(from an article in National Review)
JUNE 9, 2011 12:00 A.M.
Socialist promises of an equality of result are imploding before Europeans’ eyes.
Rome — If Americans think fuel and food prices are high, they should try Europe, where both can be nearly double those in the United States, while salaries are often lower.
Italy, like most of the now-broke southern-European countries, is desperate to privatize bloated public-owned utilities. Politicians are trying to curb pensions and encourage the private sector to hire workers and buy equipment, as a way of attracting wary northern Europeans, acting in loco parentis, to lend such perpetual adolescents more bailout money.
In theory, Italians accept that they are going to have to be a lot more like the Germans, and less like the Irish, Portuguese, and Spaniards. In reality, they may end up like the Greeks, who are still striking and occasionally rioting because too few foreigners wish to continue subsidizing their socialist paradise. Red graffiti on Italian streets still speak of socialist solidarity, while Italian politicians talk capitalism to foreign lenders.
The European Union, like the 19th-century Congress of Vienna, can point to one achievement: a general absence of war in Western Europe for more than 60 years. Otherwise, almost all the socialist promises of an equality of result are imploding before Europeans’ eyes.
The higher taxes go, the more people cheat on them, and the less revenue comes in. There are sometimes two prices in Italy (and elsewhere in Europe) — the official price that the unwary pay, which includes a high value-added tax, and the negotiated, under-the-table, tax-free price that the haggling shopper obtains.
Europe is essentially defenseless, as governments further trim defense budgets to keep their shrinking spread-the-wealth entitlements alive. The French and British — the continent’s two premier military powers — have been trying for nearly three months to defeat Moammar Qaddafi’s ragtag nation of less than 7 million, itself rent by civil war. The descendants of Wellington and Napoleon so far seem no match for Qaddafi and the Taliban. Both nations will soon be leaving Afghanistan in frustration.
Subsidized wind and solar power have not led to much of an increase in European supplies of electricity, but have helped make power bills soar. Highly taxed gas runs about $10 a gallon, ensuring tiny cars and dependence on mass transit. Central planners love the resulting state-subsidized, high-density European apartment living, without garages, back yards, or third bedrooms. Yet the Japanese tsunami and accompanying nuclear contamination have reminded European governments that their similarly fragile models of highly urbanized, highly concentrated living make them equally vulnerable to such disasters.
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— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.