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Arts and Culture

Europe in Free Fall

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Posted on Jan 13, 2012

By William Drozdiak

“After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent”
A book by Walter Laqueur

Just a few years ago, a spate of books trumpeted the ascendancy of a uniting Europe as the new global superpower that would run the 21st century. Europe’s mastery of soft power seemed destined to eclipse military might in the post-Cold War age. The building of a continent “whole and free” following the collapse of the Soviet empire would finally put an end to ethnic and nationalist conflicts. And the historic creation of the euro, as the coin of the realm in the world’s biggest trading bloc encompassing 500 million prosperous citizens, foreshadowed the demise of the dollar’s supremacy.

These days the European dream seems to be turning into a nightmare. The prospect of the euro’s collapse—caused by a sovereign debt crisis among its southern tier or “Club Med” members—threatens to unravel the elaborate construction of a peaceful, prosperous and united Europe that stands as one of the West’s greatest achievements in the wake of the devastation of World War II. The failure of the European project would not only cause catastrophic problems for the global economy, it would also imperil the foreign and security interests of the United States by destabilizing our nation’s closest allies.

To see long excerpts from “After the Fall” at Google Books, click here.

How did it happen? How could Europe’s enviable progress toward building a zone of perpetual peace and prosperity suddenly detour toward the brink of disaster? In this book, the distinguished historian Walter Laqueur explains how Europe’s recent success in constructing a harmonious community of states actually masked serious vulnerabilities in social, economic and political institutions that proved too fragile to bear the impact of the world’s most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.

As in a previous work, “The Last Days of Europe,” written six years ago, Laqueur describes in detail the demographic crisis that lies at the root of many of Europe’s troubles. He cites U.N. forecasts showing that, by the year 2050, the whole of Europe, including Russia, will shrink by 130 million people. Decades of low birth rates have resulted in aging populations that have placed a huge strain on pensions and health care largely covered by Europe’s generous social welfare systems. These problems are now affecting many key policies. Indeed, in the current euro crisis, German government officials say their reluctance to bail out Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal is driven largely by fears among its own taxpayers that the bill will become so onerous as to jeopardize their retirement.

 

book cover

 

After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent

 

By Walter Laqueur

 

Thomas Dunne Books, 336 pages

 

Buy the book

The flip side of Europe’s population problem is its growing difficulty of integrating large immigrant communities, which in turn has fueled a xenophobic backlash among populist ideologues who want to expel or reduce the number of foreigners, especially from North Africa. Yet in many countries, the troubles stem from second- or third-generation offspring who, while born and raised in Europe, have not been properly integrated but left abandoned in a cultural no-man’s land outside mainstream society. In places as dispersed as the Paris suburbs and the British Midlands, large concentrations of unskilled and disaffected Muslim youths become potential recruits for criminal gangs or Islamic radicalism. Laqueur cites demographers’ predictions that “major European cities, including Birmingham, Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, and Marseilles, will have a non-native majority in the not-too-distant future.”

Yet demography and immigration represent only part of Europe’s pathology. The continent at large has failed to respond effectively to the competition posed by cheap-labor nations such as China and India. Except in a few isolated industries such as machine tools and luxury automobiles, Europe has lacked the entrepreneurial spirit to find ways to stay ahead of the rest of the world. As Laqueur suggests, a marginalized Europe may simply be the latest example of the inevitable rise and fall of great powers throughout the course of history. “The decline of Europe, once the center of the world,” he writes, “can be interpreted above all as a decline of will and dynamism.”

Can Europe manage to rejuvenate itself and become once again a powerful and influential force in world affairs? Laqueur sounds doubtful. He suggests, rather, that Europe’s fate may become that of a cultural theme park, “a kind of sophisticated Disneyland for well-to-do visitors from China and India.” As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Europe guided Western civilization out of the Dark Ages into a new era of enlightenment. In the modern age, the Old World banished centuries of nationalistic conflict through ingenious statesmanship that created a community of states pooling their resources of iron, steel and coal—the raw materials of war—that serves as the basis of the present-day European Union. It would be a tragedy for the world if this remarkable achievement in supranational governance should fall victim to myopic leadership and parochial impulses in the global financial crisis.

