Europe is the new role model for the world?

?Europe? has not had a good press in recent years, coming under criticism for things as diverse as its moribund economy, its lack of military might, its squabbling governments or even the return of anti-semitism.

And though sometimes such criticisms have been ill-informed, out-of-proportion or just wrong, there?s no denying that some of them have rather hit the spot. Furthermore many of the critics compare the continent with that dynamic republic over the Atlantic ? and don?t find in Europe?s favour.

Thus it?s somewhat of a surprise to read a book review in yesterday?s Financial Times of a book that claims Europe, not America, is likely to be the role model for nation states in the 21st century. It?s even more surprising to learn that it?s written by an American academic.

The book is ?The European Dream: How Europe?s vision of the future is quietly eclipsing the American dream? and the academic is Jeremy Rifkin, the president of the ?Foundation on Economist Trends?.

The FT review (which sadly is behind their subscriber wall) says that Rifkin?s thesis is as follows:

“While the American Spirit is tiring and languishing in the past a new European Dream is being born.” A dream which “emphasises community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, and universal human rights”.

In other words the usual things – a better welfare state, shorter working hours, more community institutions etc. Rifkin also seems to believe that such a model is more attractive to other countries than the American model, or at least what the perception of the latter is.

I haven?t read the book so can?t comment further, but from the review it looks like it will make interesting reading.

26 thoughts on “Europe is the new role model for the world?

  1. Not quite sure where that puts Britain in the light of this news report earlier this year:

    “The number of people held in jails in England and Wales has reached a new high, the Prison Service has said. . . It almost emerged last year that the proportion of people in prison in England and Wales was the highest in the whole of western Europe. Home Office figures showed that for every 100,000 people, some 139 are imprisoned – which is more than in Libya, Malaysia and Burma.” – from: http://newswww.bbc.net.uk/1/low/uk/3496505.stm

  2. UK’s incarceration rate is higher than the rest of Western Europe, but it’s much lower than the U.S., which has the highest incarceration rate (around 700 per 100,000) in the world. The latter I find extremely depressing, and is one of the reasons I am thinking about moving from the U.S. to Europe. That, and the whole imperialist “pre-emption” thing, and that whole “torture is OK for other people” thing.

  3. I haven’t read the book either but that name rings a bell. Goodle it and check his bio. He might as well be European.

    From a pure numbers standpoint though, things don’t look good for Europe. At least that’s the popular wisdom. There’s what you want and what’s possible.

    ?While the American Spirit is tiring and languishing in the past a new European Dream is being born.? A dream which ?emphasises community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, and universal human rights?.

    ‘Unrelenting toil’? Gimme a break. Some of these things are true, some are not. Of course most Americans value ‘quality of life’ and ‘human rights’, but ‘deep play’? That strikes me as indulgent and destructive. If your time is consumed by play then you don’t have time for kids and hose non-existent kids can’t support your indulgent lifestyle and socialist state.

  4. “In other words the usual things – a better welfare state, shorter working hours, more community institutions etc”

    This may have been the case in the past, but it isn’t where we are going now.

    “sustainable development over unlimited material growth”

    I hope he isn’t talking about out fiscal situation :).

    I haven’t read the book either, so I really can’t comment on an informed basis, but the initial impression is that Rifkin has no idea what is actually going on, or where Europe is actually headed.

    Seems to be a fairly romantic vision of a bucolic Europe, comparable in some ways to the fairly unromantic but equally unreal image that some Europeans on this side of the pond have of the US.

  5. It is always possible to describe a country or area entirely negatively or entirely positively and wonder if the two descriptions are the same place. The Economist had a great example on Turkey.

    Europe has lots of problems at the moment but it also has lots of things going for it and, while it is easy to get hung up on the failures and on the work-in-progress, it is worthwhile remembering some successes. I can travel from the arctic circle to the Sahara (the Canaries), from the atlantic to the Russian border safely and with minimal hinderance; in many places, I don’t even need to stop at borders. My children are far more secure, both economically and physically, than I was as a child. I and almost 400 million others live in a society largely without war, hunger or fear of physical violence by those around me. We have good and improving infrastructure, health care for almost all and freedom to do and think whatever we want within reason. How different from Europe not long ago or from many parts of the world today.

