Tag: Europe

Europe, the Refugee Crisis, and Conservatives

 

web-refugee-crisis-5-epaI noticed yesterday on the Member Feed that Ricochet member F-18 was wondering why we hadn’t been discussing the refugee crisis on Ricochet. In fact, we have — quite a bit — but he’s right that some of the most interesting discussions have been coming up in the comment threads, and thus aren’t so easy to find.

I’m in Europe now, and was living in Turkey as the Syrian war began and the refugees began streaming across the border. So I thought I’d open this thread to anyone who wants to ask questions about what exactly happened and what’s happening now in Europe.

Before that, though, I thought I’d put up links to some of the posts I wrote here on Ricochet as the crisis began. It would take you a few hours to read them all and watch all of the video interviews, but if you have them to spare, you might find them useful: You can see from them how absolutely clear it was, even in 2011, that a disaster of this scale was inevitable.

Refugees and Statistics

 

Jewish refugeesThe death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

–Usually attributed, but probably erroneously, to Joseph Stalin

In the comments on a number of posts concerning the global refugee crisis, some Ricochet members have asked me questions about the refugees’ demographics. A rumor has been circulating that they’re mostly men, and that most are not legally refugees, but migrants. Let me do my best to explain some of what I know.

Member Post

 

The refugees are certainly a problem. Certainly everyone should do what they can to prevent death and starvation. A number of countries have refused to take in refugees because they are Muslim. It seems from my perspective here in the US that European media has tried to shame the countries that refuse refugees on the […]

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Member Post

 

It sounds like some off-duty Marines may have foiled an attempted mass shooting on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, subduing an armed man:   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/three-wounded-in-shooting-on-train-travelling-from-amsterdam-to-paris/article26053939/ Preview Open

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…from the Iran nuclear weapons deal. Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov said this yesterday, following the announcement of the deal: We all probably remember that in April 2009 in Prague President Obama said that if the Iran nuclear program issue is sorted out, then the task of creating the European segment of the missile defense […]

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Grecian Formula €1.55 Billion

 

An ATM in Athens.  The sign says "empty."While we’ve been debating the Supreme Court, there’s been a whole lot of noise going on in Europe over the snap referendum the Greeks have called on their loans from the IMF, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (hereinafter “the troika,” as they are commonly known in Greece and Cyprus — usually with an epithet as a modifier.)

Here’s a guide to what’s happening and what’s at stake, as well as a few thoughts on what we’ll see on Monday.

This is a very odd referendum. Normally, the troika and the Greek government — currently controlled by the left-wing Syriza party that swept to power 8 months ago on a pledge to not borrow more money and get out from under the troika’s economic stabilization plan — would agree to some compromise. Syriza’s leader, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, would go on television, announce the agreement, and ask the people to vote to support it. (Chances are the compromise would include his breaking a couple of promises, so he’d want the people’s blessing to do so.) But no, this referendum comes after Tsipras left negotiations and flew back to Athens without an agreement — and he is putting the troika’s deal on the table.  It is clear he would like the public to vote no.

Going Through The Motions

 

51tgilp1VzL._SY300_It doesn’t take much sympathy to feel for the long-term unemployed, especially those who held down jobs for decades before discovering that — due to changes in the market, financial collapse, or injury — neither they nor their skills have useful employment. I’d even say that one needn’t be a raging leftist to at least consider whether the state should have some role in helping them transition into something new and remunerative, rather than let their skills and work habits atrophy to the point where they’re incapable of ever getting a new job.

It should come as little surprise that in Europe — where more than half of the unemployed haven’t had a job in over a year — consideration often turns into implementation. Sometimes, as this New York Times piece describes, that goes to some very, very weird places:

Sabine de Buyzer, working in the accounting department, leaned into her computer and scanned a row of numbers. Candelia [her employer] was doing well. Its revenue that week was outpacing expenses, even counting taxes and salaries. “We have to be profitable,” Ms. de Buyzer said. “Everyone’s working all out to make sure we succeed.”

A Trend or a Cycle?

 

51yX6x1E1JLWhenever I hear of the death of Christianity in Europe, I think “this ain’t the first time.” I base my reaction on Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, which belongs in that category of histories I am afraid to believe because they so perfectly confirm my prejudices.

If Cahill accurately depicts what happened at the onset of the Dark Ages — i.e., Christianity died on the Continent, but revived through the hard work of Irish missionaries — it offers encouragement to one side of the most interesting debate in sociology today: is the present decline of Christianity in Europe part of a trend or a cycle?

Call them the trendists vs. the cyclists. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry offers support to the cyclists by suggesting a revival of Catholicism has begun in France. His evidence is anecdotal, as is this report of an American-style mega-church in the former East Germany, but it gets me wondering.

The European Union is Imperilled by Elites Who Ignore Legitimate Problems

 

shutterstock_55503436Both the Euro Crisis (brought to the fore again by the recent Greek elections) and the anti-Islamic marches (originating in Germany but now moving around Europe) highlight two key problems facing Europe today: currency woes and immigration.