William Drozdiak, formerly the foreign editor and chief European correspondent for The Washington Post, is president of the American Council on Germany.

© 2012, Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group

 


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By Bing37, January 23, 2012 at 3:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I realize I am entering the forum rather late in the day on this one but here’s my OPEN LETTER TO THE EDITORS OF TRUTHDIG:

You were “played” rather seriously on this one. A review of an author who makes a cottage industry of books denouncing Europe, written by a man who has spent most of his adult life in France (he must have suffered terribly) and who now heads an organization called The American Council on Germany, the review and the book itself have all the heft of an intellectual argument by George Will.

You can do better. You need actual reporting from Europe. I know you run Wm. Pfaff’s excellent columns from time to time but really, if you want to be more than a forum for American lefties, find voices that can actually bring you a bit of truth about life over here, rather than statistics cooked up to make the comfortable even more so. Europe is a serious player, with internal contradictions and complexities. There are writers who can tell you about that.

Regards,
Iddhis Bing
At large in Europe

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By vector56, January 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

When I read this post, the phrase “Euro centric” came to mind. Drozdiak declares that:

“Europe guided Western civilization out of the Dark Ages into a new era of enlightenment.” 

Debatable, when one considers the “long arc” of human history.

A funny thing happen after Europe colonized the world; over generations the hollowed out stripped mined third world occupants followed their natural resources back to the home on the Anglo s. America after annexing 50% of Mexico and keeping down any attempts by the people of that country at Democracy seems to have induced a similar problem at her borders. 

Most of the human beings on this planet dwell in China and India. It only seems logical that the majority of humanity should finally have their day.

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By cpb, January 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

Comparisons between the mess in Europe and the mess in
the USofA as if they are not intricately linked?  As in
root causes, machinations and globalized structural
realities..??

Thank dog for Blogdog on this thread who’s post is the
lone voice speaking from a perspective with at least one
foot on the ground.

Who said, “I’ll believe corps are peeps when Texas
executes one.” ?

I hope they start with those Sachs o’ Gold pricks.

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By mrfreeze, January 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous - No, wasn’t criticizing you in particular….Wasn’t necessarily praising all things Italian/European….simply felt the need to vent a little about the whole f***ing way things are screwed-up.

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By Shenonymous, January 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

mrfreeze, Jan. 16 10:39 am – i”In asking your question I get the
sense (as I do from all Americans) that our dreaming is the dreaming
everyone else SHOULD be doing.”
 

Not at all.  It was asked sort of satirically.  Sometimes one is
predisposed to prejudge others from a parochial perspective
in which one is entrenched.  Perhaps that is from where your
comment sprang since you so readily judged what you thought
I was saying.  A more cosmopolitan view would allow a better
panorama of other people’s perspective.  Being Eyetalian via the
genes of my grandparents, with a smidgen of Greek, I was raised
with that Old World perspective.  Immigrants all, who did have the
“American Dream” in the 20s as they waved hello to the Statue of
Liberty on their way to Ellis Island, they have all done very well here
and economically populate the entire range of the middle income
Americans, though none has every achieved the status of the 1%. 
As admitted earlier, my own spot on the spectrum is about in the
middle of the middle.  And as a native American, meaning second
generation, I did not have an American Dream, I just had American
Reality.

I would think the provincially “Italian” Dream is wholly unique and
quite unlike what America seems to promise, just as you noted, at
least provisionally.  The love of the arts does have some effect on
apparent national appreciations.  My blacksmith granddad loved
opera as do I.  Some Americans dream in color and some Italians
dream in mono-color green. And I could show you some American
crafts unsurpassed in the world as well as culinary talents.  It is
illiberality that thinks in terms of superiority.  Of course the Italians
have a high investment in the Renaissance, the height of humanism,
where it was born. It is interesting to note, however, in reading, science
and math, according to the Wikipedia article, Italy ranked 23rd in the
world of education while the US ranked 14.  However, as reported in the
education organization Asia Society’s publication:

NEW YORK, December 7, 2010 — The United States boasts the best
education system in the world. It attracts great numbers of international
students, and is studied by researchers and educators the world over.
 
