As readers here know, the American Freedom Alliance and Council for Democracy and Tolerance will be sponsoring a conference at Pepperdine University next weekend dedicated to exploring the crisis in Europe and its ramifications for the United States. I’ve been invited to join the panelists. My book Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis is America’s, Too was published in early 2006. Pajamas Media editor Roger Simon called me Monday morning to ask if I’d comment, ahead of the conference, on the way the landscape has changed since the book’s publication.
The landscape in Europe has changed very little. New politicians with interesting ideas have come to power in Germany and France, and I am glad of this, but the long-term economic, demographic and cultural trends have not changed and will not be easy to change.
Americans’ view of the landscape, however, has changed considerably. I began working on Menace in Europe in March 2004, immediately after the bombing of the Atocha train station in Madrid. At the time, the suggestion that Europe might be on the verge of collapse was an extraordinary idea; offering it in public marked me as an extremist and something of a spoilsport. Since then, the arguments I made have been made widely, and well, by a great number of economists, demographers, historians and journalists; there are now many excellent books in print that argue, more or less, what I did. A consensus has begun to emerge. The problems I described-Europe’s collapse of confidence, the unsustainable character of its welfare economies, its population decline, the rise of militant Islam, and the flourishing in Europe of a host of bizarre anti-Enlightenment ideologies-are now widely appreciated.
Whether or not they are appreciated, there is still no consensus at all about what do about them. A commenter here described the upcoming conference as a “gathering of the usual suspects.” Indeed, it is, and the fact that there are now enough suspects to gather is in my view good and significant news. The same commenter wrote that “this is probably another group that will be preaching to the converted.” In the sense that the panelists all believe that there is a problem, yes. But I expect there to be considerable difference of opinion about the nature of that problem, its origins, its consequences, and the appropriate US policy response. The panelists include, for example, prominent atheists (who are prominent for being atheists), conservative Christians, exponents of the notion that “moderate Islam is the solution,” advocates of the position that “there is no such thing as moderate Islam,” traditionalists who have argued that secular feminists are killing Europe, and secular feminists who have argued that traditionalists are killing Europe. So yes, we’re all converted, but we are converted-very literally-to different religions.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, we can come up with together.