    Of course, there are many other contributary factors but, without today’s Europe, life would not be so good for so many.

    However, for me, one of the great things about Europe at the moment is a growing spirit of political adventure. Going where no such disparate collections of peoples have gone before, so to speak. Perhaps, observers felt the same thing during the formation of the USA or German federation, however the situation in the EU seems even more adventurous: it attemps to encompass greater disparity than either the American or German unions, it overcomes deeper and more recent hostilities, and it attempts to forge a political entity never seen before – neither a country, a federation nor an alliance. An experiment without parallel, on this planet at least. Whatever happens next, the world is being changed forever.

    I don’t fear wider or deeper union. Let the great experiment continue, it has brought great benefits so far and I don’t see any natural stopping place yet.

  6. Rupert,

    It’s all gloriously triumphant until it goes pear shaped. They’ve taken a brilliant idea – free market capitalism – a turned it into a dumb ideology. All tax cut good. All governemnt bad. Freedom and Utopia are at hand. Submit girlie men.

    Reality has a way of humbling all ideologies:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6205119/

    Europe is not Rifkin wonderland, but it ain’t delusional neither, pretending to be creating mans eden on earth. Europeans have lived through enough ideologies to smell their falseness.

  7. more related matters…

    Europeans have lived through enough ideologies to smell their falseness

    Historically speaking, your wrong. And your speculating. Human beings being the creatures that they are are always looking for the Utopian dream. And their always dissapointed.

    America was founded by cynics, which I think is it’s greatest strength.

    I don’t understand the link you’ve posted considering it’s a job gain.

  8. Rifkin is a hack, and his book is cherrypicked and at times even contradicts itself.

    Rupert,

    America was founded by a lot of different people; this stupid essentialist non-sense that one type of people founded the U.S. is just that, non-sense. And your op-ed cite was a yawner. One thing that I can say is that sort of vile anti-Europeanism is as bad as anti-Americanism.

  9. Gary, you ignorant boob, I refer you to the words of the Declaration of Independence:

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

    That’s a cynical attitude.

    And America was not founded by a ‘lot of different people.’ America was founded by an overwhelmingly Anglo Saxon, Protestant people.

  10. The Suzanne Fields op-ed Rupert linked to has one interesting point that leapt out:

    “The Americans have a welfare state we are reluctant to call a welfare state. Bill Clinton understood the appeal of the welfare-reform legislation, offering incentives to get people off the dole, and was pleased to steal a reliable Republican campaign issue. ”

    In the US, to be “on welfare” is a term of opprobrium, while Europeans have no problem at all in receiving direct financial handouts from the state. And Clinton did, indeed, champion a lot of good welfare-reform ideas, to the effect that a lot of wind was taken out of Republican sails (unfortunately so, as the extremists in the Party then concocted that whole Monica thing).

    Anyone recall the Wisconsin initiative? The State of Wisconsin basically said that to get the next welfare check, you have to put in some hours sweeping the streets and doing menial chores in state offices, and the like. The welfare rolls in Wisconsin dropped dramatically. Peope realized they’d rather get real jobs, rather than work for peanuts. I recall Clinton dodging the question when Democrats in his own Party started questioning him whether this is what he supported. And the fact is that he supported the idea, but diverted media attention from it.

    Imagine something like that happening in Europe. Imagine the outcry.

  11. The State of Wisconsin basically said that to get the next welfare check, you have to put in some hours sweeping the streets and doing menial chores in state offices, and the like. The welfare rolls in Wisconsin dropped dramatically.

    Imagine something like that happening in Europe. Imagine the outcry.

    So, here we have a silver bullet. If Europe follows Wisconsin’s lead, all problems are solved. But, of course, Europe cannot face reality, Europeans are a lazy lot and unwilling to give up their benefits and, perhaps, Europeans are just masochists and like paying large chunks of their salary into unemployment benefits. Maybe, they are just too stupid.

    Hold on, why hasn’t America adopted this wonderfully simple idea invented by the wizards of Wisconsin? Could it be that it has been invented before, many times in fact, and that it simply doesn’t work?

