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Ed Driscoll

Meanwhile, Back in Old Europe

January 15th, 2013 - 1:28 pm

Since the goal of “Progressivism” is to transform America into Europe (and the end zone is very much in sight), how are things doing there? Let’s take a whirlwind tour of the Crazy Continent!

At CNN-Money of all places, “The euro crisis no one is talking about: France is in free fall – The euro zone’s second-largest economy is suffering more than any other member from a shocking deterioration in competitiveness. And it’s doing nothing to stop it.” Unexpectedly:

France’s vaunted role in the creation and initial success of the euro enhances its aura of solidity. It was President Francois Mitterrand who in 1989 persuaded Chancellor Helmut Kohl to back monetary union in exchange for France’s support for German reunification. In fact, France and Germany, along with the Netherlands, dramatized their commitment by effectively uniting the franc and deutschemark in a currency union that held their exchange rates in a narrow band, and heralded the euro’s birth in 1999. In the boom years of the mid-2000s, France virtually matched Germany as the twin growth engine of the thriving, 17-nation eurozone.

A deeper look shows that France is mired in no less than an economic crisis. The eurozone’s second-largest economy (2012 GDP: 2 trillion euros) is suffering more than any other member from a shocking deterioration in competitiveness. Put simply, France’s products — its cars, steel, clothing, electronics — cost far too much to produce compared with competing goods both from Asia and its European neighbors, including not just Germany but even Spain and Italy. That’s causing a sharp and accelerating fall in its exports, and a significant decline in manufacturing and the services that support it.

The virtual implosion of French industry is overlooked by analysts and pundits who claim that the eurozone had dodged disaster and entered a new, durable period of stability. In fact, it’s France — not Greece or Spain — that now poses the greatest threat to the euro’s survival. France epitomizes the real problem with the single currency: The inability of nations with high and rising production costs to adjust their currencies so that their products remain competitive in world markets.

Naturally, as Theodore Dalrymple notes, the French MSM are none-too-fond of those who wish to protect their wealth from a socialist government that’s nearly as rapacious as its socialist journalists:

An interesting article in the left-wing newspaper, Libération, by Marcela Iacub, took another line: Depardieu is not so much to be hated, excoriated or despised, as pitied.

The argument in the article is as follows. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself; beyond a certain level, long ago reached by Depardieu, more brings no greater happiness. He would not, after all, be twice as happy in a Parisian house worth $132 million as in one worth only $66 million.

Most immense fortunes are obtained not as a reward for scientific or artistic talent, as Depardieu naively supposes when he rails against the talent-suppressing effect of high taxation, but either by inheritance or as a consequence of a special talent for accumulating money. The latter talent is not in itself admirable; and most of those possessed of a more admirable talent are not motivated principally by the desire to make a fortune. Depardieu is quite wrong, therefore, so closely to identify his wealth with his talent.

By removing himself to a different tax jurisdiction Depardieu, it is true, might continue to enjoy a few extra millions for the rest of his life; but, asks the author, ‘when one considers that he is 64 years old, his physical condition [he is monstrously fat], and the scant care he takes of his health, will there be enough time be left to him to enjoy his few millions saved?’

In short, by refusing to pay his taxes, Depardieu shows that he is running after false gods and does not know or understand his own best interests. He is therefore a man to be pitied, as are all those who waste their lives chasing false gods; he is the victim of his own folly. The author says that the French Prime Minister, M. Ayrault, was mistaken when he publicly contrasted Depardieu’s egoism with what he called ‘fiscal patriotism.’ He should instead have said to Depardieu, ‘Your are stupid, you are mad, you are suicidal.’ This is because, by refusing to accept redistributive taxation at a very high level, Depardieu ‘risks losing things that are above price, such as the love, esteem and admiration of his fellow-countrymen.’

Compassion for Depardieu, however, is but the velvet glove that hides the iron fist. The author says ‘The accumulation of money [by those who cannot have further need of any] is a sort of madness, and a kind of injustice towards those who do not have enough even to meet the most basic needs of existence.’ She also says ‘A rational and just society must prevent the accumulation of capital by individuals above a certain level.’

