January 10, 2006   

The Great Inspiration

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” the officer Marcellus claims in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Well, that goes for all of Europe.
      People in Europe like to complain about the “horrors” of the American way of life. It is, so they say, so coldly individualistic (interpreted as the very opposite of what’s good), and it is a danger to the environment, public health, and so on. This view of America as “evil” is today an essential part of political life in Europe. Anti-Americanism is a common conviction among intellectuals and a vote-winning opinion for progressive politicians.
      But it goes further than simply detesting what’s American, it is hatred combined with the greed of the jealous.
      In 2004 a partly French election experts’ panel on CNN called for giving Europeans a right to vote in the American presidential election. The outcome of the American election would have great impact on Europe as well, they claimed, and therefore Europeans must have a right to influence.
      “We want more,” is the socialist credo.
      This anti-Americanism of Europe is probably based in the identity crisis caused when great history collides with mediocre contemporary life. Europe is in many respects the cradle of western culture, and Europeans would really like to think they are still as influential philosophically and politically as they were in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, during the colonization, and the Enlightenment. But they are not.
      In fact, Europe has been mercilessly left behind in every way possible for the last 100 years, especially financially. Recently, Europe has been better than America only at building mammoth welfare states and in regulating the market. While Europe is stopping the world still seems to be progressing, and that surely has to be frustrating!
      Even though the United States is closing the gap when it comes to welfare state engineering too, the comparative wealth of Americans is something Europeans would like to both destroy and have for themselves. As Europe progressed down the road of socialism, its comparative wealth rapidly dropped off. Or rather, the relative poverty of less free regions decreased.
      As we know, socialist policies lead first to stagnation, then decline, followed by depression and poverty.
      But America is rapidly closing in on Europe. The United States federal government used to adopt European policies well after their bad effects on society and the economy were clear, but not anymore. It is only a couple of years ago that state officials in Sweden hurried out to forcefully put a local farmer’s cows to death only because “they did not have the mandatory European Union ear marking.” Well, it seems America is truly catching up.
      It seems Europe is once again the great inspiration it used to be. But this time it is nothing to be proud of.

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