    In practice, almost every man, woman and child in the western world gets a state ‘handout’. Those with no income receive it in the form of cash or coupons, those with income receive tax credits for the first x currency units earned, credits for children in education etc. However, people don’t like thinking about their tax free income as a handout and so politicians don’t call it what it is. This refusal to face reality (over-simplifying only a little bit) results an effect called the “poverty trap” where working at a low salary gives a lower total family income than not working at all and collecting lots of explicit benefits.

    The lazy people of Wisconsin who would much rather get a job than spend a few hours sweeping the street are actually caught in the poverty trap. The lazy would just sweep the streets and collect the cheque. Many of those leaving the benefits queue are those spending their hours working on menial jobs that are not paying enough to sustain their family without a welfare cheque in addition. The system punishes you for trying. (It also tends to undercut people being paid salaries to do the jobs done “free” by the welfare chaingangs, but that is another story.)

    The welfare problem can be dramatically improved, tax laws vastly simplified and many silly distortions brought about by ‘means tests’ eliminated in both Europe and in the US by recognizing that tax free income is a government handout and making this explicit. The poverty trap can easily be killed but it means accepting that everybody receives money from the state. Which brings us to a lovely irony, if things were as RSN suggests, and Europeans had no problems accepting state handouts, they might have, by now, gone a long way towards a solution.

  12. I hope I’ll never again find a link to the Washington Times on afoe again, it’s such a wondeful blog you really don’t have to spam it with opeds from a japanese maniac.

    Just for those who don’t know it the WT is owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon ( or by members of his Unifaction Church ) the man who was behind the Tokyo subway attack. It tends to be the on a journalisitic level not very high above “aliens want americans to vote for Kerry!!!”.

  13. I’ve read about on-half of the book. You can find a good summary of Rifkin’s take here:

    http://www.utne.com/pub/2004_125/promo/11349-1.html

    The beginning of the book is a practical assessment of the quality of life in the United States with that in Europe. Briefly put, in the U.S., you’ll find:

    much more violent crime
    longer punishments
    much fatter and somewhat sicker people
    lots more television watching & gambling
    longer commutes
    more poor people
    a much larger gap between rich and poor
    40+ million people without health insurance
    ugly, sprawling cities
    neglected, uninviting public spaces
    a more consumerist and impatient culture
    much longer working hours
    less mixing of social classes
    a harsher, more adversarial culture
    a population that’s troublingly ignorant of the rest of the world

    Europe has the advantage in all these areas, Rifkin argues, and is therefore a more appealing model for emerging nations. Europe is also better-suited to adapt to a coming global economy, since its outward-looking, relatively secular and consensus-building style helps it resolve disputes and take advantage of economic opportunities in foreign cultures.

    As an American living in Europe and loving it, I cannot but agree that the standard of living is much higher here. Many defenders of the U.S. make the mistake of comparing Europe to the standard of living enjoyed by relatively well-off Americans (“the U.S. has the best health care in the world” — sure, for people with good health insurance; “There are plenty of wonderful, walkable cities in the U.S.” — of course, they’re located almost exclusively on both coasts, and 95% of Americans will never be able to afford to live in them). Rifkin puts the comparison in proper context, and very convincingly demonstrates that, measured in terms other than naked GDP, the average European probably has a much higher quality of life than the average American.

    Rifkin devotes the middle portion of the book to a historical exegesis of how European and American notions of space, time, culture, the individual, and the role of religion have diverged. He strays rather far away from his main thesis, but still there’s interesting stuff to read here.

    I am still waiting to see how Rifkin addresses the current deep crises in the European welfare states, but I will not pass judgment until I’ve read the last half of the book.

    It’s fairly well-written and very densely researched. I can recommend it, although you’ll get most of the key points from the article to which I’ve linked above.

    Andrew Hammel
    Duesseldorf, Germany

  14. The Moonies do seem to be pretty nutty, but the Tokyo sarin attacks were carried out by Aum Shinrikyo.

  15. Michael,

    You make many good points but I think you’re missing
    something in the Wisconsin example.

    Quote:

    “The lazy people of Wisconsin who would much rather get a job
    than spend a few hours sweeping the street are actually caught
    in the poverty trap. The lazy would just sweep the streets
    and collect the cheque.”

