Becoming Europe, the latest book from Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg, has been reviewed by Books & Culture: A Christian Review. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, a research professor at Yale University’s Center for Faith & Culture, begins his review with a series of question, including, “Will entrepreneurship vanish in America, as it has, more or less, in Europe? And what will be the moral and political costs of what Gregg describes as ‘reduced freedoms’?”
Malloch notes how Gregg walks the reader through most of Europe’s long-standing desire to provide full employment and “to preserve the market from its own inherent instabilities“:
The result, made plain in today’s European Union, has been vast bureaucracy, the end of charity, and closer political union. The founders of this economic strategy in trade liberalization always saw it that way. But with high levels of taxation and public spending have come adverse effects on growth, employment, and fiscal sustainability. For Gregg, this is a period in Europe of “golden decline.” Post-democratic bureaucratic rule by elite technocrats, the clout of greedy unions, and the favoritism of the state – choosing business winners and losers – have led to economic malaise. This worship of the welfare state, Gregg argues, is a form of “soft despotism.”
The “worrying parallels” that exist in America are what disturb him most of all. It will take attitudinal change if we are to avoid Europe’s fate. Where should we start? Gregg thinks we need to reinvigorate a “Tocquevillian” civil society that addresses problems neither markets or governments can resolve. This means, in the first instance, prioritizing wealth creation over redistribution. Such human flourishing has a distinctly moral dimension, Gregg says: “Man does not live by efficiency alone. Life is about much more than maximizing utility.” But the road back from serfdom will not be easy; so many persons and groups have become dependent on the goodies dispensed by the growing welfare state, we, too, have created.