Sam Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, bemoans the state of Europe in The American Spectator today. In a piece entitled, “Something is Rotten in the State of Europe,” Gregg begins by noting that Germany seems to have lost all common sense.
William Shakespeare knew a thing or two about human psychology. But he also understood a great deal about the body-politic and how small signs can be indicative of deeper traumas. So when Marcellus tells Horatio at the beginning of Hamlet that you can almost smell the weakness permeating Denmark, it’s Shakespeare’s way of telling us to pay attention to what sticks out as abnormal and to ask what else it may portend.
It was difficult not to be reminded of this advice when reading that a majority of Germany’s Ethics Council recently called for the abolition of legal constraints upon incest. Referring to a case in which a man had entered into a relationship with his biological sister, the Council declared: “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.”
Then there is British Prime Minister David Cameron, who can’t seem to figure out if Islamic militants really are Islamic or not, despite the fact that they say they are. And the whole of Europe, Gregg says, is apparently blind to its horrible economic situation.
Another instance of denial concerns the reluctance of many of the same leaders—not to mention plenty of ordinary Europeans—to acknowledge that European welfare states simply aren’t sustainable in their present form. No doubt this has something to do with elections. To say, for instance, that nationalized health-services generally can’t help but deliver sub-optimal performances is to invite political opponents to label you a devious “neoliberal” anxious to abandon Granny to a dog-eat-dog market.
It’s also the case, however, that radical reforms to European welfare states would mean conceding that there are many things that governments can’t do very well, and perhaps in some instances shouldn’t do at all, save as a last resort. For most of Europe’s political class—whether on the left or right—such thoughts are anathema. It would bring into question, among other things, the entire European Social Model in which they’ve invested so much political, economic, and moral capital.
Europe, Gregg states, is “unravelling.” The question is, will Europe (like Hamlet) do too little, too late?