    The point is that this is not what happened. RSN
    spoke earlier of people wanting to get a job instead of
    “working for peanuts.” But in fact a welfare check is
    good money for a few hours a week sweeping streets. If
    people were just lazy then it would have happened as you
    said: they have swept the streets and collected the cheque.

    Instead the welfare rolls dropped dramatically. Why?
    Well part of it is there more to how the state of Wisconsin
    changed its welfare policy than just this wanting people
    to do this but, beyond that, I think has something to
    say about human nature.

    Somehow the idea of having to do a few hours of sweeping
    the streets and the like was humiliating to many people
    in a way that just receiving the welfare cheque wasn’t.
    So they were motivated to get jobs even though these real
    jobs entailed far more work and possibly even paid less
    than the welfare check.

    It’s kind of amazing really.

    Of course as a precondition for such a scheme having
    any chance of success, there have to be unfilled jobs
    available.

    Actually this ancedote about Wisconsin is a bit misleading.
    There’s a lot more to american welfare reform. Megan
    McArdle is recommending a book by Jason Pearle on the
    subject:

    “If you haven’t read Jason DeParle’s American Dream,
    I urge you to do so. It’s simply outstanding. The book
    follows three welfare mothers through the welfare reform
    years. It gives you a gritty, and touching, picture of the
    utter chaos of their lives; walks you through the policy
    process that brought us welfare reform in the first place;
    and shows you how welfare reform did, and didn’t, transform
    the world of welfare mothers. I simply cannot recommend it
    highly enough. If you’re even tangentially interested in
    poverty and welfare policy, you must read this book. DeParle
    is a liberal who opposed welfare reform, but he fearlessly
    shows all the ways in which women on welfare screw up their
    own lives, as well as the ways in which they’re buffeted by
    a cruel and capricious fate.”

    See http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005019.html

  16. Ontario, Canada in the early 1990’s had about 11 million people, about 550,000 individuals collected unemployment insurance at 60% of income, 1.3 million collected welfare. Many others worked part-time….the american dream was not alive for about 1/3 of society, and given the value systems we held..marriage and family life was not a sustainable option to one third of society…great if you believed in Hamilton over Thomas Jefferson afterall, or Bush’s politics.

    Since welfare recipients received about 760 bucks for a single person, 1200 for a mother with one child..MONTHLY! and housing was often available at cheap rates whereas most Toronto inhabitants had to pay 600 to 700 for a 1-bedroom in a poor area; dental, drug, medical and other benefits were all available (the rest of the population had less benefits) ..you can imagine that many opted for the government option, immigrant women were advised to leave their “brutish” paternal husbands by lesbian welfare workers (my shot is at government institutions, not sexual orientation-though this example was not nice)and realized governmental “freedom” … 14 your old kids talked about restraining orders from parents on bus rides and the like…..

    But it all changed, a conservative provincial government did the following: 1)dropped the welfare rates of singles to 480 bucks per month, ingeniously introduced workfare so that those on welfare would have to work some 24 hrs a week at rotten jobs(can’t remember the amount)to keep there welfare (the kicker was, that amount they could keep brought them to exactly the amount they made before with welfare, and the hours worked times the minimum wage equalled the full welfare rate of $760).. this brilliant trickery was never advertised
    2) with friends from the federal government that deliberately stalled immigration cases, some 130,000 new immigrants and refugees came to Toronto each year, were able to lower the wage rates and inflation in Toronto, hurting of course the working poor……. well, the american economy booned and this shuffling of social ills actually worked out….

    Anyway, welfare can breed complete malaise, especially if there are not enough good work opportunities for the population, and society is filled with weakened values or new people who do not know or share “old values”..and see injustice abouonding in their new environs..

