Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, February 07, 2005


What is Timothy Garten Ash getting at when he writes

The Chinese and Indians present in Davos watched with sharp, ironic eyes as the Europeans and Americans irritably indulged what Sigmund Freud memorably called "the narcissism of minor differences". Astutely, they said nothing but observed all, quietly conscious of their growing economic power. If the west goes on playing Hamlet, then Asia, like Fortinbras, will inherit the kingdom.

Is Ash arguing that the West had better stick together or world power will pass to Asia?

I'm sure Ash didn't mean it this way, but that sounds like a racist project, a call for white man's solidarity against the yellow man. If so, it's not surprising that such a call would come from a European. Americans are well-trained to avoid racism, and our society is a multi-ethnic one, to a considerable degree happily multi-ethnic. Racism is more prevalent and nearer to the surface in Europe.

If Ash is (consciously or subconsciously) making such an appeal, who is he trying to convince-- Europeans or Americans? Is he trying to convince Europeans to adopt a more pro-American course? Or is he trying to convince Americans that we had better work more closely with Europeans, to avert the rise of Asia? Either way, Ash's appeal won't appeal to either side. If you ask the European left who should run the world, I'm sure their answer would be "Anybody But America." Likewise, my preferences for who should have world power are: Anybody But Europe. In particular, if I had to choose between sharing world power with France and Germany or with China and India, I'd pick China and India any day.

To my mind, the "differences" between Europe and America are not "minor." In America, religion is strong and thriving; Europe is an atheist society where religion is moribund. In this respect, America is more similar to the rest of the world than to Europe.

Again, America's economy is fairly dynamic, with 4.4% growth last year. Europe embraces economic stagnation for the sake of social safety nets. In this respect, too, America is more like fast-growing China, India, East Asia and Iraq than like Europe.

America's birthrate has been rising in recent years, and we are now approaching replacement rate. Europe's population is falling through the floor.

Freedom and democracy, moreover, may be in decline in Europe. This is hard to read. Economic growth can be measured in readily accessible (though imperfect) statistics, but freedom is harder to measure. Democratic deficit as a result of the European unification project, however, is a well-recognized phenomenon. The EU bureaucracy tends to acquire powers from national governments with tenuous public support at best. Europeans have formed a habit of holding repeat referendums, whereby a pro-EU result is considered permanent, but an anti-EU result is considered anomalous and temporary. Of course, the EU apparatus itself has been democratized to some extent; but the initial results of this process are not encouraging. Recently, the traditional Catholic philosopher-politician Rocco Buttiglione was pushed to withdraw from a bid to EU office as Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice for holding Catholic views about homosexuality being a sin (this is old news, of course). If the precedent holds, it means that people of traditional religious views cannot hold high public office in the EU, which will become increasingly problematic as demographic trends render Europe increasingly Islamic in the next generation or two. Buttiglione's humiliation is a symptom of a velvet inquisition of political correctness which is spreading over Europe. Mark Steyn nails it in his reaction to the "scandal" of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi costume to a party:

German politicians, meanwhile, launched their own rhetorical blitzkrieg, arguing that his choice of fancy dress demonstrated the need for a continent-wide ban on Nazi insignia.

"In a Europe grounded in peace and freedom there should be no place for Nazi symbols," declared Markus Soeder, general secretary of the Christian Socialist Union party. "They should be banned throughout Europe, as they are with good reason in Germany..."

Alas, tyranny doesn't always come with a self-evidently hilarious dress code. And the soft, supple, creeping totalitarian inclinations of our present-day rulers are sometimes harder to resist. If I had to pick the single most revolting remark from this bogus Reichsfuror, it would be this: "I think it might be appropriate for him to tell us himself just how contrite he now is."

That's Michael Howard, the leader of the supposed Conservative Party. What's conservative about demanding people submit to public self-abasement? Wasn't it the Commies who used to insist you recant on TV and then disappear into re-education camp?

By contrast, freedom of speech and expression is taken for granted in America. I suspect that the assumption of a common liberal-democratic paradigm is now more of an obstacle than an aid for an American trying to understand the European polity.

If Ash is (as I suspect) trying to convince Americans, that reveals something about the Euro-elite's idea of Americans. Surely those red-state rednecks are a bit racist, right? They prefer American hegemony to power-sharing with Europe, but surely China and India scare them more? It's hard for Europeans to understand that Americans, for all their politically incorrect religiosity and patriotism and capitalism, are less racist-- and it's precisely because religion and patriotism give them a sense of identity that does not depend on race, while capitalism is not only beneficently color-blind but also gives immigrants and minorities a chance to prove their worth and earn our respect in the free market.

Meanwhile, one of the countries that Ash suspects will play "Fortinbras" welcomed Bush's re-election. Goodbye, France/Germany. Hello, India.


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