The international school rankings released today tell another story:
that America’s rising generation is not as competitive in critical
thinking and problem solving as students in other countries. Out of
65 school systems tested, the United States ranked, on average, 26th.
This represents a drop from 15 just three years ago. The U.S. ranked
14th in reading, virtually the same ranking as the 2003 test, 17th in
science, which is an improvement from 21st in 2006; and 25th in
mathematics, the same ranking as 2006. The good news is that U.S.
students, especially those with the lowest performance, have
significantly improved in science since 2006.

Neither America nor Italy made it into the top 10 that included
Shanghai, Hong Kong, Finland, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Canada,
New Zealand, Taipei, and Australia.  Might there also be a Shanghai
Dream, particularly if those high achieving students actually made a
superior living in Shanghai, but my guess is that they are not immi-
grating to Italy but do dream of living in the United States.  But I’ve
no substantiating data on that guestimation. 

I think the quality of and investment in a country’s education goes a
long way to determining the appreciation of education and hence the
intellectual capital of that country.  Each country has its virtues and its
vices.  I don’t think the continent of Europe is in decline.  Reconstruction
frequently looks as though a thing is in decline in its inception.

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By mrfreeze, January 16, 2012 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous - What a wonderfully insightful question and one that deserves an answer:

The Italians have been dreaming (as a culture) since Roman times! Their dreams have manifested themselves in infrastructures that are still here today; in crafts, and culinary arts and visual/durable art that are all still appreciated today and aren’t the cheap fleeting trash that Americans so enjoy; they own the Renaissance!

And yes, they’d all like a better life for themselves. In asking your question I get the sense (as I do from all Americans) that our dreaming is the dreaming everyone else SHOULD be doing. Ours is the “exceptional dream” or ours has more “traction” than everyone else’s.

The true “bankruptcy” in America isn’t just it’s monetary one, it’s also the bankruptcy of aesthetics and social unity. Even the Italians, whose modern democracy is much younger than ours still have a longer, deeper cultural heritage than we will ever have…..They dream in color…we here in the states dream in mono-color-green.

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By Shenonymous, January 16, 2012 at 11:28 am Link to this comment

The Italians don’t dream?

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By redteddy, January 16, 2012 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

They make the collapse of the union sound like a big tragedy meanwhile its a
victory for those who value sovereignty and democracy. The EU is a completely
undemocratic institution, just look at how fast they got rid of Papandreou when he
called for a referendum as they feared Greeks would resound with a deafening
‘NO’. This ‘supranational governance’ is just another name for bureaucratic
corporate fascism.

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By mrfreeze, January 16, 2012 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

Lafayette - I have quite a number of cousins in Italy. For the most part they express a healthy concern for their futures but they don’t sound any more frustrated than we Americans. The 20-somethings are certainly in a bad spot….but then our non-wealthy 20-somethings are as well.

Most Italians are truly “middle-class.” They have smaller homes, make less money, drive smaller cars, have (slightly)fewer toys….they’re by far more conservative in their personal finances…..They don’t have the same “pimp” banker class able to put them into perpetual uber-debt. What’s so wonderful is that their cultural, social and artistic lives are rich beyond the imaginings of most Americans whose usual experience of great public squares is where the Chuck-e-Cheeze lies across the street from Target or Walmart. (Oh the classic American piazza!)

By our “standards” they would be considered “deprived of the fruits of the American Dream.” After all, hasn’t the dream come to mean nothing more than you can go out an buy as much shit as you want?

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By Lafayette, January 16, 2012 at 1:14 am Link to this comment

SENSATIONALIST JOURNALISM

... it is hard to believe Europe is in the last days.

Don’t believe everything you read, just because it is the title of a book reviewed on this site.

If the above review is correct in what Laqueur has written, then the author is dead-wrong in his presumptions based upon a supposed “crisis” and the fact that the media bumps it with a trumpet.

Besides, the American news-media has become sensationalist in its need to obtain and keep people glued to the BoobTube (TV-set), when they could be doing better things with their lives.