    But DO NOT GO TO EUROPE IF YOU CANNOT TAKE IT ANMY MORE ….their new multiculturalism is nothing more than Trudeau’s multiculturalism in Canada…a country that peacefully and willingly transforemed itself from 6.9% non-white(1987) to nearly 25% non-white today (my wife is black, don’t get all excited over that comment), I am just trying to show how peaceful Canada is, compared to Europe…and still, the French in Canada had their leaders who wanted “Kingship” in a new country..kind of like the enlightened leaders of Slovakia that urged independence from The Czechs…

    Europe will not emerge glorius and multicultural ..it is full of parochial politicians, nationalism and it has its great leader, its great deceiver… France!
    This beneficiary of American troops in two world wars and Bosnia, the country that sent Charles De Gaulle to Canada who said, “Vive le Quebec Libre” in the 60’s, trying to pry the French free from the English in an act of great ingratitude for our WWii support of this hero and our WW11 assistance, the country that sold out Algeria for its help in WW11, recent visitors to Cote D’Ivoire (actually, don’t know this story, they may well be justified here)and Vietnam, promotors of the opposition and any one else who might create terror and disorder in Iraq, friend of the stealer of Palestinian money-an absent wife no less, so that they may inveigle their way into the Arab hearts so that they may become glorious through oil wealth… sneaky traders with Saddam, looking for wealth against UN sanctions, shamelessly trying to worm bck into Iraq …always angling for glory and world esteem which it will never have…..because it lost th colonial wars at the exact wrong moment in history, and today hasn’t the courage to send even one brigade to join the insurgents and fight for its interests, the collapse of those without guns in Iraq, and a return of power to those with guns in Iraq…. it just chips away at its “friends’… and the memories of too many Germans, too many nationalistic Europeans from small countires….will never commit fully to any European power that has ulterior motives…Europe is alway too wary…….

  17. The Risk Takers Vs. Those Who Stayed Behind

    Jeremy Rikin is a former ’60s radical who has been predicting a lot lately; the triumph of hydrogen power, the emergence of global animal rights, and now, the possibility that Americans may change their laissez-faire capitalist ways and love of money for the lure of vacation time, guaranteed minimum incomes, and a very hefty safety net.

    His basic premise is that the “European” notion of valuing community over individual rights and liberties is more attractive to Americans in current times. This of course is not a new idea (“From those according to their ability…” “It takes a village..” etc.) But be that as it may, if Americans would only take a trip to Europe, he intimates, America would quickly change its ways and adopt socialist policies. And, also heavily implied, if the unwashed masses cannot see the truth, then it is up to those of us who’ve seen the European model to re-educate them.

    Books like this thrive on the assumption that since many of us haven’t lived or visited the other side of the pond and seen the reality of 50 years of enervating European socialism, it must be wonderful. Arnold Schwarzenegger will give you an earful on the reality of it. Stressing the community over the individual will suck the creative juices out of any country or group of nations, every time. Yeah the opera is great and mass transit is cool, but just try finding a job with upward mobility. And if you do, you won’t keep what you earn!

    But the real problem with the book is Rifkin’s failure to realize the the fundamental differences between Americans and Europeans. America IS different. Rifkin fails to notice that the USA is, as it has always been, a land of immigrant risk takers. We are the children and great-grand-children of the brave souls who took a chance while the ancestors of today’s Europe decided not to pursue the possibility of a better life. We still are risk takers, while Europe has bought off its risk-intolerant working classes with a welfare state. But that’s only achieved by keeping new immigrants out, and taxes and unemployment extremely high. So, in order to live the European dream, we presumably must also keep most new immigrants out, drastically curtail military spending (if only to afford the expenditures to come), and come to grips with the reality of higher taxes and prices for goods as the result of massive subsidies to unprofitable industries. Rifkin doesn’t mention the effects of all this on our nation.

    Rifkin also conveniently fails to mention that once China’s manufacturing quality reaches that of European niche goods, the European protectionist dream is going to be a European nightmare. And if European political philosophy is superior, why aren’t new immigrants clamoring to go to Europe? No, they come to America. They don’t work 7 days a week as maintenance men, caterers, or shop owners for the chance to enrich some lardo on worker’s comp, or to subsidize a car assembler’s ‘right’ to make uncompetitive products at $100,000 a year. They come to enrich themselves, and keep what they earned. Those immigrants eventually become stakeholders in their own success, and in due course they begin to vote according to their own interests and the chance that their children can succeed.

