Europeans today prefer leisure to performance, security to risk-taking, paternalism to free markets, collectivism and group entitlements to individualism………….Economic freedom has a very low priority here.—Vaclav Klaus, President, Czech Republic
In this excerpt from a speech delivered last June in Berlin, President Klaus has pretty succinctly summed up the most critical of many problems facing not only the European Union, but the notion of Europe itself. In other words, it’s about a lot more than “can the Euro survive?” or “will the EU dissolve?”; it’s about who and what have the Europeans become as a people and what they want for their future as the bearer of the legacy of Western Civilization as we know it. This crisis is manifest as an economic crisis, but it is much deeper than that, as any rational observer can clearly see and as any number of thoughtful people have written and spoken about over the past couple of decades. So where to start?
For openers, acknowledge that the welfare state and all of its philosophical underpinnings have failed miserably, should have long since been totally discredited, and that the rollback must begin immediately. This is a reason why I believe that the briefly proposed national referendum on the bailout plan in Greece would have been very instructive, for the Greeks, the Europeans, and the world. It would have been a good barometer on the degree to which the Greeks, as a people and as a rough proxy for Europe, are in touch with reality and are willing to get serious.
Second, as the Wall Street Journal has so well noted on several occasions, the only way to salvage the Euro is to return to its founding principles which, in a few words, were to move back to a more disciplined world before the destruction of Bretton Woods in 1971 created a fiat currency world. This was a good move, but the rules were never enforced, so what survived was the notion that a sovereign nation should not be allowed to default, a moral hazard that shields profligate regimes from their incompetency.
Third, maybe most important and really in parallel with the first two steps, the opinion leaders of Europe should return to Pope Benedict XVI’s September 2006 lecture at Regensburg, read it and understand it as it touches on the limitations of the human will and a most timely critique of the abandonment in the West of the interdependency of faith and reason that had provided sustenance to the development of Western Civilization over the centuries. For it is in the restoration of this interdependence that Europeans will begin to find answers to the question of what future they want for their children.