“With every passing year, and each new EU bailout, Europeans seem to be forgetting where they came from,” writes journalist David Aikman in a new review of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. In The Weekly Standard, Aikman commends Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg’s book for showing how the long post-war project designed to advance European integration, economic security and social welfare has in fact degenerated into government dependency and bureaucratic bloat. The former Time magazine senior correspondent and bestselling author also applauds Gregg for reminding us that Marxist inspired “redistributionism” is really the core problem. Excerpt from the review:
The idea of a European federal superstate as an economic and political entity was never far from the minds of Europe’s key founders. Democratic capitalism was to be the main economic engine of that entity. But as Samuel Gregg points out in this cogently argued study—which frequently refers to Alexis de Tocqueville—whereas the American federal experiment emphasized economic and political freedom as the prerequisites for social prosperity and “human flourishing,” Europe’s postwar program was heavily influenced by social democracy. The goal became economic security for everyone, an idea that required labor-union political power and large bureaucracies to administer the welfare state.
Gregg correctly reminds us that behind social democracy’s stress on fair economic outcomes for Europe’s population lay the fundamental Marxist principle of redistributionism. He certainly does not attribute the European Union’s recent woes to the influence of Marxism, but he assembles a variety of ingredients that add up to what he calls “social Europe,” a social-welfare coterie of EU countries in which general prosperity has declined as economic freedoms have been whittled down.
There is, he argues, a bewildering variety of ailments that have beset the eurozone and the larger economy of the European Union. One of them is dirigisme, a term few Americans could comfortably define. Basically, it is the principle that the state is allowed to limit economic freedom if (according to the Italian constitution’s definition of dirigisme) economic freedom gives rise to activity that could damage “safety, liberty, and human dignity.” Put succinctly: Free enterprise is good just as long as some people don’t become too rich and others too poor. Less impenetrable to Americans is the philosophy of “corporatism,” the idea that employee and employer groups should coordinate with government to agree on what is beneficial to the “solidarity” of society.
Read “Continental Drift — A quarantine for the Sick Men of Europe” by David Aikman on The Weekly Standard. Get your copy of Becoming Europe here.
In Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg examines economic culture - the values and institutions that inform our economic priorities - to explain how European economic life has drifted in the direction of what Alexis de Tocqueville called "soft despotism", and the ways in which similar trends are manifesting themselves in the United States.