Crises come and go, but what remains is an entity, th EU, with a larger population than the US and therefore a larger economy. Not only, but a better system of both Health Care and Education. Both of which are very low cost compared to their American counterparts.

Higher taxation does not prevent millionaires in Europe. Tax revenues do, however, help support the two most important public-services named above. Besides, Europe wisely leaves world-policing to the US - which seems to prefer minimizing subsidies of Health Care and Education, preferring to dump oodles of money into the DoD black hole.

And for what? To be despised internationally for erroneous use of its might. And why?

Go figure ...

How did it happen? How could Europe’s enviable progress toward building a zone of perpetual peace and prosperity suddenly detour toward the brink of disaster?

How did what happen?

The trains still run, mostly on time. People go to work. People come home from work. The EU has national unemployment rates that are mostly lesser than the US! (See here from our Bureau of Labor Statistics, titles “Unemployment rates unadjusted by BLS, 10 European Union countries, seasonally adjusted, June 2010–October 2011 “)

I live here in Europe - no disaster in sight (except for a cruise-ship sunk off the Italian coast).

Try harder ... maybe Kazakhstan is more appropriate?

POST SCRIPTUM

The US lost its triple-A rating six months ago. Why was there no hue and cry in the US?

Funny that ...

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By scotttpot, January 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

Huh—I spent time in France,Spain,Netherlands,Denmark,and Sweden last year.Looking at their public transport and infrastructure it is hard to believe Europe is in the last days.I did notice while there, headlines that pointed the finger at the U.S. for global economic problems and broadcasts pointing out the dysfunction and decline of the U.S. Still, they love our T.V. shows and Hollywood
movies and there is a McDonalds in every train station.

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By Shenonymous, January 15, 2012 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

With all due respect, Lafayette, and I have the highest respect for
your observations, I’m not arguing that a “dream” of a united Europe
has been abandoned.  To call the entire population of the sovereign
countries collectively as Europeans carries with it the implication of
non-diffrentiation and a loss of national identities. In America, we
don’t generally identify ourselves with traits distinct to specific
states.  We freely move around too much to be attached as Utahans,
Ohioans, Pennsylvanians. There are some who think of themselves as
having a particular bond with a particular state, but since the politics
of a state may change from one political cycle to another, it is a kind
of superficial identity and there is really nothing absolutely innate in a
description of any autonomous state.  If anything, the people in general,
collectively, identify themselves firstly as Americans.

This is unlike Europe where a Frenchman is a Frenchman first, and so
forth. You reminded us that for thousands of years nationalist warfare
has separated sovereign nations. How to excise the idea of nationalism
has to seep into the consciousness meaning it will take more than a
couple of decades to wean it out. The idea of being European seems to
be secondary to national identification. This is all I meant. Reading your
post, it seems we are not too much in disagreement.  In my provincial
American view, there is no reason the idea of a unified Europe will not
continue to be desirable.  But, if there is an abiding faith that Europe can
be united, I think it is a long way off and the kind of cultural assimilation
to being a European first before being a national is generational and will
take a few more generations to take effect.  No doubt younger nationals
acutely understand a mixed culture must take place.

You ask what it is I identify with?  Using the frame of wealth, I am
not destitute, gainfully work for a living, but I cannot claim to have
any wealth. Academics do not make the best salaries which is relatively
better and worse depending on in which state one works. I am definitely
in the middle of the 99%. The popular metaphoric idiom here is 99% to
the !% who hold most of the nation’s wealth.  The percentage construc-
tion, though, is artificial, useful only for the purpose of salient debate. 
Personally, I do not sharply feel the effects of the recession (although
there are those who would argue against there even is such an economic
condition).  Whatever… it has impacted what I can afford and have to live
not just frugally, but consciously penny-wise. This is a common
condition and turns into the question of what is the best way for human
beings to live? 

