Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute and author of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America can Avoid a European Future, and more recently Tea Party Catholic:The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing, delivered a lecture on November 7th in the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium focusing on the subject of his latest book as part of the 2013 Acton Lecture Series. We’ve embedded the video of his lecture below; if you’re interested in Gregg’s lecture on his earlier book, you can find that one after the jump.
Humility is probably one of the most difficult human virtues to achieve. For me, as a Hungarian intern at the Acton Institute, listening to Samuel Gregg’s June lecture in Grand Rapids on his new book, Becoming Europe about the Old Continent’s crisis is instructive. Relations between the United States and major European powers have been testy from time to time, of course, but Europe seems to lack self-criticism.
Aging Europe, an unsustainable social model, a two-speed Europe: these are some key expressions we hear about Europe every day. Each of these phrases reflects a problem with the evolution of European society and the free market. Actually, it seems as if the continent is living out its teenager years unsure whether to commit to social-democracy or the free market. Meanwhile, doing both of them wrong. As we can expect from a teenager, the symptoms refer to deeper-rooted problems. (more…)
On June 27, 2013, Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, discussed his book Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future as part of the 2013 Acton Lecture Series. If you weren’t able to join us here at the Acton Building for the lecture, you can watch below:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is a frustrated man. With unemployment rates in Germany hovering at around 8 percent, and Greece and Spain at almost 60 percent, he believes the EU is on the brink of “revolution.” His answer is not to scrap the welfare model however; he wants to preserve it.
While Germany insists on the importance of budget consolidation, Schaeuble spoke of the need to preserve Europe’s welfare model.
If U.S. welfare standards were introduced in Europe, “we would have revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day,” Schaeuble told a conference in Paris.
Not everyone agrees. Italian Labour minister Enrico Giovannini says European youth are being asked to put their lives on hold, and that this is “unacceptable.” Werner Hoyer, head the European Investment Bank, acknowledged that there is no plan at this point to direct the spiraling downturn of the EU economy. There is, instead, a country-by-country “patchwork” approach. For instance, Greece is attempting to focus on job training and entrepreneurship for 350,000 young people, and France is working on a similar plan within its own borders. (more…)
Tim Burrack, vice chairman and board member of Truth About Trade & Technology, recently wrote a commentary for the Washington Times about the agriculture industry in the U.S. and how it is becoming more and more European. He says there is fear of a “growing bureaucracy that is smothering freedom and innovation.” Burrack goes on to explain that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken
an unfortunate step toward Europeanization when it delayed the approval of two crops that will help farmers control weeds and produce more food. The decision didn’t receive much immediate attention outside the agricultural press, but it sent a troubling signal about the future of farm technology that should concern all Americans.
Scientists have developed crops that can resist two common herbicides, dicamba and 2,4-D. These herbicides have been in use in American farms since the 1950s. This advancement means weeds will be killed, but the desired plants will survive. Despite the fact that innovations like this are making food cheaper and more abundant, some argue “that the introduction of these crops will lead to the overuse of the two herbicides.” Burrack goes on:
Farmers lose either way. The Agriculture Department’s bad decision means that these new crops won’t go on the market and be available to me and other farmers next year as planned. We will have to wait until 2015 at the earliest. This postponement may not sound like much, but it contributes to a disturbing trend. In the United States, it’s becoming harder and harder to introduce agricultural technologies.
America has led the world in boosting crop yields. Food is safer, more abundant and more affordable than ever before. Rather than cheering on our ingenuity, however, bureaucrats increasingly want to hold it back.
We need sensible, science-based regulations — not shifting sands and unpredictable decrees from bureaucrats who seem unmoved by the needs of farmers and consumers.Europe already has traveled far down this fateful path. Its embrace of the “precautionary principle” has made it all but impossible to approve agricultural innovations, stifling the Continent’s biotech industry. European farmers envy Americans, who can plant genetically modified crops. The Agriculture Department’s decision on herbicide-resistant plants suggests that they may not be so envious in the future.
Samuel Gregg this year published Becoming Europe, a book on economic and cultural trends in the United States. He urged Americans to reject Europeanization and embrace their freedom-loving heritage. He also quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th-century Frenchman who studied our country: ‘The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’
So here is a message for the Agriculture Department’s bureaucrats: Waste no time in repairing your crop-protection fault.
Read Tim Burrack’s commentary, Sowing the Seeds of Farm Failure.
If you’re a young American adult (the 25-to-34 age range), and you have a good job, count yourself blessed. Most of your peers aren’t so lucky. The New York Times reports that “[o]ver the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.”