    Until the day we bar all new immigration by the poor and the discriminated, the American dream will always remain the same. Because even if an American has only a slim chance of ‘making it big’ in America, he still wants that chance.

  18. That self called Glen is not very aware of the number of people that immigrate to Europe these times. And they must value going to Europe dearly since a lot of them even die trying to get in.

    DSW

  19. “That self called Glen is not very aware of the number of people that immigrate to Europe these times. And they must value going to Europe dearly since a lot of them even die trying to get in.”

    Actually, I’m quite aware of European immigration, or rather the lack thereof, to Europe of the poor from non-European countries. It’s a pittance. The only reason demographics have shifted even a trifle from the past is due to Europe’s rapidly declining birthrate rather than any open-arm policy, in fact, both legal and illegal immigration is getting much tougher in Europe as a whole.

    As far as people, “dying trying to get in” to Europe, I wholly agree, I’ve seen French soldiers throw Arabs off moving buses in Marseille, and Turks beaten up on the street in Germany. Very dangerous place, Europe, if you’re not European-looking. Desperation doesn’t mean numbers, though. Most poor people of the world desiring to emigrate still list the USA as their #1 choice.

    Not that any of this refutes my prior comments on the differences between Europe and the USA, of course. It’s still the Risk Takers vs. Those That Stayed Behind, and most Americans, whether newly arrived or not, are not impressed by the European model. No one in the U.S.A. I know is working their butt off so that they can share their earnings with those who won’t get off theirs. But Rifkin isn’t worrying about this; he’ll pocket nearly all of his capitalist income from American progressives who rabidly buy his book, enjoy the benefits of lower American income taxes, then spend his summers in Europe. With their money!

  20. I?ve seen French soldiers throw Arabs off moving buses in Marseille, and Turks beaten up on the street in Germany. Very dangerous place, Europe, if you?re not European-looking.

    Too much gluhwein, Glen?

    I don’t know what you’ve seen. But. before any non-Europeans get the wrong idea, many, many French soldiers are north Africans, and the non-African soldiers work with the others everyday. Similarly, people do, unfortunately get beaten up on the street in Germany, though less than in most countries, and you are no more likely to be beaten up if you skin colour in not white.

    Being an immigrant in Europe can be unpleasant and hassles such as frequent papers checks discrimination in work does happen, unfortunately. However, it is wrong to give the impression that physical abuse is rampant.

  21. Being that in Europe war was very common until a little more than fifty years, the Risk Takers were Those Who Stayed rather than Those Who Fleed.

    BTW, remember Amadou Diallo? An Unarmed Man that was rilled with bullet by US Police. Rodney King, anyone? Martin Luther King? oh, I forgot those last two were not immigrants…

    DSW

  22. Well Michael and Antoni, I’m seeing personal insults, and anecdotal references to U.S. and European crime stories, but no refutation whatsoever of the points I made in stating why Rifin’s European dream will never become reality in the United States (of course, the cynic in me feels Rifkin’s dream is actually to spend summers in Europe using his un-shared and lower-taxed American book income). Care to use your intellect for that?

  23. Glen, apologies if you feel that anything I said was insulting, that wasn’t the intention.

    As far as your predictions are concerned, I don’t really understand some of your bald statements. For example: “Europe has bought off its risk-intolerant working classes with a welfare state. But that?s only achieved by keeping new immigrants out…” The mental leap from having a welfare state means blocking immigration escapes my poor intellect. And, I haven’t noticed the US welcoming hoardes of poor, uneducated Sudanese or whatever, either.

    Also, I’m not completely conviced by your argument that Americans, being the grandchildren of the adventurous, are somehow naturally more adventurous than Europeans, the grandchildren of the unadventurous. However, the rate scientists are claiming to find genes such as the alcoholic gene and the fat gene, maybe an adventurousness gene is on the cards.

    To me, there are no differences between Americans and Europeans, immigrants or others. You find the same types of people in all societies. The different systems encourage and discourage different activity. The American system certainly encourages entreprenurial business activity more than the European. Which doesn’t mean that there are no European entrepreneurs or that all Americans are Entrepreneurs. Nor is it automatic that the more entreprenurial activity the better. And, the “best” level of entreprenurial activity surely depends on the value you are measuring: maximising GDP might be different to minimising suicides, for example.