As a liberal, personal rights are important, and while liberty is vital, I
believe all humans have a right (not absolutely a natural one, though,
one that we as reflective beings have determined) to equal opportunity
for all, to civil liberties, to create a society for the common good, that
within the context of a society can only be guaranteed by a demo-
cratically elected government.  This is in exact opposition to the
conservative notion of personal responsibility to solve all problems
and unqualified individual liberty, limited government that protects
only the freedom to pursue one’s own goals. The ideas of fairness,
reciprocity, equity in political and financial opportunities, a profound
respect for our own humanity and for the humanity of others, an intense
desire to see unbiased treatment in our courts for everyone, returning
education to the development of the mind not parochial values beliefs,
civilizing our political institutions, and a deep reverence for circum-
scribed freedom and reason are liberal ideas and are only thorny to
define because they are too often said in abstract terms and gain
meaning only when applied to real instances.

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By blogdog, January 15, 2012 at 10:12 am Link to this comment

RE: ...having relinquished its role as Policeman of the World (with the great costs that such involves).

not entirely - NATO’s most vicious troika to take the reins in decades (Sharkozy,Cameruin, Obomber) have dragged Europe into a neocolonial role with its massive war-criminal calibre bombing campaign of Libya and plans now in the works for Syria and Iran; though according to this report, Turkey will get the order to prove its loyalty to the empire…

e.g. http://tinyurl.com/8xl2nqk

Russia Says NATO, Persian Gulf Nations Plan to Seek No-Fly Zone for Syria
By Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov January 12, 2012 6:01 AM EST

Russia received information that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and some Persian Gulf countries are preparing military intervention in Syria, the head of the Russian Security Council said.

Turkey, a NATO member, may play a key role, Nikolai Patrushev, who used to head the country’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, told Interfax in comments confirmed by his office. The U.S. and Turkey are working on a possible no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels, Patrushev said.

“We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf states, working under the ‘Libyan scenario’, intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention,” the Russian security chief said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria should end after failing to deter the government’s 10-month campaign of violence against dissidents. She spoke after meeting Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani, a day after President Barack Obama held talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal at the White House.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and NATO’s press service in Brussels didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russia, which has Soviet-era ties with Syria, argues that United Nations-sanctioned bombing of Libya by NATO to protect civilians was used to bring about regime change and that Western governments are trying to repeat that scenario in Syria.

The West is putting pressure on Syria because the country refuses to break off its alliance with Iran and not for repressing the opposition, said Patrushev, who served with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Soviet- era KGB.

[...]

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By eggroll, January 15, 2012 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

As an American expat living in Finland, this specie
of Europe-bashing has become quite familiar. It is
not helpful to the discussion. Helpful, or visionary
at least, would be something like Andrei Amalrik’s
“Can the Soviet Union last until 1984?, published in
1973, which predicted the collapse of the Soviet
Union and was only off by five years. Looking ahead
for the Nordic countries, which have lifestyles and
gini coefficients Americans aspire to, have weathered
European financial indigestion for centuries and
again have exited the latest global downturn in
reasonable shape (Finland is even in Laqueur’s
dreaded eurozone). Indeed, these countries, being
democracies, even allow political parties dedicated
to anti-immigration sentiments (we have the True
Finns Party here in Finland), but for the most part
material and economic security is seen as tied to the
ability to increase information-intensity of exports
relative to energy and material inputs. The
financially healthiest European countries at the
manage their lifestyles at about 16TWh per million
inhabitants. Maintaining a robust balance-of-payments
probably requires doing the same at about 10TWh, with
a large amount of that energy coming from non-carbon
sources. In other words, a 60% gain in productivity
and energy efficiency over the next two to three
decades would likely sustain European competitiveness
in exports and servicing its large internal markets,
as well as solve most balance-of-payments and debt
issues. China, which also has an aging population, is
still below the 10TWh level, and, based on current
policy is on track to hit this target while lifting
the remaining 700 million rural inhabitants to at
least a mid-income country living standard.

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By blogdog, January 15, 2012 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

the real enemy of the modern sovereign state are the global hedge funds that ply
the waters of the debt and currency markets like 17th C. privateers, looking for
any sign of weakness, whereupon they launch a bear raid on the nation’s sovereign
debt and usually its currency as well - a one-two punch, using flash trading and
derivative instruments - gambits to sweep huge windfalls

the citizenry of nations carrying substantial sovereign debt must implement trade
controls to curtail such activity by these packs of hedge fund hyaenas - the only
other option is to toss the table and declare national default - Argentina did it -
Greece may too - so the financiers take a haircut - whose going to weep for
them?

