SPEAKING OF EUROPE – AT 10:09 A.M. ET: Since we're piling on the elites of Europe this morning – see story just below – let's continue. It is so much fun, and they deserve every bit of it.
David Ignatius, in the Washington Post, argues that what Europe needs is a tea party:
At the risk of taking contrarianism to extremes, let me offer this suggestion: The global economy needs a "Tea Party" movement in Europe to lobby for fiscal conservatism there...
...these conservative populists do perform the useful function of focusing American political attention on the need for fiscal responsibility. They make a good point, for example, in arguing that we shouldn't add a major new entitlement program for health care until we've figured out how to pay for the entitlement programs we've already got.
But the Europeans have no such movement:
Europe, by contrast, lacks this sort of potent conservative movement to constrain government spending...
...Europe is in many respects an economic never-never land. It has a central bank to run a coordinated monetary policy, and a single currency, but it has several dozen finance ministries pursuing separate fiscal policies, many of which can be summed up as: spend, spend, spend. In fiscal terms, "Europe" is often a riderless horse.
Europe was spoiled by decades of not having to pay much for its own defense. The United States defended Europe, and the European left replied to our generosity by calling us militarists.
The success of fiscal conservatives in recent political races in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts means that U.S. politicians must pay closer attention to debt and deficit issues to survive. President Obama seems to recognize the potency of this issue among mainstream voters, with his pledge for a commission to tackle the long-run problem of entitlement spending.
But I see no similar political pressure in Europe. European leaders, for the most part, are still trying desperately to avoid the political day of reckoning. Few Europeans, political or conservative, seem willing to give up their share of the entitlements package that is part of the modern social-democratic compact.
COMMENT: It's unlikely Europe will ever learn, and it may not have to. Europe is not future-oriented. The birth rate in some European countries, like the Netherlands, is so low that those countries may just fade away, or effectively be taken over by militant Muslim minorities.
The welfare state is a permanent sleeping pill. Most Americans seem to sense that. Europeans don't want to face it.
February 11, 2010