Arthur Brooks is not the first to notice the demographic deterioration of Europe (Acton’s Sam Gregg wrote about it in his book, Becoming Europe), but Brooks points out that Europe isn’t just getting old, but “dotty” as well. Brooks writes in The New York Times about Europe’s aging population, and its loss of vibrancy.
As important as good economic policies are, they will not fix Europe’s core problems, which are demographic, not economic. This was the point made in a speech to the European Parliament in November by none other than Pope Francis. As the pontiff put it, “In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant.”
But wait, it gets worse: Grandma Europe is not merely growing old. She is also getting dotty. She is, as the pope sadly explained in an earlier speech to a conference of bishops, “weary with disorientation.”
Europe, Brooks points out, has seemingly little going on these days. There are fewer babies, more old people, less jobs, and greater debt. And Europe is not terribly welcoming to immigrants who might breath new life into flaccid economies:
Anti-immigrant sentiment is surging across the Continent. Nativist movements performed alarmingly well in European Parliament elections last year. Europe is less like a grandmother knitting placidly in the window and more like an angry grandfather, shaking his rake and yelling at outsiders to get off his lawn.
Brooks says Europe suffers from the illusion that people are problems that must be managed, rather than assets that create, flourish, enliven. Unless or until this view of humanity changes, Europe is going to simply totter along.
Join us for “A Formula for Happiness with Arthur Brooks” on Thursday, Jan. 29 at the Acton Building, 98 E. Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI.