U.S. Could be Courting Trouble in Europe


One of the most fascinating aspects of Barack Obama's presidency stems not so much from his racial background, but his status as America's first clearly post-European, anti-colonialist leader. Yet, after announcing his historic "pivot" to vibrant Asia, the president, the son of an anti-British Kenyan activist, recently announced as his latest foreign policy initiative an economic alliance with, of all places, a declining, and increasingly decadent, Europe.

Some analysts, such as Walter Russell Mead, suggest the possible "ratting out" of the new Asia focus could constitute "a mistake of historic proportions." In East Asia, leaders, from Vietnam and Singapore to Japan, have been counting on a strong U.S. presence to ward off Chinese hegemony in the region. The idea of a reduced naval presence and a weakening commitment to allies would undermine our influence in this increasingly critical economic region.

At the same time, the president's desire to integrate our economies more closely to that of Europe reflects a longtime prejudice within the Democratic Party favorable to the old Continent. The notion of a new trade tie to the European Union set longtime Eastern policy types, such as former Bill Clinton aide and onetime Woodrow Wilson School head Anne-Marie Slaughter into rhapsodies about an emerging new "Atlantic Century." Vice President Joe Biden, for his part, told a recent Munich security conference that Europe represents "the cornerstone of our engagement with the rest of the world."

This is delusional, to say the least. Republicans have their faults, but at least they know how to tell historic time. In contrast, largely Democratic Europhiles simply want to relive the glorious past, and consume a legacy of affluence. And to be sure, generally it's more pleasant to attend – as long as someone is paying the bill – a conference in London, Paris or Zurich than Beijing, Mumbai or Mexico City. Europe, as we know from the debates over compensation of EU bureaucrats, knows how to treat functionaries with the comfort to which they easily can become accustomed.

Pumping for greater Euro-ties seems almost insane under current conditions. The Continent's unemployment rate, nearly 12 percent among the 17 EU member countries, is already at record levels, and its younger generation suffers unemployment approaching 30 percent or higher in at least five EU countries, including Greece, Spain and France. In Portugal, 2 percent of the population has migrated just in the past two years, not only to Northern Europe but, amazingly, also to Portugal's booming former African colonies.

This does not seem to be setting up the prime conditions for Ms. Slaughter's imagined new "Atlantic Century." Although North America retains the resources, demographics and innovative culture to compete with Asia and other rising powers, Europe is in a notably downward trajectory. Its share of the world economy has plummeted from nearly 40 percent in 1900 to 27 percent today and continues to shrink rapidly. By 2050, not only the United States, but China and the rest of the developing world, according to the European Commission, will have surpassed the total of the 27 countries in the EU.

One has to be a cockeyed optimist not to see that the long-term prognosis, even without the current euro crisis, is not good. Manufacturing, long a Continental bastion, is weak and falling behind that of the U.S. as well as Asia. German engineering may still be first-class, but much of the production and design will be moving to Mexico, the U.S., Latin America and Asia.

Energy may prove a particular vulnerability. Although the region has shale and other energy resources, greens are far more powerful in Europe than in America and hostile to the hydraulic fracking that has created the current U.S. boom in oil and gas. The combination of radical green policies favoring expensive, often unreliable renewables, as well the shuttering of the Continent's once-strong nuclear industries, are creating both high prices and wobbly reliability of electricity supplies. (Ironically, the reluctance to maintain nuclear power and oppose fracking for natural gas has led to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions and even some increased use of coal.) Tulane's Eric Smith suggests many of Germany's manufacturing powers are intensifying efforts to shift operations, notably to the southern United States, for cheap electricity and lower overall costs.

Demographics, however, may be Europe's weakest suit. Although East Asia is now experiencing low fertility, Europe has been demographically stagnant for at least a generation longer. By 2050, Europe's workforce is expected to decline by 25 percent from 2000 levels; the U.S. is expected to see expansion of upward of 40 percent.

This phenomenon threatens Europe's lone serious economic power, Germany. The country now produces fewer children than in 1900. Given the expansive welfare state, the fiscal burdens being faced in Germany and other EU countries will dwarf those of the United States; by 2050 Germany will have nearly twice as many retirees per active worker as America.

Yet remarkably, for all its manifest failings, Europe remains a Mecca and role model for many American progressives, like Ms. Slaughter. The past decade has seen the publication of a spate of books, such as Jeremy Rifkin's "The European Dream" and Steven Hill's "Europe's Promise," that see Europe's regulation state and "soft power" an alluring alternative to America. Some hail the EU as the prototype of a benign "new kind of empire" based on culture and pacifism.