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By Lafayette, January 14, 2012 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

FOR THE NATTERING NABOBS OF NEGATIVISM

From Reuters, today:

France risks another downgrade of its sovereign credit rating if its public debt and budget deficit deteriorate further, Standard & Poor’s said on Saturday, a day after it cut the country’s top-notch AAA rating by one notch to AA+.

“The deficits could increase from the relatively high levels where they are already and reach certain thresholds in the general government debt and deficit ratios, which might lead to another lowering of the rating,” S&P credit analyst Moritz Kraemer told a conference call.

Kraemer said the ratings agency was not considering a breakup of the single currency area and that such a scenario was not being factored into its ratings decisions.

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By Lafayette, January 14, 2012 at 1:29 am Link to this comment

THE DREAM GOES ON

She: The dream of a United Europe is chronically spoiled by the arrogance of nationalism. 

I beg to differ.

That “dream” is still there. The European statistical office (part of the EU Commission) polls Europeans year-round regarding their faith in both “Europe” and the “Euro-zone”. That faith is unchanged.

Why? Because many of those people polled, and their children, have come to understand - finally - that without a European Union then they are hopelessly destined for the nationalist warfare that has torn Europe asunder for thousands of years.

That must come to an end and it has, as it will for as long as Europeans identify themselves first as Europeans and then as French, English, Italians, etc. That identification is solidly entrenched amongst the upcoming generation - so there is no reason to believe it cannot continue.

MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE POND ...

Americans are facing the same problem of identification meanwhile across the pond.

What is that YOU identify with? The class of people (the 20-percenters who garner 93% of the nation’s wealth) or those at the bottom of the ladder (the 80-percenters who are scrambling to live off the remaining crumbs, the 7% of the nation’s wealth)?

DECISION TIME FOR THE PROLES

Make up your minds, because this year is decision-time for the proles. We can effect outcomes by voting, not bitching-in-a-blog.

You want just a wee-bit of the European way of life - like a Universal National Health System and the right to an Education that allows you (or your children) the means to compete in this Brave New World of ours?

Then think seriously of Progressive Values and what a New Class of progressive politicians, swinging weight in Congress, can do for this nation.

Compared to the present lot, it cannot be worse - especially if, for starters, we rid Congress of the Replicants in both chambers.

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By Lafayette, January 14, 2012 at 1:07 am Link to this comment

QUALITY OF LIFE

WD: These days the European dream seems to be turning into a nightmare.

Written from his chair ensconced comfortably somewhere inside or just outside the beltway. With the typical myopia of Americans who haven’t a fig of a notion of what happens beyond the three-mile limit.

France (after and a number of other EU countries) just lost its Triple-A rating from S&P. This was expected for some time. It means that that France will pay slightly more its debt whilst reimbursing it. Yes, they are being screwed by the craven vultures in London’s City and New York’s Wall Street.

Imagine this: The banksters – in Europe - offer savings accounts at 2/3% and ask governments to repay the debts at 7%. So, the same people who are earning the 2% on their savings accounts (often taxed by their government) are the same ones being income-taxed to pay the vultures for sovereign debt! That’s a sucker’s game.

MY POINT

Is this the death-knell of the European way of life? Well, the US lost its triple-A rating five months ago. Anybody see the difference in the standard of living?

No. So what IS all the fuss about?

As an American living in Europe - and having experienced living on both sides of the pond - I can assure you that the European-side is much better. In terms of Educational Systems, National Health Services (universal coverage at reasonable costs), and having relinquished its role as Policeman of the World (with the great costs that such involves).

I could go on, but if interested in an independent view of the Quality of Life, consider this serious study performed by the Economist, the results of which are here.

The US is nowhere near the top ... and not likely to get there any time soon.

Instead of wondering about where Europe is going, American journalists should keep their attention on the hole from which Uncle Sam is trying desperately to climb out.

POST SCRIPTUM

And instead of pointing the finger at Europe, let’s wonder just what put us into our own Present Mess. It was a political class that allowed the neutering of oversight agencies that prompted the calamity - out of the utterly simplistic notion that “Free Markets should be left unfettered”.