Of course, young Europeans have been dealing with this for years. Greece, Spain and Portugal have unemployment rates between 17-27% (Greece being the highest), and the outlook is grim for most of the European Union (EU). Even taking into account that many young people may be studying or raising families and therefore not looking for full-time work, the deterioration of the EU’s economies is obvious. But it’s not just lack of jobs. As Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, points out in his book Becoming Europe, “Europe’s social systems are under considerable internal strain from the remorseless deterioration associated with unaffordable welfare states, population decline, low productivity levels, and the preferential treatment of politically connected insiders.” (more…)
So why such a rapid fall from grace? Some of it is of Hollande’s own making, such as his effort to impose a 75 percent tax on personal incomes over €1 million. Though the measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional, it managed to alienate a business community already suspicious of someone who once publicly proclaimed, “I dislike the rich.” The fact that Hollande is now trying to levy the same tax-rate on businesses that pay salaries over €1 million isn’t helping matters.
Nor did it help that the minister charged by Hollande with cracking down on tax-fraud, Jerome Cahuzac, was forced to resign after admitting he had maintained a Swiss bank account for over 20 years. Cahuzac is now under investigation for tax-fraud. The situation worsened when Hollande ordered his ministers to fully disclose all their personal holdings. Everyone in France has thus been reminded that most of the Socialist ministers who regularly rail against les riches are themselves quite wealthy. Caviar-Limousine-Champagne Socialism, anyone?
Read Samuel Gregg’s “The Incredible Shrinking Monsieur Hollande” at The American Spectator.
John J. Miller, a national correspondent for National Review, recently interviewed Samuel Gregg about Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future.
The Pilot, a South Pines, N.C. newspaper, recently featured a review of Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe by Don Delauter. He says:
This is a scholarly work in which the author presents a review of the historical path which led relentlessly to the social and economic cultures of modern day Western Europe. He discusses how America diverged from the European course in important ways which until recently fostered the free enterprise Americans have enjoyed.
However, the future of this phenomenal record of achievement is at risk. Gregg believes that “Europe is the canary in the coal mine” for America.
Gregg notes that America joined the welfare state community somewhat late. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society from the Johnson administration were the giant leaps forward. With few interruptions America has maintained a course toward becoming a deficit-spending welfare state, in short, “becoming Europe.”
Gregg concludes that “it would be a grave error for America to go down the European economic path, and not simply because it would result in less economic prosperity. The moral and political cost, in terms of reduced freedom, is simply not worth it.”
The review ends with this sobering thought: “A very worthwhile read, but it may be too late.”
Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters makes some comments about my book Becoming Europe based on a review he had read by Fr. C.J. McCloskey. Here are the most pertinent of his observations:
I know that American exceptionalism lives on both the left and the right, but when did the right become so Europhobic? And why? National Catholic Register has a review of a new book by the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg entitled Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, & How America Can Avoid a European Future. I confess, come August, when Europeans sensibly take the month off and head to the beach or the mountains for time with their families, I am envious of them, not scornful. When I look at Europe’s lower rates of income inequality, I am envious, not scornful. When I look at the creative ways Germany minimized unemployment during the recent economic downturn, I was deeply envious.
Of course, given the fact that Gregg works for the libertarian Acton Institute, where the false god of the market is worshipped day in and day out, it should not surprise that he misses the Catholic and Christian roots of the modern social welfare state as it exists in Europe. And the fact that Rev. C. John McCloskey misunderstands the Christian roots of the modern social welfare state shows the degree to which some members of the Catholic clergy have bought into what can best be described as the Glenn Beck narrative of the relationship of faith and culture.
Alas, Mr. Winters apparently hasn’t actually read the book. Because if he had, he would know that Becoming Europe (1) notes several good economic things happening in Europe (such as in Germany and Sweden) and (2) addresses at considerable length the various Catholic and Christian contributions to the development of European welfare states and the European social model more generally. In the case of the latter, I’d direct his attention to Chapters 2 and 3 of Becoming Europe where these matters are discussed extensively. The point is that it is always prudent to perhaps read a book before venturing criticisms of its arguments.
Then there is the label of “libertarian.” Again, if Mr. Winters took a moment to read a few of my writings, he’d know that, in books such as On Ordered Liberty, I‘ve articulated critiques of libertarian thought, especially with regard to the way that libertarian thinkers approach, for instance, moral questions. Figures such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman have many interesting economic insights. But I have always viewed their philosophical positions (which include, among others, commitments to nominalism, epicurism, utilitarianism, social-evolutionism, and social contractarianism) to be less-than-adequate. In many ways, their conceptions of the human person are virtually indistinguishable from modern liberals such as John Rawls. (more…)