Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Europe: Cultural Decay

My last post on Europe expressed dismay at Frances economic situation and pessimism towards prospects for the future. The cultural climate in France is overwhelming hostile towards capitalism:
"In a 22-country survey published in January, France was the only nation disagreeing with the premise that the best system is "the free-market economy." In the poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, only 36 percent of French respondents agreed, compared with 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China."
Economic failure is only part of Europe's problems. Perhaps the most serious is the France's cultural decline. This decline has many elements to it, but I consider culture to be the most important factor in France's gradual downfall. The French have always been proud of their culture, evident in their desire to maintain their language in the face of the English onslaught. From art to music to literature, the French have always held their own and have reason to be proud. Yet since World War Two, America has replaced Europe as the world's superpower and now is responsible for security over much of the world. Some observers believe this has created jealously on the part of the French as they now embrace a distinctly anti-American foreign policy. It was French foreign minister Hubert Védrine who coined the term 'hyperpower' to describe America's so called dominance. This dominance is not just economic, it is cultural. Observers use the term 'soft power' to describe the ability to dominate other states through cultural of ideological means. It is undoubtable that America has much soft power as Joseph Nye's book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, indicates.
The ambivalent feelings of France towards America stem not just from power but from these different cultural values.
Robert Kagan, author of ‘Of Paradise and Power’, argues that the threat perception depends upon capabilities. France and Europe in general is less worried of terrorism and rogue states than America because of their relative weakness. To the strong, the risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action. Yet this analysis does not tell the whole story. The differences over foreign policy result from cultural values in France.
Ever since France removed its colonies, millions of Muslims have moved to France. Yet France has failed to integrate these Muslims (France is much less kind to foreigners than America - witness the income differences between Arab-Americans and French-Arabs) and instead has pushed them into suburbs dominated by government housing projects. To use a Marxist term, this has alienated these Muslims and not given them a stake in French society. More and more Immigrants are entering from North Africa making France's Muslim population already 6 million and climbing quickly. British Historian, Niall Ferguson notes Europe is becoming increasingly "sensecent" civilization. The rest of France is growing old and the smart are immigrating (400,000 French expatriates live in London). This means the majority of French could be Muslim as early as 2020. Already we have seen the symptoms of this emerging culture: Riots. Thousands of vehicles burnt and millions worth of property destoryed. One can ALMOST forgive Ann Coutler for suggesting 'Attack France'
The impact of this emerging culture on women is particularly disastrous:

"A few weeks ago, a young Arab burnt a teenaged girl alive in the suburbs of Paris. He was convicted of murder, but he became a hero and an example for other young Arabs living in the same kind of areas. Two month ago, ten Arab men who raped another teenaged girl in another district were convicted and condemned to spend five years in jail. Yes, just five years."
What about the Jews? Some are talking of a new 'Anti-Semitism' spreading across Europe. While not entirely true, as some places are still friendly to the Jews, for example, Germany (a consistent supporter of Israel). The number of anti-Semitic incidents in France have increased from 320 in 2001 to 593 in 2003. In light of this, one can see why so many Jews are leaving France. Perhaps the worst example was
a young man named Ilan Halimi in France who was kidnapped and tortured over the next few weeks. The prosecutor even went so far as saying "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action". This sort of culture cannot be expected to produce a sound foreign policy either. French leaders are unable to see that so much of anti-Israel criticism is actually anti-semitic. Sure, you can be an anti-Zionist and not hate Jews, but its obvious that a double standard exists, one for the Arab states and one for Israel.
One observer, author Bat Ye'or, has described much of this transformation in her book, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. She sees a
transformation of Europe into a cultural and political appendage of the Arab/Muslim world. With the vigilance of a hero, she calls to attention the self-capitulation of Europe. She argues that Europe is preparing itself to become a land of dhimmitude - a reduced state where non-Muslim people must live and conform to Islamic rule. Jihad, although understood primarily as a military endeavor, can be cultural as Islamic customs become to be seen as normal and acceptable. It is a pity that those in Europe do not see this danger. Even in the US many have fallen under the illusion that September 11th was a temporary jolt to world stability and represents an aberration of the international environment. Being blind to Islamism and the fundamental challenge it poses to societies, they forget that war has been unleshed upon Western civilization. Perpetual war against the infidels like myself has been declared and we must be prepared to wage war in return.
It is hard to identify the exact cause of this cultural decay. AEI Scholar George Weigel calls it a 'crisis of civilizational morale'. He, like most analysts, are conservative and tend to place their emphasis upon civilizational roots (hence Christainity) as he claims Europe suffers from historical amnesia. Yet the remnants of rationality and hence the solution to Europes problems do not lie in a return to Christainity or any other traditional values. The sources of European decrepitude are found in Europe's intellectual climate that is heavily dominated by such ideologies as post-modernism.
More to come...