    So can America learn anything positive from Europe? Probably. And, vice versa? Probably.

  24. “The mental leap from having a welfare state means blocking immigration escapes my poor intellect.”

    Heavy immigration restrictions are a necessary feature of European socialist government policy. To admit large numbers of dynamic individuals would only exacerbate already-high unemployment, as more individuals competed for an already limited number of jobs. Europe simply can’t grow enough small business jobs (the bulk of new job creation) to handle large-scale immigration. This inability to grow will become a vice around the throat as Europe’s low birthrate continues to result in an aging population whose heavily-subsidized pension schemes will require greater and greater amounts of government bail-out support. A secondary reason for immigration restrictions is to guarantee support for high welfare policies among all sections of European society and keep a lid on simmering xenophobic reaction to the (limited) stream of new arrivals.

    “And, I haven?t noticed the US welcoming hoardes of poor, uneducated Sudanese or whatever, either.”

    With an average per capita income of less than $200, most Sudanese find a plane ticket or smuggler’s berth to the U.S. hard to come by. Still, there are already brand-new Sudanese immigrant communities in the USA – bet you didn’t know that, did you? And you must have missed the millions of recent legal-but-poor immigrants to the U.S., as well as millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The latter, while illegal, are here, they’re working, and they won’t be hunted down and sent home – both the President and the Democrats agree on that.

    “Also, I?m not completely convinced by your argument that Americans, being the grandchildren of the adventurous, are somehow naturally more adventurous than Europeans, the grandchildren of the unadventurous. However, the rate scientists are claiming to find genes such as the alcoholic gene and the fat gene, maybe an adventurousness gene is on the cards.”

    Nothing so scientifically improbable is being suggested. Without centuries of history weighing them down, third, fourth, or eight generation Americans still look with pride on a family history that took serious risks in moving to an unknown country and risking everything on their simple faith in themselves and their ability to achieve – this ethic is NOT obsolescent in America, but is still being taught in many American homes. Additionally, there is the continuing inflow of large numbers of dynamic newcomers who still risk retribution to themselves or their families, loss of property, food, shelter, even loss of their own lives in some cases (packed in a shipping container or crossing the desert) to come to America. This inflow, as it always has, continues to revive, motivate, and reinforce the American dream of ‘making it big’, of working hard and keeping what you earn, in order to better oneself and one’s family.

    “To me, there are no differences between Americans and Europeans, immigrants or others. You find the same types of people in all societies.”

    This is probably your biggest misconception. Yes Americans and Europeans are both humans, subject to the same weaknesses and faults as anyone. Yet fundamentally the two societies possess nearly polar-opposite political and personal philosophies, and this makes a tremendous difference in the foreign and domestic policies which find support. You also seriously underestimate the advantages of new immigration by hard working and motivated persons. The U.S. has consistently benefited from such inflow, and continues to do so.

    “Which doesn?t mean that there are no European entrepreneurs or that all Americans are Entrepreneurs. Nor is it automatic that the more entreprenurial activity the better.”

    No, but it is the cumulative amount of entrepreneurial activity that makes the difference in terms of total econonmic output of a nation. The result is that, in terms of job growth, Europe is far behind the U.S., and falling behind at a greater rate each year. It is pretty much inarguable that the more entrepreneurial activity and job growth, the better for a country. Of course, that entrepreneurial activity must be honestly gained, or it risks spoiling the apple of consumer faith and investment.

    “And, the ?best? level of entreprenurial activity surely depends on the value you are measuring: maximising GDP might be different to minimising suicides, for example.”

    Suicide rates aren’t much of a guide, they may occur from overwork, or persistent unemployment, or a variety of other factors. As opposed to a socialist outlook, I believe that most people are well enough equipped to make their own decisions about how much work is enough for them, how large a family they should have, etc. as opposed the government preemption of that choice with a one-size-fits-all approach.

    Agreed that there may be honest differences in constructing rules for business activity. When that principle is abused, however, and the cumulative amount of government interference and income redistribution stifles a national, regional, or international economy, more people suffer in total than were ever assisted by such rules and redistributions in the first place.

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