Is Old Europe Doomed?

…when it get’s ugly enough, Old Europe will adapt.

I waited to post on Theodore Dalrymple’s essay until all three reaction essays by Timothy B. Smith, Charles Kupchan, and Anne Applebaum were posted. The join of the four essays presents a useful discussion of what ails “Old Europe” and, to a more limited degree, how the patient might be cured.

Dr. Dalrymple’s essay is more a polemic than an analysis – of the replies, I suggest you read Charles Kupchan’s essay first as he identifies most of Dalrymple’s weak points. And Kupchan appends a critical issue to the list of success-inhibitors: Europe’s looming demographic crisis. I agree that immigration is essential

Simply put, the EU needs immigrants to replenish its shrinking work force and keep its pensions solvent. With fertility rates in Central and Eastern Europe also lagging, many of these immigrants will of necessity come from Turkey and Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East—where a youth bulge coupled with high unemployment will provide an abundance of willing workers for decades to come.

but it isn’t clear that Turkey and N. Africa are the only, or desirable, sources of immigration. Consider the variety of immigrants that have supplied the U.S. with vitality and entrepreneurship. Europe should actively recruit immigration from East Europe (first), then Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent and China.

Next, Timothy B. Smith’s essay is useful for fleshing out some of Dr. Dalrymple’s inventory of challenges. E.g.,

In one regard, Dr. Dalrymple’s cogent analysis of Europe’s malaise does not give credit where credit is due: Europe’s powerful intellectuals are united in their opposition to change, in their demonization of globalization, and in their reflex-like defense of all things “social.” They bear a heavy share of responsibility for Old Europe’s current malaise. As Dalrymple observes, three times as many people in France have warm feelings towards socialism as towards capitalism. France, Germany and Italy are indeed in denial regarding the source of their current wealth. Here are three of the world’s top ten economies, whose current comforts rest upon centuries of capitalist wealth accumulation, yet the majority of the population in each nation is anti-capitalist. We can thank the European intellectual class for this. . .

Read Anne Applebaum last, for her essay offers three positive suggestions that would contribute to a brighter future – particularly for Italy, Germany and France.

To all of the above I would add one further concern: that the rate of change of competitiveness compelled by globalization is increasing (rapidly, I think). While Old Europe’s demographic problems will be an also-growing negative drag on their relative competitiveness. The combined effect is likely to bring forward the arrival time of real economic crisis. By then, and hopefully sooner, the EU publics will be much more eager for the difficult changes necessary to recover Europe’s earlier dynamism.

Dr. Dalrymple’s closing words are “the future is, ultimately, unknowable“, reflecting SeekerBlog’s epigraph. We should all keep that in mind when we get depressed about Old Europe’s prospects. Marx made the pivotal mistake of assuming that capitalist societies would not evolve. Let’s not make the same mistake here – when it get’s ugly enough, Old Europe will adapt.