It Takes Capitalism to Have Socialism

I am afraid that Dr. Dalrymple exaggerates. The type of “multiculturalism” he criticizes reminds me of the far-left’s critique of capitalism. Yes, there are abuses within any large process, such as capitalism, but by focusing on them we miss the big picture. Surely what Dr. Dalrymple describes is grounded in fact, and such violations of human rights run counter to our laws and are therefore unacceptable, but his blog post does not tell the whole story. I think it misses the point: denying cultural difference and demanding instant assimilation does not work. France is proof of this. Accepting diversity—although not the extreme type that Dr. Dalrymple highlights—is the better way to go. I am arguing for a middle ground.

Finally, I’d like to get a final few thoughts in on Old Europe’s general malaise. I think that Anne Applebaum hit the nail on the head when she noted, in her first reply to the lead essay by Theodore Dalrymple, that Old Europe lacks centrist politicians, particularly center-right ones. I would argue that center-left politicians are rare too: Segolène Royal, the likely Socialist contender for the French presidency in 2007, recently praised Tony Blair. She paid a high price for this. Surely every French socialist knows that Blair is a sneaky Bernsteinite.

This type of caricaturizing of the moderate left is a glaring problem in France and Germany at the moment. But the right is demonized, and that’s the even more alarming problem. Merkel is unable to implement the reforms she would like because the public does not trust her and the left won’t let her. France might appear to have a center-right in the form of Sarkozy and de Villepin, but they have a tendency to engage in the same old industrial protectionism as the left. The root of Old Europe’s problems is that it is in denial regarding the nature of the society it has constructed. In the first instance, European nations are capitalist, not socialist. It takes capitalism to have socialism, in the sense that without capitalism you get Cuba and North Korea and Albania when you try to redistribute. How many politicians in Old Europe are ready to defend capitalism against the utopian left? Not one prominent man or woman. Old Europe thinks that it has reached a sort of end-of-history—people dream of moving beyond capitalism to a more “humane” world. Witness the 35 hour week. The 35 hour week will go down in history as the point at which France raised its hands, capitulated, and sank into a slumber. Let’s hope that the rest of Europe wakes up before the continent’s relative decline leads to protectionism and drags the rest of us down.

Also from This Issue

Lead Essay

  • Is “Old Europe” Doomed? by Theodore Dalrymple

    Old Europe may not be doomed, though it is “sleepwalking to further relative decline,” says Theodore Dalrymple. “The principle motor of Europe’s current decline is,” he argues, “its obsession with social security.” If Europe is to have a fighting chance, it must overcome a politics in which “personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful” and “the goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else.”

Response Essays

  • Reply to Dalrymple by Timothy B. Smith

    According to historian Timothy Smith, author of France in Crisis, the main problem of Old Europe is that overregulated labor markets, alleged to “humanize” capitalism and promote “solidarity,” instead work to consolidate economic privileges for tenured labor unionists and state employees, and exclude broad swathes of the population, especially immigrants, from the work force. Smith is careful to distinguish the relative stagnation of France, Germany, and Italy from their more successful Scandanavian counterparts, and argues against Dalrymple that the U.K. is really in pretty good shape.

  • Reply to Dalrymple by Charles Kupchan

    Disagreeing sharply with Theodore Dalrymple’s grim diagnosis, Georgetown University international affairs professor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Charles Kupchan maintains that “it is simply not the case that the continent is populated primarily by sclerotic, dysfunctional economies on their last gasp.” However, Kupchan argues that Dalrymple’s essay “considerably underestimates … the challenge of integrating Muslim immigrants into European society.” The Paris riots and the Danish cartoon imbroglio demonstrate that Europe has “embraced multiculturalism in fact, but not yet in spirit.”

  • Reply to Dalrymple by Anne Applebaum

    In her reply to Dalyrmple’s lead essay, the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum lists “three factors which could, over the next decade, help reverse Europe’s course.” Market-friendly leaders, “an acknowledgment of the possibilities presented by the new members of the European Union,” and ditching “their increasingly bizarre obsession with the evil United States,” would, Applebaum argues, go a long way to “help Europe escape its current economic and psychological slump.”

The Conversation