If so, it's an empire rapidly hurtling into its dotage. The great European historian Walter Lacquer has pointed out that such optimism about the Continent becoming "united and prosperous" is likely "misplaced." In policy terms, for the U.S. to follow Europe's model is an almost sure recipe for our own decline. Even the usually pro-free-trade Wall Street Journal is concerned that any attempt to "harmonize" American policies with those of the "European model" will simply expand government power and bureaucratic hegemony.

To be sure, there remain parts of Europe, particularly in the Northern rim, that are doing better. These countries – the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Germany – have enacted significant labor market reforms, retain some strong industries and have tried to be responsible fiscally. If they broke off from the EU and set up a modern-day Hanseatic League, it may make sense for us to embrace stronger ties with them. But that can't be said of an alliance with the weak sisters of the EU's southern and eastern fringes, or even dirigiste state-dominated France.

In reality, the EU will never become a giant Sweden. Scandinavia possesses a unique history, shaped by massive outmigration in the past century and a largely homogeneous population; many of these countries possess great natural resources, such as oil, iron ore or hydroelectricity. In contrast, the eastern edge of the zone contains some of the most depopulating parts of the planet, as people seek opportunities in the more economically viable North. The comic political economy of Italy, the political violence of Greece and the mass disenchantment of Spain presage a European future that contrasts greatly with the relative prosperity and order of the North.

None of this suggests that, if the political strings are not wound too tight, that a free-trading arrangement with Europe may prove useful. But if an agreement becomes a wedge for accelerating the adoption of Euro-style policies, it could allow us to squander an opportunity to maintain our pre-eminence in the post-colonial, and post-European-centered, world.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study, The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

This piece originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

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Somebody put it better than

Somebody else put it better than I can:

"In late capitalism, the elites are no longer restrained by ties of national identity and are thus freer to enrich themselves at the expense of their host society. This clash of interests lies at the heart of the globalist project: on the one hand, jobs are outsourced to low-wage countries; on the other, low-wage labor is insourced for jobs that cannot be relocated, such as in the construction and service industries."

I wouldn't call it late capitalism however. Unrestrained capitalism is more like it. And I certainly don't think journalists like Joel have mercenary motivations when they write about trade, immigration, and the future of America. Not unless you count the need to get published in the mainstream media (we do all have to make a living after all). Fortunately he writes lots of good stuff too. He's one of the best out there.

Luke Lea

America's exceptionalism: meritocracy

There is an incredibly interesting McKinsey Institute report just been published, “Restarting the US small-business growth engine”. They say that most employment growth comes from very fast-growing small businesses, and these small businesses can be found in every sector of the economy and nearly every geographic location.

“…..Myth #3. High-growth firms come from high-tech locales.
Conventional wisdom suggests looking for high-growth firms in areas like Silicon Valley or the Route 128 corridor outside Boston, where many well-known ones have emerged. However, our look at a broad spectrum of companies shows that all industries have high-growth firms. While sectors do vary somewhat, in no industry do high-growth firms account for even 5 percent of the total number of firms in the industry, and there are very few industries where less than 1 percent of firms are growing quickly. In the United States, high-growth firms are found in every metropolitan statistical area, and no region has a disproportionate number of them…..”

I suspect that the affordability of housing and urban land is one of the reasons why “uncool” cities in the USA match the “cool” ones for fast-growth businesses. But I would be very surprised if there is any other country in the world with anything like the USA’s “rapid growth new business” sector.

THIS is an instant classic by the great historian Victor Davis Hanson:

“‘Oddball heaven’ works for America”


“…..The world now wakes up to iPhone communication, Amazon online buying, social networking on Facebook, Google Internet searches and writing and computing with Microsoft software. Why weren’t these innovations first developed in Japan, China or Germany — all wealthy industrial countries with large, well-educated and hard-working populations? Because in such nations, young oddballs like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs more likely would have needed the proper parentage, age, family connections or government-insider sanction to be given a fair shake.

Even in its third century, America is still the most meritocratic nation in the world. Unlike the caste system of India; the class considerations of Europe; the racial homogeneity of China, Japan or South Korea; the tribalism of Africa; or the religious orthodoxy of the Middle East, America is still a place where one can offer a new idea, invention or protocol that is judged on its merits, rather than on the background, accent, race, age, sex or religion of the person who offers it…..

“……the upside to the wild arena of America is that almost anyone is free to enter it. Oprah Winfrey, a black woman, reinvents the genre of daytime talk shows and builds a media empire. Warren Buffett outpaces New York’s Wall Street — from Nebraska. A one-time five-and-dime owner from Arkansas, Sam Walton, refashions the way an entire planet buys stuff. A Russian emigre, Sergey Brin, co-founds Google, perhaps the most indispensable site on the Internet.

