Mark Steyn writes that “there aren’t many examples of successful post-religious societies“:
And, if one casts around the world today, one notices the two powers with the worst prospects are the ones most advanced in their post-religiosity. Russia will never recover from seven decades of Communism: its sickly menfolk have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis; its population shrinks by 100 every hour, and by 0.4 per cent every year, a rate certain to escalate as the smarter folks figure it’s better to emigrate than get sucked down in the demographic death spiral.
And then, of course, there’s the European Union. These last couple of weeks, Tony Blair has been giving off an even stronger whiff than usual of a man trembling on the brink of his rendezvous with destiny: why, he’s now the EU’s self-proclaimed reformer, the man who’ll save the continent from a dreary obsolescent cadre of rigid Euro-apparatchiks. “We have to renew,” he says. “And we can. But only if we remarry the European ideals we believe in with the modern world we live in.”
But, reading the stirring Blairite blather alongside the gloomy news from Russia, it all begins to sound rather familiar. No doubt, in another week or two, the Prime Minister may even have invented some Euro-buzzwords to serve as equivalents to perestroika and glasnost. Mr Blair is attempting the same trick Gorbachev tried – “remarrying” (an odd choice of word) an inflexible ideology with reality. It’s unlikely to be any more successful with the EU than with the Soviet Union.
Every day you get ever more poignant glimpses of the Euro-future, such as it is. In East Germany, whose rural communities are dying, village sewer systems are having a tough time adjusting to the lack of use. Populations have fallen so dramatically that there are too few people flushing to keep the flow of waste moving. Traditionally, government infrastructure expenditure arises from increased demand. In this case, the sewer lines are having to be narrowed at great cost in order to cope with dramatically decreased demand.
There’s simply no precedent for managed decline in societies as advanced as Europe’s, but the early indications are that it’s going to be expensive: environmentally speaking, it’s a question of sustainable lack of growth. Listen to the European political class defend the status quo on the Common Agricultural Policy, and then tell yourself these are the folks you want tackling the real crises just around the corner.
For Britain and Ireland, two relatively dynamic provinces of a moribund continent, there are only two options: share the pain and expense and societal upheaval, or decide that you’re not that “European” after all and begin the process of detachment or at least semi-detachment. When the Continentals bemoan “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism, they have a point. Of the 20 economies with the biggest GDP per capita, no fewer than 11 are current or former realms of Her Britannic Majesty.
Admittedly, some of the wealthiest turf is the pinprick colonial tax havens – Bermuda, Guernsey, the Caymans. But, if you eliminate populations under 10 million, the GDP per capita Top Five are, in order, America, Canada, Australia, Belgium and the United Kingdom. And if you make it territories with over 20 million, the Top Four is an Anglosphere sweep. In other words, the ability to generate wealth among large populations does indeed seem to be an “Anglo-Saxon” thing. That being so, which is more likely? That Blair will transform a Europe antipathetic to Anglo-Saxon ways? Or that Europe will drag its Anglo-Saxons down with it?
A political entity hostile to the three principal building blocks of functioning societies – religion, family and wealth creation – was never a likely bet for the long term.