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.