Five years ago, the European Union’s account of itself resonated with end-of history triumphalism. In organic fashion, democratic socialism would spread eastward and southward, recivilizing the old Warsaw Pact and the Balkans through cradle-to-grave entitlements, state unionism, radical environmentalism, and utopian pacifism. No wonder that Turkey begged — and often humiliated itself in the process — to get inside this more perfect union.
Over here, we were often lectured by “progressives” that almost everything Europe did was better — subsidized mass transit, free college tuition, extended maternity leave, early retirement, and “soft-power” diplomacy. Indeed, Obama’s presidential campaign was in some senses a stealthy referendum on Europeanization. And once he was elected, his moves to raise taxes, expand government, expropriate some private industries, run up exponentially increasing deficits, subsidize environmentalism, and triangulate with enemies and allies abroad were European Union to the core.
Few wanted to listen when it was pointed out — well before the Greek meltdown — that on key questions of demography and immigration, the future of the European Union was bleak. The very idea that, in historical terms, socialism, agnosticism, pacifism, and hedonism were not only interrelated and synergistic, but also suicidal for civilization, was considered crackpot. .
The wonder of the Greek implosion was not that it came so soon, but rather — given the pan-European phenomena of early retirement, declining populations, bloated public sectors, and militant unionism — that it took so long. In some sense, the dream of the European Union — a continental democratic socialism that offered a Western liberal antithesis to the United States — is now finished. Let us count the reasons why.
Once the bureaucratic scab comes off, we are going to see many of the European Union’s raw wounds as never before. The Greek riots are instructive, as the world watches in shock as the prospective recipients of world largesse rage at their benefactors. Draping the Acropolis with the hammer-and-sickle seems an odd way to convince capitalists to bail out socialists at the beginning of the life-saving tourist season. But, then, when does any dependent either voluntarily cut back, or feel gratitude toward its patron? We may well see far more violence as the crisis spreads throughout southern Europe. An entire generation nursed on socialism as a birthright — with no direct memory of the hardship of the Depression, World War II, the postwar rebuilding, or the fault lines from left-right violence in Spain, Italy, and Greece — will very soon be “asked” to give much of it up. As the statist economy goes, so too will go much of the European posturing about state-subsidized radical environmentalism, pooh-poohing of Islamic radicalism, and holding up of the bogeyman of American imperialism. Those were always pipe-dream ideologies of an affluent and subsidized populace. They are certainly luxuries beyond the means of a far poorer, far angrier citizenry that now must live in the unkind world.