Links:

Economics, French-Style
The Death of France

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Europe

Early in 2003, US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, coined the terms ‘old’ & ‘new’ Europe to describe the distinction between nations like France, Germany, and Belgium and those that a greater convergence of interests with the United States such as Poland, the Czech republic and Estonia. The expression was an insult; it reflected not only the differences between the US and Europe over Iraq but the perception that Western Europe was lapsing into period of economic and technological decline, exacerbated by an unprecedented cultural challenge by reactionary Islamists and a growing sense of cultural despair and complacency. With such fundamental differences the United States could never expected it interests to so closely align with Western Europe. Now after a decade of strained relations, evident early on by Kosovo, European and American leaders are increasingly willing to recognize the diverging interests. When French President Jacques Chirac talks of the dangers of ‘Anglo-Saxon capitalism’ he is speaking of the philosophical differences that have separated the US from Europe since its birth.
The differences that have provoked the indignation and resentment between the two are not over a few small disputes but rather represent fundamental challenges to the
transatlantic partnership. The problem is deep and both contribute to it; Europe through its weakness and America through its appeasement. The solution lies in a defence of liberty in both Europe and America. A consistent, passionate and long-term effort for the free-market, materialism, individual rights, and limited government is needed in both countries. For Europe to achieve this, a renaissance in philosophy will be required. Nothing less than a total break with post-modernism and a rebirth of reason will do. Until this happens, Europe is unlikely to realize its malaise and instead will remain in a state of self-righteous denial.
Europe is weak due to a variety of reasons from economic failure to demographic decline and cultural decay. For the next few days I’ll post on why I believe Europe is failing and what a rational solution to Europe’s problems would look like.

Economic Failure:

The cultural gulf between the US and Europe is made clearer with every incident. In late March, youth protests and riots broke out over a proposed law that as Andrew Sullivan noted, “would almost certainly help more of them get a job.” No respectable American politician would ever be against the law nor is even the socialist Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. As esteemed American economist Thomas Sowell said, it is elementary economics that raising costs results in fewer transactions. Unemployment is the result of forcing the cost of labor above their freely determined level. Such profound ignorance of basic economics demonstrates many Europeans simply don’t have a clue. This represents a huge decline from the nineteenth century when French economists from J.B. Say and Charles Comte were leading the way. Remember, Laissez-Fair is a French phrase coined by a manufacturer who answered ‘Let us alone’ when a chief advisor of Louis XIV asked what he could do for the manufacturers industry. The understanding of seventieth century Frenchmen was greater than the thugs masquerading as intellectuals today.
For years now intellectuals have been touting the European Union as a superpower that is fast eclipsing the USA. This has been expressed in such books as, The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy and The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. Yet these are fast becoming fantasys as the reality sets in. Despite cultural and political fragmentation, these authors loudly proclaim pointless facts like that Europe has a largest economy in the world (true, although it has 150million more people). Never mind that Europe has no hope of meeting its own target of being the "most dynamic and competitive economy" by 2010. Never mind that its per cap GDP is 25% lower than the US and has been widening for decades (a process that is only continuing). If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. If France was a US state, it would be the fifth poorest, making it only slighter richer than Alabama. There is only one solution to such a mess: more liberty. Cutting taxes, privatizing, and deregulating industries is the only answer. Europe led the 19th century on the back of globalization and if they want prosperity back they will need to come to the realization that socialisms compassion has got them nowhere. Only significant cuts into the welfare state (ending high unemployment benefits and early retirement etc) will do and any backlash must
be comfronted. Until this is done Europe will continue too perform poorly with an average growth rate of 1.7% compared to the US at 3.5%.
Lackluster economic performance has also contributed to a decline in resources for European militaries to such an extent that the United States is increasingly unwilling to conduct military operations with Europe. In terms of global security, policy makers in the US see such little value in Europe’s contribution to global stability that they are now writing essays titled ‘Learning to Live Without Europe’. Europe is simply not pulling its weight and given it’s increasing domestic problems it is highly unlikely it will ever increase its security burden.


Related Links:
Barbarians of suburbs target French Jews at TimesOnline
The striking idiocy of youth at TimesOnline
Wake up, Europe, you've got a war on your hands at Jewish World Review