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Friday, February 08, 2008


Many Europeans think of their generous welfare states as being quite civilized while considering the American model to be nearly barbaric. In light of this, I rather like this take:
Bruce Thornton, a classics professor at California State University, is the latest to take up this thesis. In Decline and Fall, he makes the case that a number of factors—including unsustainable welfare states, dwindling birthrates, undiscriminating immigration laws, a society disconnected from the transcendent truths of Christianity, and a failure to confront the gathering threat of Islamic jihadism aggressively—are leading Europe to commit “slow-motion suicide.”

Government largesse may seem an unlikely source of civilizational decline...

To the contrary, the point of the welfare is that it acts as a solvent upon all of the civilizational ties that made men independent of the state. Once you have individuals completely atomized they're easy to control. They've traded liberty for security.

That's why the Left fights against the Third Way so hard, even though it advances their putative goals. Sure it can provide universal education, housing, health care, unemployment insurance, etc., but by doing so in a way that makes the citizenry independent it strikes at the core of the secular statist project.

Demographic and financial factors mean that the Europeans should hit the wall before we do. A welfare state that provides services and benefits in a manner that promotes dependence rather than independence creates citizens who are more resistant to competing in and adapting to a changing world. Just like the failure of socialism, the proof will be in the pudding.


erp said...

we're not going to hit the wall.

Howard said...


I agree, we won't hit the wall. Worst case we take a left turn, lose a few years and then make a political readjustment.

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

Sadly you may be right. Have you seen this email making the rounds?

Ali said...

It seems to consist of rather overblown claims that underestimate the strengths of European societies and overstate their problems.

And how much would a classicist know about 21st century economics, demography and society anyway?