Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why We Must Not Let America Become France

In a piece titled "The Europe Syndrome and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism" (The American, March 16, 2009), Charles Murray gives chapter and verse supporting the "socialism is a soul killing threat to humanity" meme that David and I have been promoting here every chance we get. (See below). Of course, being Charles Murray the eminent social scientist, he goes much further than that commonplace observation and extrapolates it into the call for a new Great Awakening; not a spiritual awakening (though he would not be against such a thing), so much as a cultural and political awakening. It is a call for Americans to realize what we have, and why we have it.

The advent of the Obama administration brings this question before the nation: Do we want the United States to be like Europe? President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe’s social democrats. There’s nothing sinister about that. They share an intellectually respectable view that Europe’s regulatory and social welfare systems are more progressive than America’s and advocate reforms that would make the American system more like the European system.

Not only are social democrats intellectually respectable, the European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted when I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. When I get there, the people don’t seem to be groaning under the yoke of an evil system. Quite the contrary. There’s a lot to like—a lot to love—about day-to-day life in Europe.

But the European model can’t continue to work much longer. Europe’s catastrophically low birth rates and soaring immigration from cultures with alien values will see to that.

So let me rephrase the question. If we could avoid Europe’s demographic problems, do we want the United States to be like Europe?

I argue for the answer “no,” but not for economic reasons. The European model has indeed created sclerotic economies and it would be a bad idea to imitate them. But I want to focus on another problem.

My argument is drawn from Federalist Paper No. 62, probably written by James Madison: “A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” Note the word: happiness. Not prosperity. Not security. Not equality. Happiness, which the Founders used in its Aristotelian sense of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.

I have two points to make. First, I will argue that the European model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish—it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness. Second, I will argue that 21st-century science will prove me right.

The rest is must reading for all of you here at this blog. You can finish it here.

Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This essay is adapted from The 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 2009. The American is a magazine of ideas published by the American Enterprise Institute.

No comments: