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Beating swords into welfare cheques ... Mark Steyn
Steyn Online ^ | 3 June 2010 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 06/04/2010 1:27:00 AM PDT by Rummyfan

The trick in this line of work is not to be right too soon. A couple of years back, I wrote a bestselling hate crime. Don’t worry, I’m not in plug mode; indeed, I shall eschew even mentioning the book’s title. But its general thesis is that the jig is up for much if not most of the Western world. “Alarmist,” pronounced Maclean’s, reflecting the general consensus of polite society here and in Europe.

Polite society has spent the years since playing catch-up. So if you don’t want your fin du civilisation analysis from a frothing right-wing loon you can now get it from the house-trained chaps at the New York Times:

“Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism . . . ‘The Europe that protects’ is a slogan of the European Union.”

Protects from what? Right now, Europe mostly needs protection from itself, and its worst inclinations:

“With low growth, low birth rates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle.”

The Times hits all the Steynian themes, including the Continent as defence-welfare queen: “Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella.”

Absolved from having to pay for their own defence, Continentals, like Canadians, beat their swords into welfare cheques, and erected vast cradle-to-grave social entitlements. Even under the U.S. security umbrella, they proved unsustainable. Why? Because Europeans stopped breeding. And, even with unprecedented levels of immigration, they’ve been unable to halt population decline. Again, that was mere Steynian alarmism a year or two back. Now it’s received wisdom. Here’s Time magazine:

“Germany is shrinking—fast. New figures released on May 17 show the birth rate in Europe’s biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low.”

That’s true. Time doesn’t really provide much in the way of historical perspective, but, for the purposes of comparison, in 1964 West Germany alone produced 1.35 million new babies; in 2009, a united Germany managed less than half that—651,000 births. In 1964, Germany was undergoing its postwar economic boom. In the mood for a reprise? On the depleted manpower of 2010, that ain’t gonna happen.

And these days, remember, Germany has to support a continent. It’s the economic powerhouse that’s supposed to be rescuing the euro and preventing the five soi-disant PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) from having the Big Bad Wolf of reality blow their house of straw to smithereens. Dream on. “Germany’s working-age population is likely to decrease 30 per cent over the next few decades,” says Steffen Kröhnert of the Berlin Institute for Population Development. “Rural areas will see a massive population decline and some villages will simply disappear—Germany will become a weak economic power in the future.”

I disagree with Herr Kröhnert only to this extent: rural areas are already seeing a massive population decline, such that village sewer systems are having to be narrowed, at great expense, to cope with the reduced flow, and wolves are returning to the East German plain. You look at those old speeches of der Führer roaring on about Germany’s need for “lebensraum.” Few people have ever needed it less.

There is no precedent in human history for increased prosperity on declining human capital, even before you factor in the added costs of propping up a bunch of other nations facing even worse socio-economic arithmetic. Can mass immigration save you? No. You can never import enough people fast enough: according to Armin Laschet, “Integration Minister” of North Rhine-Westphalia, already 40 per cent of the children in the Fatherland’s cities are ethnically non-German, and thus the future of those cities will be non-German, too.

Could you ramp that number up to, oh, 70 per cent? Sure. But it still wouldn’t be sufficient to prop up an unsustainable economic model. Entire sovereign nations are now in the situation of a homeowner who’s fallen too far behind on the payments and has no prospect of catching up: you might as well just put the door keys in an envelope, leave ’em at the bank for the new owner, and move on.

This much is now agreed; it’s the conventional wisdom of our conventional media. What remains at issue is what to do about it. In the Time magazine story, advice on how to boost Germany’s collapsed fertility rate is all about more money for state-funded child-care facilities, etc. In other words, more government, more entitlements, more of what got Europe into its demographic death spiral in the first place.

In the U.S., meanwhile, Obama’s courtiers are beginning to muse about the introduction of an EU-style “VAT,” which the locals generally translate as a “national sales tax.” VAT stands for “value-added tax,” because you’re taxing the value that is added to a product in the course of its path to market. But I find myself ruminating on “value” in a more basic sense. Advanced social democracies don’t need a value-added tax; they need a value-added life. “The Europe that protects” may, indeed, protect you from the vicissitudes of fate but it also disconnects you from the primary impulses of life. “It drains too much of the life from life,” said Charles Murray last year. “And that statement applies as much to the lives of janitors—even more to the lives of janitors—as it does to the lives of CEOs.” Capitalists sometimes carelessly give the impression that theirs is a materialistic argument. But anti-capitalists do not want for material comforts—you go to the poorest part of town and you see plenty of cellphones and plasma TVs. And Eutopia is distinguished mainly by a lethargic hedonism: shorter working hours, longer vacations, earlier retirements, bigger benefits. What do they do with all that free time? Write operas? Paint pictures? Not so’s you’d notice. Life is a matter of passing the time—or, indeed, of holding the moment: “Linger awhile, how fair thou art,” in the words of Goethe’s Faust, which would make a fine epitaph for the European Union.

How fair thou hast been—but only for the moment, and the moment is passing. Europe’s economic crisis is a mere symptom of its existential crisis: what is life for? What gives it meaning? Post-Christian, post-national, post-modern Europe has no answer to that question, and so it has 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees, and wonders why the small band of workers in between them can’t make the math add up. It’s striking that both the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the minister for families, Kristina Schroeder, who announced the latest grim statistics, are themselves childless women. Germany has one of the oldest ages of “family formation” in the developed world, and once you lose the habit, it’s hard to re-acquire it. I am all for seriously natalist tax regimes, not so much because they leave more money in people’s pockets but because they leave more responsibility in there. But that’s the bottom line—not introducing a new entitlement but instilling in people for whom life is a diversion a sense of purpose larger than themselves: what’s it all about, Alfie? Cradle-to-grave nanny-state “protection”? Government security does not in and of itself make for a satisfying, purposeful life: indeed, the University of Michigan and other studies suggest quite the opposite—that welfare makes one unhappier than a modest income honestly earned and used to provide for one’s family.

So it will take more than reoriented benefits to save Germany. In the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Wood bemoaned “the political backlash against free markets,” but, understandably, European countries won’t trust the market to self-correct because they’ve so jiggered it they no longer have a domestic market in any meaningful sense. If you’re a German bank, to whom do you lend money? You don’t have enough young people to grow your business, so you lend further and further afield, in markets you don’t fully comprehend, such as post-Soviet Eastern Europe or even the United States, a significant chunk of whose subprime mumbo-jumbo is held by Germany’s Landesbanken. By some estimates, German banks could have to write off a trillion bucks’ worth of toxic loans. The problem isn’t that Greece is the sick man of Europe, but that Germany is—and, when the economic engine of a continent no longer has enough folks to shovel the coal in, that puts a huge question mark over Ireland, Sweden, Slovenia and beyond.

This is the crisis of our times, and the first Western nation to figure out a way around it will have a huge advantage in the decades to come. When Barack Obama started redistributing American wealth, a lot of readers dusted off Mrs. Thatcher’s bon mot: “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But European social democracy has taken it to the next level: they’ve run out of other people, period.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: marksteyn; steyn

1 posted on 06/04/2010 1:27:00 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: knews_hound

Steyn ping!


2 posted on 06/04/2010 1:27:22 AM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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To: Rummyfan
Today I heard a commercial on the radio promoting Food Stamps.

It was upbeat with a little girl and her Father talking about how using Food Stamps will help to make the food the Mother cooks healthy and nutritious.

Oh how far we've come...

3 posted on 06/04/2010 1:31:26 AM PDT by Kickass Conservative (Obama, proving Hillary right that it takes a Village Idiot.)
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To: Kickass Conservative

We get a similar one here in CO on the radio—two old women talking about SNAP. Selling welfare like it’s a product. Makes me sick.


4 posted on 06/04/2010 1:37:42 AM PDT by beaversmom
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To: Rummyfan

Well-stated, Mark!


