Report from Europe: For those who can afford to ignore reality, life is good

Sol W. Sanders  

ZURICH – Europeans seem determined to ignore the depth of an approaching economic and political crisis which will end its longest period of prosperity and peace in history and threatens the very foundations of post-World War II democratic progression.

In the fleshpots of Vienna and Zurich I have just visited, for example, even seemingly well-informed journalists and academics are determined to reject the obvious: the European economy is grinding down, with the growing double digit unemployment of youth and the unfunded deficits of southern Europe only the first signs of what is to come. It’s worth recalling that it was just that sort of phenomena which nurtured authoritarian and totalitarian governments in the 1920s and 30s and the onset of World War II.

François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler in May 2012. /Stephane Mahe/Reuters
François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler in May 2012. /Stephane Mahe/Reuters

But for those who can afford it, the exaggerated vulgarity of conspicuous consumption continues, whether a shop in Zurich’s fashionable Bellevue selling outrageous young men’s shirt designs or deliberately worn denims or an equally outrageously overpriced American-style steakhouse with frozen meat, lumpy purée des pommes de terre [mashed potatoes to you] and over-salted lobster bisque.

Germany, touted so often as the exception to the general rule of European decline, is after all an export-led economy depending on the rest of the European Economy [65 percent] and markets in the U.S. and Asia for its current prosperity albeit with a rapidly declining native population and workforce. Already private economic observers are deducting percentage points to official Brussels’ European Community predictions of a shrinking Continental economy in the months ahead.

The U.K., whose “special relationship” with the U.S. has been given the back of his hand by Obama, sees its credit rating just clipped a notch and is headed into a new recession.

Willful blindness on the state of the economy is matched by political obscurantism and official corruption characterizing the conventional European attitude.

A typical example of European political fantasy is their pouring tens of millions of dollars into the grasping hands of Palestinian and other Arab politicians – including terrorists – while denouncing Israel for its attempt to maintain its security in a totally hostile region. Apparently this is some weird psychoneurotic distortion of often unacknowledged guilt for murdering more than six million of its own remarkable Jewish cultural contributors while still refusing a half century later to return their stolen art along with the Swiss only partially refunding their profit from gold literally stolen from victim’s mouths in the death camps.

The Europeans are trying to ignore/remedy their own demographic disaster by willy-nilly admitting emigrant populations, unfortunately increasingly laced with Islamic radicals. This has resulted in anomalies such as Scandinavian cities with “no go” zones where police and firemen dare not enter. The sanctimonious advocacy of a twisted Palestinian cause is accompanied with growing manifestations of traditional European anti-Semitism even though Hitler’s Nazis with the assistance of other European fascists had already presumably “solved” that problem.

But the problem has deep intellectual roots as well. A largely post-Christian European elite finds it difficult to deal with inherent and traditional Islamic aggression, as witness its stumbling apologies when Pope Benedict XVI tried to introduce elements of an earlier theological discussion between Catholic and Islamic theologians on basic differences between the Abrahamic faiths – differences too often obscured in the current false “tolerance” toward Muslim attempts to erode democratic discussion essential to Western democracy.

The latest revelation of an extensive Islamist terrorist plot in the U.K., involving a new generation of Al Qaida offspring dedicated to massive and cruel nihilistic attacks on the civilian infrastructure are only the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere Europe faces the dilemma of a declining overall population – and labor force – and the growing unassimilated Muslim and black African immigrant populations.

In another era, Europe would have looked to the U.S. for leadership in facing the oncoming disaster.

[There was one hint of this by one of three Italian candidates for leadership in the current election campaign by advocating “American solutions” to its growing economic problems] But it now temporarily enjoys the luxury of taking a superior attitude toward American paralysis – publicly as it only dared to do privately in the past. This view coincides with President Barack Hussein Obama’s popularity, almost movie star-like dimensions here.

In fact, the European intellectuals luxuriate in the first respite they have had from American tutelage since World War II with a Washington administration dedicated to renunciation if not denunciation of its leadership of the most successful alliance in history.

American official diffidence if not neo isolationism and failure to put its own economic house in order is matched by the poorest leadership Europe has produced in several generations.

France’s François Hollande continues to pursue so-called socialist goals – with a 35-hour work week and hostility to his own capital much less foreign businessmen destroying the investment climate, expanding benefits the state can no longer Abroad, Hollande attempts to carry on Paris’ long-broken African policy – only with last minute American military support – to maintain “la mission civiliatrice francaise”. The effort becomes critical in stemming a growing radical Muslim infection in francophone West and North Africa with its tentacles in France’ own Arab suburban ghettos.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is not the new Macmillan his Tory supporters [and this writer] hoped for but a dithering leader, unable to capitalize on what now turns out to have been the right decision to stay out of the common European currency. But hanging on to The City’s profitable role as the historic capital of international finance in a digitized world is becoming more and more difficult with competition from Frankfurt and New York, but even new mini-financial centers in the Mideast and Asia.

If Germany’s Angela Merkel towers over her counterparts, it is largely a case of a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. She stubbornly maintains the contradiction of advocating further economic – and hence unpopular but inevitable political – integration but drags her heels on Germany’s role as a surplus partner committed to baling out the less fortunate members of the European Community. [All the self-nominated Keynesians forget The Master said surplus countries bore as much of the responsibility as deficit counties in problems of international currency and trade imbalances.]

Europeans are waking up to their latest economic illusion, that growth in China and India would somehow save the world economy and their own privileged place in it.

Beijing is increasingly wrestling with its own seemingly insoluble problem: continuing a rapid development based on open and growing foreign markets with a transfer of technology and capital from the U.S., Japan, Taiwan and the West, and potential inflation resulting from unlimited internal credit for spectacular but unrealistic over expansion of infrastructure.

India, after a remarkable period of growth when enlightened temporary leadership pushed for liberalization of the economy, is now dropping back into the morasses of paper [those omnipresent chits] inherited from British colonial rule and three decades of Soviet-style planning resulting in “the Hindu rate of growth” [stagnation]. Its growing population [1.8 percent annually] – soon to make it the largest in the world – means it is uniquely the only major world power growing younger rather than aging rapidly. But whether it can exploit that advantage is increasingly dubious and in fact whether its cities will not be drowned in poverty-stricken massive rural migration.

Yet Europe remains, fashionable theories about the growing importance of Asia and the “developing world” notwithstanding, along with the U.S. the technological powerhouse for world development. But unlike the U.S. where powerful entrepreneurial forces and a federal system are defeating Obama’s low growth agenda and lead from behind, neo isolationism — the shale gas-oil explosion a good example – a crisis is approaching which will test old European values as well as the top-down Brussels bureaucracy of the new EC institutions.

Meanwhile, European intellectuals in their traditional betrayal of society blithely ignore reality.

Sol W. Sanders, (, is a contributing editor for and and blogs at

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