly remember that day back in 1988 when, after living in West Germany for six months and struggling daily with US-Germany comparisons and analysis, I realized all of this. I saw clearly how German values permeated everything in the country and it would be very hard to isolate one aspect and try to remove or export it. And I've seen this in every other country in which I've either lived or visited since then.

Last fall I was in Berlin for two weeks. I was riding a bike through Schoeneberg just around sunset when I saw an older woman on the sidewalk looking straight at me and mouthing something at me. I pulled over and talked to her. She informed me that I should already have my bike-light on. Amazing. I live in New York and no American of any age would feel compelled to stop anyone to tell them to put their bicycle lights on (not to mention that bikes here rarely have lights, anyway). I had to smile as I pushed the rubber rollar for my light onto the tire, thanked her, and pedaled off. What works in Germany works because it fits into a entire web of cultural values and rules. What works in America works for the same reasons. People should be very wary of trying to excise something in one country and transplant it in another.

Andrew, some Americans are happier, like you, living in a different country. That's perfectly understandable. One of my sisters was always catching flack here in the States because she wasn't puncutal at all. Sometimes she would be hours late. Then, one summer, she moved to Mexico and couldn't believe that everyone treated time the same way as she did. She was much happier in Mexico where punctuality did not have the same priority as it did here in the US.

But, while you are happier in Germany, don't expect those of us who live here in the US and who feel comfortable in this particular system to want to adopt the German social-welfare model. We won't. Why? Because the economy reflects our culture, just as Germany's social-economic order reflects deep-seated German values and beliefs.

What do you think?



"It's become clear that there are worrying fissures at the heart of many European countries."

Andrew, that's not clear to me. What do you mean with 'fissures at the heart'? Some kind of European heart desease?

"Further, Europe's stock (as a shining beacon of reason and conciliation compared to the U.S.) has hit a new high against the background of the Bush administration, but will fade once someone halfway competent enters the White House."

What stock are you talking about? Why should shift it dramatically just because of a different President? Are there deeper lying issues to it, or is that just hyperbole?

"I'm not quite as pessimistic about Europe's demographic future as Laqueur, but there's no doubt that a demographic time bomb is ticking, and the people who might be able to defuse it are still bickering bitterly with each other."

Do you refer to men and women here - and what they should do with each other - or do you talk about social politics?

Are you one of those who plead for an increase of the birth rate in Europe in spite of the fact that the world (and Europe in it) is already vastly overpopulated? Do you think that that we should enter a war of 'outpopulating' the Muslims even though we would wreck the world even faster with it?

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