Economic crisis: Drop the European way of life

Fuelling economic catastrophe? "Closed for holidays" sign, Italy. (Flickr.com/hugovk)
Fuelling economic catastrophe? "Closed for holidays" sign, Italy. (Flickr.com/hugovk)
25 February 2010 – Rzeczpospolita (Warsaw)

The belief that we can recover from the economic crisis without compromising our "European Way of Life" is quite simply a pipe dream argues, Polish columnist Marek Magierowski.

Four million forty-eight thousand four hundred and ninety-three people (4,048,493): that was the number of registered unemployed in Spain at the beginning of February. The newspaper El Mundo published a feature on their daily life. Teresa Barbero, a former switchboard operator, wants to emigrate to Switzerland or Germany. "It's been 18 months since I had a job, and my boyfriend is out of work too. We have a very expensive mortgage. It's extremely hard to cope even though we have a very modest lifestyle," explains the 32-year-old native of Madrid.

A similar situation prevails in the other countries of Western Europe, especially those worst hit by the crisis like Greece, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Remedies employed by governments are systematically similar too — more state involvement in the economy, higher taxes, and the relentless iteration of a mantra to designate the "real" instigators of the crisis: greedy bankers and speculators. And be warned, any state that dares to question the entitlements of this or that social group can expect to assume the consequences of a mini-civil war, with pitched battles between stone throwing strikers and water canon wielding police.

Will Europe compete with China?

Europe is now enmired in deadlock. For years, politicians have won elections with promises of more employment, decent pay, affordable housing, longer holidays, and a happy and risk-free life for one and all. In one of his first public speeches, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy declared that the Union must be careful to preserve what he calls our "European Way of Life," as though he was unaware that such a policy will inevitably result in economic catastrophe.

The maintenance of our "European Way of Life" also implies a real tax rate of 50% on incomes, a 35-hour week, and deficits that exceed GDP. If we rally to defend these entitlements, we will also be protecting laziness and a contempt for capitalism. Worse still, we will be furthering a belief in an omnipotent state that is always there to help out in difficult times. With policies like this, can Europe really expect to be able to compete with China? Please pull the other one.

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