Lethally Leisured

Europeans are going to have to relearn impulses three generations of Continentals have learned to regard as hopelessly vulgar. Can they do that? A land of 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees has so thoroughly diverted the great stream of life that it barely comprehends what’s at stake.

Mark Steyn
National Review’s Happy Warrior
SteynOnline
10/17/2011

In 1853 or thereabouts, Czar Nicholas I described Turkey as the sick man of Europe. A century and a half later, Turkey is increasingly the strong man of the Middle East, and the sick man of Europe is Europe — or, rather, “Europe.” The transformation of a geographical patchwork of nation-states into a single political entity has been the dominant Big Idea of the post-war era, the Big Idea the Continent’s elites turned to after all the other Big Ideas — Fascism, Nazism, and eventually Communism — failed, spectacularly. The West’s last Big Idea is now dying in the eurozone debt crisis. Although less obviously malign than the big totalitarian -isms, this particular idea has proved so insinuating and debilitating that the only question is whether most of the West dies with it.

“Europe” has a basic identity crisis: As the Germans have begun to figure out, just because the Greeks live in the same general neighborhood is no reason to open a joint checking account. And yet a decade ago, when it counted, everyone who mattered on the Continent assumed a common currency for nations with nothing in common was so obviously brilliant an idea it was barely worth explaining to the masses. In the absence of ethnic or cultural compatibility, the European Union offered Big Government as a substitute: The project was propped up by two pillars — social welfare and defense welfare. The former regulated Europe into economic sloth even as India, China, and Brazil began figuring out how this capitalism thing worked. The latter meant that the U.S. defense umbrella ensured once-lavish budgets for hussars and lancers could be reallocated to government health care and other lollipops — and it still wasn’t enough. Whatever the individual merits of ever-more-leisurely education, 30-hour work weeks, six weeks’ vacation, retirement at 50, the cumulative impact is that not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. And once large numbers of people acquire the habits of a leisured class, there are not many easy ways back to reality.

Defense welfare does the same at a geopolitical level. In absolving the Continent of responsibility for its own defense, the United States not only enabled Europe to beat its swords into Ponzi shares but, in a subtle and profound way, helped enervate the survival instincts of some of the oldest nation-states on the planet. I tend to agree with John Keegan, the great military historian and my old Telegraph colleague, that a nation without a military is in a sense no longer a nation. …

…While Europe slept in and slept around, new powers emerged…We live on a planet in which the wealthiest societies in history, from Norway to New Zealand, are incapable of defending their own borders…

The article continues at SteynOnline.

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