5 posted on 06/04/2010 1:53:03 AM PDT by Shery (in APO Land)
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To: Kickass Conservative
Today I heard a commercial on the radio promoting Food Stamps.

Which of course means that people who can get food stamps don't have enough money for food, but have plenty of money for a radio.

6 posted on 06/04/2010 2:48:30 AM PDT by pnh102 (Regarding liberalism, always attribute to malice what you think can be explained by stupidity. - Me)
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To: Rummyfan

Steyn-O-Bump


7 posted on 06/04/2010 3:01:15 AM PDT by Yardstick
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To: pnh102

They are listening to the ad on the radio in their Escalade silly. :)


8 posted on 06/04/2010 3:42:33 AM PDT by doodad
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To: Rummyfan
the first Western nation to figure out a way around it will have a huge advantage in the decades to come

Japan will be the first with the solution: Robots.

9 posted on 06/04/2010 4:03:23 AM PDT by omniscient
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To: Rummyfan
Europe’s economic crisis is a mere symptom of its existential crisis: what is life for? What gives it meaning? Post-Christian, post-national, post-modern Europe has no answer to that question, and so it has 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees, and wonders why the small band of workers in between them can’t make the math add up ...

We have similar existential issues here ... children with sweatshop iPods building Facebook lives, a population distracted by TV and media propaganda picking sides in a phony Kabuki theater of Democrat versus Republican, a government disconnected from its responsibilities and existing only as a shell of pretense and pretend, functioning only as a cancer killing freedom and our financial future.

Ethics ate situational, morals are relative, "all cultures are equal" ... the idea of "core values" is scoffed at by professors and politicians and preachers. We have no compass, no rudder, no direction.

But we are fragmenting along some very real cultural lines, and the unprepared will see horrors in the near future.

10 posted on 06/04/2010 4:08:42 AM PDT by spodefly (This is my tag line. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: Rummyfan

This article is validating his book. Both the book and the article are good and worth reading in the sense of listening to the watchman on the wall (before it’s too late).


11 posted on 06/04/2010 4:10:23 AM PDT by RoadTest (Religion is a substitute for the relationship God wants with you.)
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To: Rummyfan

I don’t see why this demographic problem can’t be solved in one or two generations. All that is required is for people to have more children. I don’t even think they’d need to have a lot more, just 2 instead of 1 or 3 instead of two. With the advances in child health I think the population would grow rather quickly.

So, rather than mourn the coming death of the west, urge people to have more babies.


12 posted on 06/04/2010 4:11:37 AM PDT by jocon307 (It's the spending, stupid.)
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To: jocon307
All that is required is for people to have more children.

A good trick, if you can get people to do it. What's the incentive?

13 posted on 06/04/2010 4:16:04 AM PDT by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
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To: jocon307

The problem is not as simple as a low child birth rate. More babies is not going to solve anything, unfortunately.


14 posted on 06/04/2010 4:28:32 AM PDT by Miztiki
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To: Rummyfan

15 posted on 06/04/2010 4:30:16 AM PDT by Oceander (The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance -- Thos. Jefferson)
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To: jocon307
I don’t see why this demographic problem can’t be solved in one or two generations. All that is required is for people to have more children.

It's a reverse avalanche effect: if this generation has very few children then there are that many fewer adults available in twenty years to have children. So they have to have several times the replacement rate. I come from a family of nine children, and two of my aunts had seven children each and another four. Other than Mormon families those days are over I'm afraid.

16 posted on 06/04/2010 4:41:07 AM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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To: Rummyfan

bfl


17 posted on 06/04/2010 4:45:21 AM PDT by DrymChaser (It's amateur hour at the White House, unfortunately it means Curtains for America.)
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To: Mr Ramsbotham

The blessings of parenthood?


