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Book Review: The Last Days of Europe

June 23, 2007

Review of The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, Walter Laqueur, Thomas Dunne Books.

Theodoe Dalrymple / American Conservative:

It is Europe’s doom that Walter Laqueur explores and explains in this succinct and clearly written book. He does not say anything that others have not said before him, but he says it better and with a greater tolerance of nuance than some other works on this vitally important subject.

There are three threats to Europe’s future. The first comes from demographic decline. Europeans are simply not reproducing, for reasons that are unclear. They seem to care more about the ozone layer and carbon emissions than they do about the continuation of their own societies. Or perhaps bringing up children interferes with what they conceive to be the real business of life: taking lengthy annual holidays in exotic locations and other such pleasures.

The second threat comes from the presence of a sizable and growing immigrant population, a large part of which is not necessarily interested in integration. As the population ages, the need for immigrant labor increases, and among the main sources of such labor are North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. When I recently drove to Antwerp from the South of France, I thought I had arrived in Casablanca. There are parts of Brussels where the police are enjoined not to be seen eating or drinking during Ramadan. Similar accommodations are occurring all over Europe: in the Central Library in Birmingham, for example, I found a women-only table occupied exclusively by young Muslims dressed in the hijab. (They were the lucky ones, members of liberal households that allowed them out on their own.)

The third threat comes from the existence of the welfare state and the welfare-state mentality. A system of entitlements has been created that, however economically counterproductive, is politically difficult to dismantle: once privileges are granted, they assume the metaphysical status of immemorial and fundamental rights. The right of French train drivers to retire on full pension at the age of 50 is probably more important to them than the right of free speech—especially that of those who think that retirement at such an age is preposterous. While Europe mortgages its future to pay for such extravagances—the French public debt doubled in ten years under the supposedly conservative Chirac—other areas of the world forge an unbeatable combination of high-tech and cheap labor. The European political class, more than ever dissociated from its electorate, has hardly woken up to the challenge.

All this Laqueur lays out with exemplary clarity. He sees Europe, once the home of a dynamic civilization that energized the rest of the world, declining into a kind of genteel theme park—if it’s lucky. The future might be grimmer than this, of course: there might be a real struggle for power once the immigrants and their descendents become numerically strong enough to take on the increasingly geriatric native population.

Full review here.

See also:
Claire Berlinski / New York Sun: The Dawn of Islamic Europe

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One Comment
  1. In most occassions I dont make comments on blogs, but I would like to mention that this post really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

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