Just when we read obituaries about an unruly nation of excess, unlikely nobodies pop up to pioneer fracking, the Napa wine industry or Silicon Valley. Why? No other nation has a Constitution whose natural evolution would lead to a free, merit-based society that did not necessarily look like the privileged — and brilliant — landed white male aristocracy who invented it……”

Our "diversity" alone will

Our "diversity" alone will prevent us from going to a European style social democracy. Instead we are heading for a racially stratified class society. Who ordered that?

Luke Lea

Culture has consequences

Exactly, you nailed it, why the Scandinavian countries and Germany and the Netherlands have been so successful. It is a near-monocultural system of values adhered to by almost everyone in their society.

Same with Japan, BTW, even though that is not a Christian Protestant culture.

Adding a whole lot of disparate cultures with differing values systems is likely to make the soft socialist experiment completely unviable.

I will tell you an interesting story. New Zealand in the 1970's set up a Commission to evaluate whether the Swedish system of solo mothers benefits had acted as a perverse incentive. Their conclusion was that it had not. So NZ implemented a similar benefit; just 3 years later, 30,000 young women (in a total population of 3 million people) had had their first child out of wedlock. This was nearly half the young women between certain ages.

It took Sweden 30 years to achieve a similar level of solo motherhood. The difference was the strong sense of personal responsibility that Swedish young women had; so that for them, a generous benefit was indeed purely a charitable safety net, not a newly-offered lifestyle choice.

Immigrants flock to the USA for work; they remit substantial funds back to their home countries even if they are in the poorest quartile in the USA. Immigrants flock to Europe for the welfare benefits. This has consequences.

Sweden has had a lot of immigration since the 1970's.

Exactly, you nailed it, why the Scandinavian countries and Germany and the Netherlands have been so successful. It is a near-monocultural system of values adhered to by almost everyone in their society.

Phil, that's not exactly correct.

Sweden, and even Finland, are not the blonde hair and blue eyed strongholds that they once were.

As of the end of 2006, Sweden had a national population of about 9,100,000 persons. Of those, about 1,175,000 were immigrants, from almost 200 different nations.

Even Finland, long reluctant to accept immigrants (especially prior to the nation joining the EU in the 1990's) has (as of 2009) about 143,000 immigrants out of a total population of about 5,300,000 people. That represents an increase of about 100% in 20 years. Thanks to Finland having been a Grand Duchy under the Russian Czar's crown from 1809 to 1917, the population has also consisted of people who migrated there from other parts of the Russian empire, including persons of the Islamic and Russian Orthodox faiths (that migration pretty much came to a halt once the Soviet Communist dictatorship was established).

I should have covered that angle in my comment

I should have made it clear that I realise that the Scandinavian countries have had very high recent immigration, but it will be generations before they are as much a cultural potpourri as the USA is.

And I doubt their soft socialist model will withstand much more of the new kind of strains they have been getting under the kind of immigration they have been allowing. As I said in another comment on this thread:

".... As European countries become more multicultural via loose immigration policy, and as their demographic collapse plays out, their glorious socio-economic experiment will implode......"

Luke Lea is right. Immigration works when the culture they are immigrating into is strong in self-belief and immigrants are expected to live according to the values of that culture and indeed that is the reason they are moving there in the first place.

When the culture they are immigrating into is riddled with revisionist cultural cringe and outright white-anting, and the immigrants are being welcomed on the grounds of "increasing diversity" and helping to dilute the guilty western imperialist oppressive culture, you have a recipe for disaster. One famous person (Enoch Powell, perhaps?) said "Immigration, Multiculturalism, Democracy: pick any TWO you want".

Here, just a few days ago, a British lefty liberal confesses: "we got it wrong on immigration":


And, for a quick tangent, in

And, for a quick tangent, in another sense, they didn't get it wrong on immigration: They know their not having children, or at least policy makers aware of the stats, and they have to keep their entitlement state going by then importing in the workers of tomorrow, today, since they aren't willing to refill it themselves by having children.

It's more so this naive

It's more so this naive thinking that the Left has always had. It doesn't those who believe differently from them seriously. Liberals do not think that we actually believe in our ideals, since they posit all that has gone wrong throughout history owes its roots to those who still carry the conservative tradition, & couldnt possibly imagine someone taking those "conservative" ideas seriously. So they categorize us Conservatives into one of several possibilities:

    1.) He/She doesn't know any better, and is mentally inept, stupid.
    2.) He/She could know better, but is misinformed.
    3.) He/She knows better, but has bad motivations/intentions.

