Kicking off the Conversation: Dalrymple’s Response

I am grateful to all three respondents.

I agree with Anne Applebaum that fear of America acts as a blind to real challenges coming from the east—including that of dependence on Russia for energy, of course. This is particularly dangerous in the light of our military unpreparedness. The challenge of India and China is, among several others, educational. They take education very seriously and we do not, or regard its principal function as boosting the self-esteem of the poor pupil. Declining and low standards prevail in much of Europe as a result. In a competitive world this is a disaster, and unlike the US, we cannot attract sufficient highly-qualified people to make up for our own deficiencies, brought about by educational frivolity.

I cannot agree that multiculturalism, embraced in fact as well as spirit (or theory) is part of the solution to our problems posed by Moslem immigrants. This sees to me preposterous. The idea that the French riots took place because the inhabitants of the banlieues did not speak sufficient French is absurd: they all spoke French. And I fail to see how embracing multiculturalism will do anything to inhibit Muslim extremists. As one Italian put it, multiculturalism is not couscous: it is the stoning of adulterers—and, as we have recently discovered, far worse than that. The United States has an advantage because it has a compelling foundation myth, which Europe does not have, and this helps to integrate new arrivals.

I agree wholeheartedly with Prof. Smith that European intellectuals have a lot to answer for, with their snobbish disdain of economic motives and market mechanisms. But I think Mrs. Thatcher’s record is much more equivocal than Prof. Smith allows. She was actually responsible for some of the centralization that is now evident. I accept his excellent point about levels of taxation in Scandinavia; but the idea that increases in tax in Britain do anything to improve services is mistaken. Expenditure on the National Health Service does not improve it, for reasons that it would be difficult to explain in a short space (I have worked, on and off, in the NHS for 30 years). Public expenditure that does not achieve its ostensible purpose is a great economic burden. There is no reason, for example, why senior managers in the NHS should have increased by 17.5 per cent in one year alone.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.”