Let’s take the monetary crisis first. There are two competing narratives about who is to blame. One is that it’s Northern Europe’s (most conspicuously, Germany’s) fault for being too hard-working, productive, and thrifty. They keep their government spending in check and the people work hard enough to afford their social spending. In contrast, the Southern European countries—most conspicuously, Greece—are lazy, unproductive, and profligate. They produce very little but enjoy extravagant social programs courtesy of the German taxpayers. In order to fix their own predicament, the Greeks need to work harder and start living within their means.

The other narrative is that the Eurozone is a currency scheme set up for the benefit of the Germans. Germany is an export machine that needs to keep its currency down in order to maximize exports. By shackling its money to that of its weaker neighbours, it ensures that its own currency is weaker than it would be if it still had the deutsche mark, enabling it to export more. Moreover, because the currency of weaker economies is higher than it would otherwise be, Southern Europeans can buy more German goods than they could if all they had were liras and drachmas. So now the Greeks are told to cut government spending by the Germans because they bought too many Audis.

Whoa, Look at the Euro!

 

shutterstock_106463024For those of you thinking a life in Paris is glamorous, let me explain how I spent my typical glamorous morning: carefully going over the gas, rent, electricity, and grocery bills.

For those of you wondering, “How do I get to be an expert political analyst?” Well, that morning is kind of key. I’m paid in dollars, but I pay my bills in Euros. So “the falling Euro” is anything not an abstraction to me. If it really reaches parity with the dollar by the end of the year, as some predict, then I somehow managed, though the weirdest luck in the world, to move to a city I can afford to live in — this as opposed to Istanbul, which was too expensive for me — and my life gets a lot easier (by sheer dumb luck, as it happens, but I’ll say I predicted it, anyway. That’s how you get to be an expert analyst).

But I’ll be happy enough with being “a good enough analyst.” Things like European deflation, Syriza’s victory in Greece, consumer price indices in France, and Greek debt restructuring are very interesting to me. Enough so that I might bother to really care about the details — because it’s personal — and then, with a bit of marketing, I’ll be an informed expert.

Open Markets Are Better Than Destroyed Borders

 

shutterstock_168752339The situation within Europe is alarming. The so-called Arab Spring — particularly the civil war in Syria — has displaced millions of people and further undermined the traditional system of working nation states in Europe. While not the original cause of Europe’s immigration problem, current events are accelerating them: after a dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean, these refugees are overburdening the European welfare system while leaving their own countries bereft of development.

There can be no doubt that immigration has played an important role in every era of human history. A developing culture depends on exchange: exchange of ideas, exchange of of markets, and exchange of people. Without the Roman invasions, Northern Europe would never have developed civilization. The founding of the United States — closer to our time — was essentially the product of unbounded ideas, a societal tabula rasa created by diligence and hope that lacked the burden of medieval Europe, but preserved the best of its thinkers from Cato, to Cicero, to Saint Augustine, to John Locke. Immigration is the driver of a flourishing culture.

But Europe’s open borders do not represent real exchange, and the problems faced by underdeveloped countries in North Africa and the Middle East cannot be solved by uncontrolled immigration into European welfare states. Indeed, even a short and superficial analysis of the European supranational state must concede that the European Union’s policy of a closed, internal market essentially causes the problems its underdeveloped neighbors face.

Post-Democracy Finds a Fan

 

Niall Ferguson is a brilliant historian with plenty of brilliant things to say, something that makes his recent article in the Financial Times all the more startling. He’s concerned by the rise of populist parties across the EU. That’s not a problem. But his solution is to have the parties of Europe’s establishment unite against the upstarts (in fact they long have done so, but let that pass):

Populism is back; it is not about to go away. The wrong response is for mainstream parties to pander to the populists. The right response is for the centrists to join forces, hard though it is to bury their ancestral rivalries. I have long been identified with conservatism, though on many issues I am in fact a liberal. The advent of a new era of grand coalitions is good news for me. From now on, I no longer need to deny my allegiance to the extreme centre.

Member Post

 

Some time ago, March 17th to be precise, Jane’s 360 produced an interesting article on the, then potential, conflict brewing between Russia and the Ukraine. Of the many observations a couple were rather striking: • If Russia were to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine it would seek to do so rapidly, so as to prevent […]

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Debating Memes: Silhouette Man

 

Scandinavian countries are awesome. At least that’s what all of my liberal friends tell me. These countries are virtual socialist utopias of equality and happiness, as well as a model for a progressive America. As one who remembers the meaning of the word utopia (no place), I am innately skeptical of such claims. The left wing meme generation machine ™ does not share my skepticism however, and has created a comic strip of sorts that explains why Americans are stupid for not giving “free” college education to all of our students. Meet Silhouette man.

sm1-f

Why Won’t Europe Defend Itself? — Peter Robinson

 

Back when the United States had no qualms about maintaining an enormous defense establishment, I could see why the Europeans wanted to let us do all the nasty work, maintaining only nominal defenses themselves. But now?  President Obama has devoted the last five years to reducing our commitments abroad, shrinking our armed forces, and making us, withal, much less reliable allies than we used to be.

The European response? To make their defense budgets even smaller.