18 posted on 06/04/2010 4:45:48 AM PDT by pingman (Price is what you pay, value is what you get.)
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To: Rummyfan
How fair thou hast been—but only for the moment, and the moment is passing. Europe’s economic crisis is a mere symptom of its existential crisis: what is life for? What gives it meaning? Post-Christian, post-national, post-modern Europe has no answer to that question,

I find it funny in an odd sort of way, that he notes the decline of the rural areas. Here on FR we find many discussing the purchase and return to the land, unafraid of the hardwork it entails to live even partially off the land. And in many ways looking forward to overcoming the challenges. But that is us conservatives and we have our own answer to, "What is life for?" Our answer is not found in the secular world.

Government can't be noble. Government can't give meaning to your life or your work. Those things can only be given meaning from one place; the secular world has finally reached the generations that are deprived of the most vital gift.

What Steyn is really describing is the loss of Godly wisdom. James 1:5

19 posted on 06/04/2010 5:00:04 AM PDT by EBH (Our First Right...."it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,")
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To: Rummyfan

bump


20 posted on 06/04/2010 5:03:52 AM PDT by fso301
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To: Rummyfan

“Other than Mormon families those days are over I’m afraid.”

I agree the days of having over 5 children is probably over, except for some religious people and some few individuals.

But I still think that since in olden times when many people had large families many of those children didn’t live to adulthood and since now I reckon almost all children live to adulthood even 3 children for most women would replenish the population rather quickly.

Now, of course, you have so many women who have no children at all, who knows if this will really happen.

However, I venture that it is my generation, the boomers, who are the first group that has really been able to control their reproduction. This cohort is just coming into their “golden years” as my dad used to say.

It may be that the pitfalls of childlessness will become more apparent as this group continues to age.

For the record, before somebody asks me, I only have one child myself. It is one of my biggest regrets that I did not have at least another one or two others. But, well, it just didn’t work out that way.


21 posted on 06/04/2010 5:29:09 AM PDT by jocon307 (It's the spending, stupid.)
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To: Oceander
Appropriate but when you factor in the racial components you get:

Greece

The White Democrats' Utopia

Zimbabwe

The Black Democrats' Utopia

22 posted on 06/04/2010 5:31:40 AM PDT by sjmjax
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To: jocon307

To doom them to a future under the yoke of socialism? No thanks!

(I’ve heard this from several younger, childless couples I know).


23 posted on 06/04/2010 6:03:49 AM PDT by GatorGirl (Eschew Socialism!)
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To: Rummyfan

Steyn brilliant as usual


24 posted on 06/04/2010 6:14:04 AM PDT by Teacher317 (It's Islam)
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To: Mr Ramsbotham

No incentive needed. Just cheaper booze and placebo birth control.


25 posted on 06/04/2010 6:29:51 AM PDT by TnGOP (Petey the dog is my foriegn policy advisor. He's really quite good!)
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To: Rummyfan

Sigh. This brings to mind John Ringo’s novel “Live Free or Die.”


26 posted on 06/04/2010 6:30:50 AM PDT by No Truce With Kings (I can see November from my house.)
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To: No Truce With Kings
For me it brings to mind Jean Raspail's Camp of the Saints.

We have already lost the reproductive war. It is too late, statistically, to catch up.

27 posted on 06/04/2010 6:58:37 AM PDT by I Buried My Guns (Novare Res!)
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To: Rummyfan

Interesting, yesterday I was reading readers comments from some article posted from The Guardian. I can’t remember what the article was about specifically(I think it was about how eating meat causes global warming), but I remember many of the comments of the mostly European readers were that overpopulation was a serious problem if not the most important problem in the world. And here these people are depopulating themselves out of existence. What fools.


28 posted on 06/04/2010 7:56:55 AM PDT by driftless2 (For long term happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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To: spodefly

Very well put.


29 posted on 06/04/2010 8:20:43 AM PDT by Bon mots
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To: GatorGirl

“I’ve heard this from several younger, childless couples I know”

Oh yes, ever since there has been reliable birth control people have been giving “reasons” for not having children. All basically along the lines of the world is too messed up, in whatever way.

And I do agree it is a rather scary thing to have a child. I’ve often said that if I’d known how much I was going to worry about my kid I’d never have had one.


30 posted on 06/04/2010 1:47:51 PM PDT by jocon307 (It's the spending, stupid.)
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