Northern Light

It's the welfare state, stupid

Remember Mark Steyn’s apocalyptic vision of Europe?

In America Alone the funny and witty Canadian predicted the end of Europe.

Why?

Because Europeans are having too few babies. Demography is destiny, Steyn said. And once Europeans aren’t willing or able to reproduce themselves, they will slowly but surely dissappear. The number of elderly people in need of care will grow and grow, and at some point no one will be left to pay the bills. The only way out is immigration to fill an empty labor market, and this opens the door for Muslims from the third world, which will lead to the islamization of Europe.

Those are the happy choices of Europe.

The first will kill the body of Europe; the second will kill its soul.

Sounds convincing and logical. Maybe, but not to conservative philosopher and writer Roger Scuton. He happens to disagree, though he concedes that those profetic thoughts are not entirely without foundation.

In the latest issue of the American Spectator Sruton welcomes the declining birth rates of Europe. He calls on the Europeans to skip the welfare state and to stay in the labor market beyond retirement age.

”Declining birth rates is no bad thing. There are too many people in Europe: far too many. And they consume too much of everything.: too much food, too much water, too much fuel, too much land.”

He continues:

”No one aware of what Europe has meant, as a way of life and a cultural icon, can roam the highways and byways of the continent as it is today without wanting to shout ”stop!”. And the best way to stop is to stop reproducing. The Europeans have therefore hit on the solution to their self-inflicted problem. Somewhere deep down in the conscience collective, they have formed the policy to have fewer children, to retreat to a level of population that might just be sustainable with destroying what remains from the century of civil war. Well done, Europe! There is hope for your future!”

To Scruton the problem is not declining birth rates but the welfare state. More than half of the economy is managed by the state, and more than half of those in employment are employed by the state.

”The state achieved its dominance by ever more fantastic promises – promises that cannot be honored, but the dishonoring of which can be postponed by mortgaging the country’s future. The state promised early retirement for all its employees and a secure pension thereafter; it promised free health care forever, and free education at every level… It promised every kind of security to those in employment, and promised to make the employer bear the cost.”

The consequence?

”When the state compels you to offer security of tenure to your employees, to bear the full cost of their absences, and to make a full contribution to their health-care needs and their pensions, it is sending a very direct message to employers: Don’t employ young people. That is why there is widespread unemployment among young people in Europe.”

So:

”The welfare state has made older people redundant before their time, and younger people unemployable. That is the real cause of the ”demographic crisis”, which is not a demographic crisis at all, but the immediate and inevitable effect of socialist ways of thinking.”

”My right to pension for life”, ”my right to employment”, ”my right to welfare”, ”my right to this, that or the other that the state, in its madness, has promised me” – all these rights will one day have to be exposed for what they are: not rights at all, but gifts, promised in vain by the bankrupt…Here and there the message is beginning to be heard, that an aging population is no bad thing, if it is also a working population, that to retire in the prime of life, with skills painfully acquired and everywhere needed, is to mistreat not only society but also oneself.”

Scruton concludes:

”it is quite possible that the collective will move against the welfare state with the same determination as it has moved against reproduction. Maybe Europe is being drawn by its own instinct for survival towards a smaller population, more disposed to give to society than to receive from the state. One sign of this is the rapid growth of in self-employment.”