In other words, morality is a matter of being smart, educated, informed, aware, and those still on the dark side are the opposite. For the immigrants who immigrate into Europe, they just assume they don't know any better, and think that values antithetical to their European high-ground can be undone in time, with education. The assumption is that: "they know not what they do, and after a generation or two, they'll see the error in their ignorance, having been educated about gender, race, and class, that they'll abandon their values and adopt Tolerance, Sexual Freedom, Collectivism, Equality, Secularism, Environmentalism, and "Compassion.""

Multiculturalism is just a mechanism to rectify social and racial inequality. It doesn't matter if it works or not, it doesn't matter if values antithetical to each other clash, the only thing that matters is doing what will rectify racial "justice" and besides, they know all too well that their stupid experiment is a sham, and need a new labor force to pay for the benefits of the elderly.

Academic Deconstructionalist Absolutism and Western Civ

Here is a statement of the underlying problem with our civilisational self-doubt that impressed me when I read it recently:

“….…As things stand at present, the ideal of a free marketplace of ideas to which academia is ostensibly committed to promoting is a fiction. Between this ideal and the current reality, there exists a chasm that is as unbridgeable as it is glaring. Only the self-delusional, the ignorant, and the deceitful can say otherwise. For the rest of us, it requires spending all but five minutes in any given liberal arts or humanities department in the country to grasp the painful, ugly truth.

And the truth is that for many academics, not only is there no such thing as “the disinterested pursuit of truth.” There is no such thing as truth. I’m not kidding. Truth, along with such related concepts as “reason,” “fact,” “logic,” and “objectivity,” are routinely treated as Eurocentric social constructions by which white men have traditionally oppressed women, non-whites, homosexuals, non-Christians, and the environment.

World famous “post-modernist” philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, make it their task in life to “deconstruct” Western civilization so as to convict it of “logocentrism” — its faith in reason to access reality.
Far from challenging the prevailing status quo for no other reason but that it is the status quo, the average academic is an avowed apologist for it. Yet even this way of characterizing matters grossly understates the extent to which academia suffers from a poverty of vision.

It is more accurate to think of academia as a quasi-religious cult of a sort. This is no hyperbole. Intellectual life in the university has been constrained by the straightjacket of the creed.

Formally, of course, there is no such thing. But, in practice, the creed is almost everywhere affirmed. If it had to be summed up, it boils down to contempt—contempt for Western civilization generally, and America in particular.

More specifically, the creed demands that the entire history of the West be viewed through the narrowest — and most cartoonish — of lenses: white, heterosexual, Christian men are villains, and everyone—and everything — else are their victims. It isn’t just racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and any and every other conceivable crime against humanity for which Western civilization stands condemned. Western (white) Man is also convicted by academics of specieism, bias against non-humans, and homocentrism, bias against the environment.

To be clear, the widely held belief among academia’s critics on the right that the university is a bastion of “moral relativism” is wide off the mark. There are no real relativists among academics. The latter are absolutists of the worst sort, crusaders or jihadists forever vigilant against deviations from the creed. And those who style themselves as relativists tend to be the most committed of its guardians…..”


Which is why the death of

Which is why the death of only a few palestinians at the hands of a few white Israeli's warrants 24 hour news coverage for weeks on end, while hundreds of thousands may die across the world, but so long as it isn't at the hands of an American or an Israeli, it is uninteresting to the press. How many people throughout the Americas, mainly Latin and South, have to die, to get front-page coverage on the NYT or a mention on MSNBC/CNN/FOX? The life of one Iraqi killed by an American solider, or one Palestinian killed by an Israeli, is worth how many Honduran's? How many Venezuelans? How many South Africans? How many Colombians? How many Brazilians?

So long as it isn't a person of European stock, the American mainstream media could care less. Palestinians or Iraqi's can rape and torture their own, one can't build a story out of that that fits one of the Left's trinity, "Race," which you've listed above. What they are essentially saying is that the morality of a crime is genetically determined? Morality imbued via Osmosis? What is this sick world we live in? News isn't news, it is a message war to advance an agenda.

And you hit the nail on the head with regards to relativism. The left lacks awareness. Professors will get up and say how we can't judge the soviet union, or anyone for that matter, because morality is relative, and while we may perceive someone as a terrorist, they may in fact be freedom fighters if only we romanced the nuance, instead of the simplistic black-and-white "comfort" zone we're used to. Yet have the nerve to then get up, a few sentences later, and dump on the United States for what it does. No one in the world can assess the morality of any other, except for America, or the Anglo/euro-sphere. You wonder if these people hear themselves, or if there is a heavy layer of cognitive dissonance at play.