This is very sinister. I think many of us might agree that accumulation of money for its own sake, or indeed accumulation of anything else, is often a sign of folly (though personally I am grateful to our ancestors that some of them indulged in this kind of folly). But by use of the term ‘injustice’ the author implies that wealth must be a form of spoliation – else how could the accumulation of money be, ipso facto, injustice? This zero-sum view of the economy – a kind of anti-Semitism without the Jews – has caused untold harm, misery and murder in the world.

But if France is being destroying itself, Germany can take up the slack, right? Or not: “Germany’s Economy Weakens Markedly,” the Wall Street Journal reports:

Germany’s economy shrank at the end of 2012, an official report showed, as weaker global demand and recessions throughout Southern Europe triggered a slide in business investment.

The downturn should be short-lived, analysts said. Key export markets such as the U.S. and China are starting to pick up, while improved sentiment surrounding Europe’s three-year-old debt crisis is expected to spur a recovery in the euro zone this year.

Still, Tuesday’s report suggests Europe’s largest economy isn’t serving as an economic locomotive for the 17-member euro bloc, as many economists had hoped. Germany relied heavily on exports last year for growth. Consumer spending, which supports imports from other European countries, remains weak.

As Andrew Breitbart liked to note, politics is downstream of culture — and I think you could say that about economics as well. So how are things in England?

Not good: “‘Savile spent every waking minute thinking about abuse’: Official report reveals full scale of DJ’s six decades of sex attacks across the whole of Britain,” the London Daily Mail reports. And just as a reminder that while Savile is virtually unknown to Americans, this story has a potential impact here as well: “NY Times CEO Mark Thomspon: The Joe Paterno of BBC Child Abuse Scandal,” Larry O’Connor adds at Big Journalism.

Elsewhere in the world of British media, “Paper pulls Julie Burchill column about transsexual bullies — after transsexual bullies complain,” but Kathy Shaidle archived a large portion of the column. (Update: More on this topic from Stacy McCain.)

And the UK’s multicultural experiment continues to proceed apace, albeit with plenty of “unexpectedly” bad results, Mark Steyn writes in his National Review column:

In Wales as in much of the Western world, we are in the midst of an unprecedented sociocultural experiment. Its precise end point cannot be known, but on the Continent its contours are beginning to emerge: In Amsterdam, formerly “the most tolerant city in Europe,” gay-bashing is now routine; “youths” busted into a fashion show, pulled a gay model from the catwalk, and beat him to a pulp. Claire Berlinski reported for National Reviewtwo years ago that in the French suburb of La Courneuve 77 percent of veiled women say they cover themselves to “avoid the wrath of Islamic morality patrols.” In Potsdam, the Abraham Geiger Theological College advises its rabbis not to venture on the streets wearing identifying marks of their faith. In synagogues from Copenhagen to Berlin to Rome, Jews are warned to hide their yarmulkes under hats or baseball caps at the end of the service. In Paris, a man wearing no identifiably religious clothing was beaten unconscious on the Métro for being caught reading a book by France’s chief rabbi. The message is consistent, from Jews to gays to women: In the new Europe, you don’t want to be seen as the other. Keep your head down, or covered.

For a decade, I’ve been told by those who think I’m “alarmist” that there’s nothing to see here. The seven-year-old whose non-appearance at the teddy bears’ picnic goes unremarked . . . the beleaguered National Health Service reeling under the costs of genetic disorders from cousin marriage but now providing free and discreet “hymen reconstruction” for Muslim daughters who got a little over-Westernized one night . . . the infidel women going veiled to avoid trouble in les banlieues . . . the rabbis wearing baseball caps on the streets of Berlin and Brussels . . .

One reason that there’s “nothing to see” is the ever greater lengths we go to to cover it, and ourselves, up. The veil descends, on all of us.

And finally for news of fresh-disaster in a handy bite-sized format, “20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know,” at the Zero Hedge econoblog:

It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe. The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now. Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic. But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt. The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.

Things that can’t go on forever won’t, to coin a phrase.

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