As a nation, we believed this bullshit?  We certainly did. Not later than two years ago, at the mid-terms, we elected this clique (funded by the Rabid Rightists like the Koch Bros.) into control of the HofR.

What happened? We had our brains up our backside? So, whose fault is it? Ours or the dimwits we elected?

The buck – in a democracy – always stops with the people. Who vote, that is. Those who don’t, after the damage is done, go bitching-in-a-blog.

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By Karl=Heinz Schroeder, January 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are always those who seem to relish to be doomsday prophets. Professor Lacquer and others seem to forget that the task of the historian is the past and not the future. Predictions about the inevitable failure of Europe are almost as old as the dream of a united and peaceful Europe began after the catastrophe of two world wars. Have there been problems, are there problems, will there be problems? Sure. Human endeavors are always fraught with potential setbacks. I would have never dreamed that in my lifetime Europe would be what it is today in terms of political and economic integration. I never dreamed of the possibility that the Iron Curtain would disappear in my lifetime. It was a complete surprise when it happened. I believe that Europe will weather the current crisis and emerge stronger because of it. There are enough capable politicians and enterprising Europeans who will address Europe’s problems in a creative and positive fashion. Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes is a fascinating relic of 20th century failed secular prophecy. I am convinced that in future decades Lacquer’s pessimistic predictions will be of no more value than Spengler’s.

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By Shenonymous, January 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

Laquer and reviewer Drozdiak dance around the problem almost
spelling it out but never really give it a spotlight.  The dream of a
United Europe is chronically spoiled by the arrogance of nationalism. 
Each country holds fast to its history and individual uniqueness.
If it wants to be a successful United Europe, in the way the United
States is, each country must become a sovereign state but with a
uniting central government.  It is a whole different way of thinking
than they are used to.

The states in the United States are sovereign with rights spelled
out yet also limited in the US Constitution, but more than that,
every citizen may move or migrate to work or live in any of the
states without controlling national (state) papers.  And even though
for specific things like driving licenses being under autonomous state
control, an Oklahoman can be a Pennsylvanian overnight, and so forth. 
I’ve moved several times without any hassle from either the states or the
feds.

National identity is almost genetic in Europe.  But it presents a
handicap to building that continent-wide perpetual peace and
prosperity described in the above article as the elusive search.  The
principle of assimilation is most likely the secret ingredient. More
integration is needed not less.  Population is only a problem, not
“the” problem, because over-population is a problem everywhere. 
Too many people stresses all governmental budgets and operations. 
Instead of encouraging having more babies, encouraging less would
go a long way to solving that problem.  I think the Swedes understood
that very well.  Other problems Laquer lists seem to be associative
causes rather than direct ones. 

The idea of the Euro was a positive first step since common currency
promotes easier hence better commerce, but it might have been
premature given the penchant for corruption and ineptitude found in
financial quarters as evidenced in these last couple of years of dire
global financial crises. 

Other consolidating actions such as free movement across borders
might promote more of a consolidating Europe.  When the people begin
to feel they are citizens of a United Europe is when a United Europe will
truly exist.  Studying the structure of the relationship of sovereign states
to a central Federal government such as that of the United States might
help reconstruct a unified European League.

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By mrfreeze, January 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

JimBob - You’re absolutely spot on in your observation. We’ve known about Europes “problems” for a long time…...we share some of the same problems. Neither the U.S. nor Europe will emerge unscathed from the great demographic & economic seachanges that have occured in the last 30 years. There are no real substantive solutions. As the world becomes more “corporate” the oligarchs will, piece by piece, “purchase” everything good that ordinary people enjoy today. The goal: to turn us all into 18-hour-per-day laborers making nothing….......

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By JimBob, January 13, 2012 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

Well.  That was certainly interesting.  Not a single
observation that hasn’t been made a thousand—or ten
thousand—times in recent months.  A few important ones
are missing, but what is really missing is any sense that
either the author or his reviewer has the least idea of,
or tiny suggestion for, what to do about Europe’s
problems.

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