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December 27, 2011

Europe Running Out of 'Other People's Money' (Socialism's Canary Is Dying)

Topics: Political News and commentaries

If we here in the U.S. really want to know what our future looks like, we need only look at Europe, where not only are the churches dying, but factories, schools, and families, as well. The continent has been far too slow to learn that socialism not only "runs out of other people's money," it simply runs out of people. Future historians, if there are any left, will puzzle over how this came about. The economists will have an easier time explaining it. Through some process, socialism has apparently increased the discount rate to the point where the future is consumed for the sake of the present. Not only is investment taxed to feed consumption, tomorrow is hocked to pay for today.

Richard Fernandez explains:

Der Spiegel tells the story of a man who sells of pews and furniture from dying churches. And he is doing a land-office business. "Some 4,400 church buildings remain in the Netherlands. But each week, around two close their doors forever. This mainly affects the Catholics, who will be forced to offload half of their churches in the coming years. 'And that's just the beginning,' says de Beyer."
For years the number of faithful has been declining. The trend has swept across all of Western Europe, with churches forced to close in France and Belgium too. But in the Netherlands, Christianity's retreat from society has been particularly drastic. The Protestant Church alone loses some 60,000 members each year. At this rate, it will cease to exist there by 2050, church officials say.

de Beyer thinks of himself as a rescuer of temples. He wants to preserve their value. His instructions are meant to help distinguish between the valuable and the worthless. He often personally shows up to the churches to provide guidance and support. Pews and Bibles are usually sold to members of the congregation.

"Altars often find new places in Eastern Europe," says de Beyer. "There's a big demand there because new churches are always being built."

But it isn't just the churches that are dying. Mark Steyn writes that Europe itself is racing its old churches to the graveyard. It isn't just the churches that's boarding up the windows. It's the factories, the schools and the families.
The problem with the advanced West is not that it's broke but that it's old and barren. Which explains why it's broke. Take Greece, which has now become the most convenient shorthand for sovereign insolvency -- "America's heading for the same fate as Greece if we don't change course," etc. So Greece has a spending problem, a revenue problem, something along those lines, right? At a superficial level, yes. But the underlying issue is more primal: It has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren -- i.e., the family tree is upside down. In a social-democratic state where workers in "hazardous" professions (such as, er, hairdressing) retire at 50, there aren't enough young people around to pay for your three-decade retirement. And there are unlikely ever to be again.
The New York Times featured the town of Laviano in Italy. Only half its houses were occupied. But any closures of its churches were the least of its problems. It's problem was even worse: it didn't have enough kids to keep the schools open. The newly elected mayor "racked his brain and came up with a desperate idea: pay women to have babies."
Laviano is not unique in Italy, or in Europe. In fact, it may be a harbinger. In the 1990s, European demographers began noticing a downward trend in population across the Continent and behind it a sharply falling birthrate. ...

For the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3. For the demographers, this number had a special mathematical portent. At that rate, a country's population would be cut in half in 45 years, creating a falling-off-a-cliff effect from which it would be nearly impossible to recover. Kohler and his colleagues invented an ominous new term for the phenomenon: "lowest-low fertility."

What happened? The problem as Steyn succinctly puts it, is that socialism not only "runs out of other people's money", as Margaret Thatcher once put it. It simply runs out of people. Future historians, if there are any left, will puzzle over how this came about. The economists will have an easier time explaining it. Through some process, socialism has apparently increased the discount rate to the point where the future is consumed for the sake of the present. Not only is investment taxed to feed consumption, tomorrow is hocked to pay for today.

If the fiscal deficit is the direct monetary expression of this high discount rate, the collapsing population is its equivalent demographic expression. Both are saying the same thing, in different terms. In incentives terms, the future is no longer real; so people don't save up for it nor do they have any incentive to sacrifice for it.

Steyn points out that one feeds into the other. By failing to provide for the next generation to feed present consumption, the present West has also reduced its capacity to service the debt when tomorrow rolls around.

Take the time to read the whole thing.

As Fernandez's piece goes on to make clear, the best way to understand socialism is to imagine a world without tomorrow, which is precisely what the welfare state consists of ... living for today ... Social security being a perfect example. It was never a "fund"; it was never anything more than a payroll tax moving money from young workers to old workers, but sooner or later (more like 'sooner'), you run out of enough young people to pay for all the old people. For a while it seemed to work, but only because the West was running on the legacy of a generation that believed in tomorrow and had sacrificed its life and youth in World War II to secure it. But now our society has apparently deteriorated into one that values unlimited welfare, and sacrifice for God and country not at all.

Think about it for a moment, and look at Europe, and especially Greece, then ask yourself is the welfare state really what we want, and is a world without tomorrow really worth it.

Related:
Greece in chaos - (... the Greeks don't understand and can't cope with what's happening now, let alone what will happen next. The welfare state is being swiftly and deliberately dismantled without any time to set up replacements)
The Great Obama Welfare State - (Government dependence, which is defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is at a staggering 47%, its highest level in American history, while 21 million households are reliant on food stamps.)
Obama Has Nearly Achieved His European Welfare State - (Presidential candidate Barack Obama called for "hope and change," but he was deliberately vague on the "fundamental change" part.)

Posted by Hyscience at December 27, 2011 6:51 AM



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