by Jon N. Hall 6/6/16
The ancient Romans were building major infrastructure in Europe more than two millennia ago. Those Roman engineers were pretty serious dudes, as their aqueducts and other structures still stand. The birth of civilization in Europe goes back at least 3,000 years. By contrast, the first European colonies in what would become the U.S.A. started 400 years ago.
But despite Europe’s far longer history than ours, America is nonetheless the granddaddy of nations. This isn’t due to being more powerful, as in having the military muscle to project power and keep the sea lanes open. Rather, it is because America has had a continuity of government since her founding that Europeans can only dream about. Even during our biggest domestic upheaval, the War Between the States, America held elections.
When America installed her first government (1789), the Holy Roman Empire would dissolve in 17 years, the unification of German states was decades in the future, the Risorgimento that would unify Italy was yet to begin, and France was having a nice little revolution. Since 1789, the borders of Europe have been drawn and redrawn over and over again, and various systems of government have been tried, discarded, and then tried again. In 1789, France had a monarchy, which was followed by five republics, two empires, restorations of monarchy (Bourbon and Orléanist), the Reign of Terror, various periods of anarchy, the Nazi-collaborationist puppet state of Vichy, and now the dysfunctional EU. A mere ten years after the storming of the Bastille and seven years after the founding of the First Republic, France was back to dictatorship with Napoleon I. Since 1789, the nations of Europe have regularly had to “reinvent” themselves, while America has continued to operate under her founding document, the Constitution.
Despite the discontinuity of Europe’s governments over the last couple of centuries, the American left, people like Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, thinks Europe is the font of all governmental sophistication, and is forever telling us: America needs to be just like Europe.
But when it comes to government, Europe hasn’t demonstrated any sophistication. Is it sophisticated to continue loaning money to Greece? It’s doubtful that German taxpayers think it’s sophisticated, or that they will ever see their money again. The backwardness of Europe’s governments trickles down and corrupts their citizenry. The Euro masses have gotten so used to sucking at the public teat that they may never get totally weaned. That’s why one sees farmers and students rioting in the streets about even the smallest adjustments to their precious welfare states.
In his 1964 book Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, James Burnham wrote that “what Americans call ‘liberalism’ is the ideology of Western suicide” (p. 15). Nowadays, what is meant by “liberalism” is progressivism, socialism, the welfare state, statism; systems that American conservatives lump together as “Big Government.”
If Burnham is correct, could American-style conservatism be the ideology of Western survival, and the cure for what ails Europe? Europe, however, has no tradition of anything Americans would call conservatism. Yes, there was Margaret Thatcher, but the Iron Lady was the exception. Euros rarely have a “limited government” alternative to vote for. Usually, the European voter must choose between competing brands of Big Government.
Europe’s socialist systems have a lot to do with the ongoing invasion by Muslim “refugees.” The magnet is free stuff, welfare. There are no jobs for the invaders, so they immediately go on public assistance; another assault on the taxpayer. Even before the current crisis, Europe needed to ratchet back its social welfare programs. But now they’ve just added a million more hungry mouths to feed. Europe must reinvent itself yet again.
I’m rather sentimental about old “New Wave” films from the 1960s. They show a happy Europe, a Europe that seems to be slipping away. Recently, I screened Agnès Varda’s delightful Cleo from 5 to 7, and it’s instructive about recent French history. Cleo takes a taxi through Paris and the driver turns on the radio just in time for the news. We hear references to President Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, singer Edith Piaf’s latest surgery, and this, (taken from the subtitles):
The farmers’ unrest has lasted two weeks. Today they broke through police barriers at Poitiers. Two thousand reached City Hall. There were 300 tractors.
Varda’s film was released in 1962, 54 years ago. So, only 17 years after the end of World War Two and French farmers were already creating a stink. But more to the point, the farmers’ uprising occurred in Poitiers. Poitiers is near the place where in 732 Charles Martel repelled an invading Muslim horde, saving France from being folded into a caliphate. One wonders what Monsieur Martel would think of those protesting farmers nearly thirteen centuries later, and what he would think of the continuing change coming over France. In “‘Islamization’ of Paris a Warning to the West” last September at CBN, Dale Hurd reported on this change:
Muslims are said to be no more than 10 percent of the French population, although no one knows for sure because French law prohibits population counts by religion.
But the Muslim birthrate is significantly higher than for the native French. Some Muslim men practice polygamy, with each extra wife having children and collecting a welfare check.
Does the French government allow native Frenchmen to practice polygamy? If not, then whatever happened to égalité? And does the U.K. permit native Englishmen to perform FGM (i.e. female genital mutilation) on their daughters? Those rhetorical questions point to the emergence in Europe of apartheid, dual systems for separate peoples. Hurd’s disturbing article seems to be a transcript of the accompanying video, which shows throngs of Muslims taking over French streets. (The video is also available here.)
Europe’s long history doesn’t seem to have taught present-day Europeans very much. One wonders how long native Europeans will continue to accept what is happening to them and their civilization. (On June 23, Britons have an opportunity to reverse course. Change is good, right?)
Lady Thatcher once observed that: “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” America was founded on ideas, not on brute power. America was founded on a new relationship between the state and the individual. This new type of government is America’s main contribution to the world; decent government is what America is all about. So, contrary to the elite American left, Europe needs to be more like America. But not only that, America needs to be more like America, the America envisioned by our Founders, the America in the rearview mirror.
Not long ago, some Americans looked across the pond and shook their heads at how sclerotic and inflexible “old Europe” was. But we were deluding ourselves, for we too had fallen for the seductions of Big Government. So what’s wrong with Europe is also what’s wrong with America.
The governments of the West have “corrupted” their citizens. Citizens of the West have become so silly and feeble that one questions whether they’re any longer truly capable of self-government. What’s wrong with the West is more than idiotic ideologies and feckless leaders, it’s a degraded people.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. • (589 views)