European Model a Wretched Failure

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Anarchy and chaos in Athens one week? Cars beyond number burned in Paris in another season? And now this terrible, senseless, causeless violence in London and many other British cities?

And everywhere across western Europe, governments bankrupt or nearly so, living beyond their means, unable or unwilling to tell their people the truth about their finances.

And beyond this the strange, undemocratic and illiberal mechanism, vast and inescapable, but also creaking and slipshod and unreliable, of the European super state, unable to help anything but always able to interfere, taking decisions without any irksome recourse to democracy or national sovereignty, adding a new layer of illegitimacy to societies robbed of trust. London burning like the Blitz, and all of it inflicted by the pride of British youth.

There is nothing good in this for anyone. Surely even the angels weep to see that green and pleasant land so reduced.

There is no occasion here for schadenfreude. Europe's tragedy is a setback for all mankind, and especially for that strange entity that we call the West.

To think coherently of the West, you must conceive of it being led by the US, embracing Canada, central and western Europe, Japan and Australia.

These nations are all meaningfully democratic. They are all rich, or relatively so. They all run mixed, capitalist economies. And they are linked in a common security network, NATO, or the US alliances with Japan and Australia.

They provide the lion's share of international aid and, though hopelessly outnumbered at the UN, they still provide most of what pass for international norms.

But this is a very poor season in the West.

At no time since its core societies were stabilised after World War II has Europe looked so ratty, so impotent, so much at the end of its tether. It still lectures the world on everything from the correct label for cheese to the urgent need to impose more taxes, carbon or otherwise. But it can no longer run its own still fabulously rich societies with even a modicum of efficiency or legitimacy.

The European model right now is a wretched failure.

There is hardly an economist in the world who does not believe European nations that are members of the eurozone would not be much better able to deal with their economic crises if they had their own currencies and their own central banks. But no one in power in Europe can face up to this.

Proponents of the European model can still be heard justifying this mad, anti-democratic centralisation of power on the basis that it helps European nations avoid wars with each other.

This argument, which no one seriously believes, perversely relies on the notion that Europeans are somehow inferior to all the other nations, which avoid war without surrendering their sovereignty to supranational bodies such as the EU.

Of course, Britain is not a part of the eurozone. It still has its own currency. But socially it is part of Europe and in many ways it lives out the European model very faithfully.

You can describe the British version of the model in flattering or unflattering ways, depending how much credence you give its lofty ambitions as opposed to how unlikely you think the model is to fulfil those ambitions.

But the European model, and the British version of it, certainly include a lavish welfare state, multiculturalism, a high level of economic regulation, the eclipse of any special place for religion (especially Christianity), and political correctness.

The last is a shorthand term for a general sense of shame and guilt about the true inheritance of Western civilisation, of shame and guilt for British history, and of a postmodern desire to forever subvert the allegedly dominant narrative of the generation before the baby boomers.

There is no simple explanation of these riots and other nations, the US among them, have their riots too. But the destructive elements of the European model are interlocking and contribute mightily to the British problem.

A big welfare state combined with a regulated economy and labour market, exactly the combination that prevails in much of Europe, discourages marginal employment.

It may seem compassionate to give people money, but passive welfare over the long term is a disaster for the recipient's self-respect, motivation, general morale and ultimately their sanity.

A big welfare system also attracts the wrong kind of immigrants for the wrong kind of reasons.

Instead of being attracted by the opportunity to work, some immigrants are attracted by the opportunity not to work but still to receive money for this.

This is especially so if the only part of its tradition a society has retained is its class distinctions, or some echo of them.

Western Europe is also perhaps the least religious society on earth. Christianity, in Britain as in much of Europe, is forever "subverted", which in truth means it is defamed, reviled and mocked.

This is another dimension in which Europe flatters itself as being ahead of the rest of the world, whereas in truth it is merely out of kilter with the rest of the world, with its own history and with the vast preponderance of human reflection.

Schools, universities, local councils and an endless array of quasi-government bodies preach a bowdlerised, ersatz morality, policing language for sexist anachronisms, censoring Enid Blyton, preaching a detached, sterile ideal of tolerance. But amid normal people these blandishments have no authority.

The secular mind may rejoice at the post-religious moment of Europe, and especially of Britain. But an unemployed youth, with no tradition and no real education, with enough money more or less but not many prospects, with no source of moral authority and no help in understanding any basis for right and wrong, nothing to control an impulse, and knowing nothing of British history except that it was shameful and sexist and racist -- how exactly does this youth become integrated and whole, and indeed happy?

Why exactly is it that he doesn't help himself to a night's entertainment attacking ambulance officers and stealing TVs?

The British malaise, the European sickness, have no single, simple cause and no obvious answer.

But whatever it is that the gnomes of Brussels have been selling these past few decades, it doesn't work and it has toxic side effects, as Europe shows.

Greg Sheridan is the Foreign Editor of the Australian.
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