Europe’s Road Toward Economic Ruin

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Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions

Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the defeat of President Sarkosy of France by the Socialist Party candidate, Francois Hollande, France is most likely only the first of other European countries where voters will throw out governments that support austerity measures. Already German Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats have lost a key local election, and popular sentiment in Greece is such that its government’s fall is just a matter of time. Europeans, like many Americans, have been spoiled by years of government benefits. Since they are used to such benefits, the idea of losing them is repugnant to the European public. Like most people, they think in terms of their short-term wants rather than the good of the whole. Government programs cost money, and raising more money to mitigate austerity measures means raising taxes. Raising taxes will result in a more sluggish economy and possibly less revenue for the government. If the current trend away from austerity continues, it appears that massive defaults by European nations are inevitable. The consequences, not only to the people of Europe, but also to the people of the world, could be devastating.

If the government treats people like children they will behave accordingly. Europeans naturally wanted an easier life after the horrors of a worldwide depression and two world wars. “The Sweet Life” with two-month paid vacations and limited hours working each week was too attractive for them to resist. As long as Europeans had a moderate to high birth rate, this system could, more or less, work, since young and productive workers continued to be added to the tax base. However, a birth rate below the population replacement value has left Europe aging, with entitlement programs draining treasuries to the point that the only choice for solvency is to borrow more. Debt piles up to the point that a country’s credit rating drops, making it harder to get good loans with reasonable interest rates. If loaning institutions lose confidence in a country over its lack of an ability to ensure a lender a return on investments, those institutions naturally would stop loaning money.

Europeans do not understand that a massive default would destroy the solvency of all the government programs and entitlements that they want. Some austerity now may allow a chance for recovery, provided that the pool of young (especially the skilled young) workers is replenished. This will most likely not be the case, as France and other European countries import foreign workers to meet their employment needs. Considerable opposition in France to such immigration and resulting damage to French culture is reasonable, but then there should be a concomitant interest in native French having more children. Given the contemporary notion that children are a burden rather than a gift, it is doubtful whether most French people will do so, even if offered government incentives. The majority of the French want to eat their cake and have it too (which is the right metaphor, by the way)–to continue to have extensive government benefits while watching what is left in the treasury melt away, only replaceable by higher and higher loans.

A massive default could lead to a worldwide Depression such as has not been seen in Europe since the 1920s (and from late 1929 onward in the United States). If other world markets collapsed, there could be a worldwide Depression that would make the post-1929 Great Depression in the U.S. look like good economic times.

The individualism and egoism of the Enlightenment is finally coming to fruition. Self-centered people will leave a world of economic ruin to those who come after them. Socialism, unlike its proponents’ claims, leads not to greater cooperation, but to greater selfishness. Such selfishness, when “fullgrown,” will leave its ruinous fruits behind if Europeans (and Americans) to not change their course.

The Drive toward Unity at the Expense of the Individual and Individual Communities

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European Union Headquarters - Brussels, Belgium

Imagine a world with one government. The focus of the government is making sure everyone is part of “one unified happy family.” The state controls all aspects of life. “Diversity” is celebrated in word, but ignored or pushed aside in practice. The government ignores individual differences between people, whether it be athletic ability or behavioral differences–absolute equality is preserved. Most people in this state believe that, after death, they will merge into oneness with the universe and lose whatever individuality that remains. Does this sound like a utopian world to you?

The European Union, which attempts in its own way to re-establish the unity of Europe before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, is supported by seemingly disparate groups: some (though not all) Marxists, Social Democrats, Corporatists and other big government, Bismark-style conservatives. The UK, which has not totally lost its historic independent streak, tends to oppose the Union. At least those who argue for the EU use their minds; the same cannot be said for the cotton-candy brained New Agers who believe in some utopian unity in 2012 (in 1969 it was the “Age of Aquarius”). New Agers, who “feel” without putting their emotions under the discipline of reason, tend toward a vague form of ontological monism and pantheism that totally subsumes the individual. Sometimes the more “thoughtful” New Agers may use  (still questionable) arguments from quantum entanglement or the Higgs Field to support their position.

Human beings are social animals, and naturally work together best in smaller social groups. The family is the basic unit of human social interaction, followed by friends, acquaintances, and strangers. It is true that Jesus Christ affirms that all people are our neighbors–that is, we are all human persons made in God’s image, thus not considering a person a neighbor because of his ethnicity is wrong. In His time, the conflict was between the Jewish people and the Samaritans The “Good Samaritan” overcomes the prejudice of the Samaritans against Jews and helps a person in need.

Jesus’ parable should not be used to argue against a hierarchy of communities beginning with the family, where we first learn to love people in spite of differences and learn to deal with fellow human beings, sometimes with much conflict. A person’s first obligation, apart from religious obligations, is to his family, and then to the other groups mentioned above. An emphasis on “we’re all really one” to the detriment of individuals and individual families ignores human nature and will only lead to a socially engineered, artificial society that, in the end, must be unified by the force of government power or by the pernicious influence of large corporations on the general culture. Individual identity is subsumed under a monster state (in socialism) or under the influence of corporations through the media (in corporatism, which, as I always emphasize, is not the same thing as capitalism).

Religion that ignores individual human beings is also pernicious. It is true that human beings, as all substances, are, as Father W. Norris Clarke put it, “substances-in-relation.” That includes relation to one another, to nature in general, and to God. But such relationality does not take away from the fact that each human being is also an individual substance with a personal unity whose value comes from God, the Creator. I have heard rebellious Christians claim that desire for individual resurrection is selfish. It can be, I suppose, but understanding human beings in relation to God and each other surely includes a natural desire to be united to God and to loved ones (and later, to others) in a resurrection world. Unity with God or with each other neither subsumes individuals nor subsume individual communities, though many human relationships will be transcended and become something deeper and far more valuable than relationships on earth. Even the Christian mystics, who in the height of their experience often used language suggesting an ontological monism, in the end recognized that they are created beings, individuals, though they are wholly dependent on God for their continued existence.

Recognizing individual families and small groups, as well as acknowledging the individuality of human persons, implies a less intrusive state as well as smaller businesses oriented to the good of their individual communities. Of course there should be a respect for other people, even those who are strangers, but fundamentally no government or corporation should interfere with the hierarchy of love that is natural to human beings and which forms organic, not forced, communities.