Friday, June 03, 2005

Western Europe under spotlight

Western Europe, or rather the social structure of western Europe is under spotlight after the French and the Dutch overwhelmingly rejected the EU constitution in separate referendums. It is worthwhile to nte that both these countries are two of the 6 founding members!!!

The constitution was rejected in both these countries for different reasons, but it is the Frech No vote that has come under most scrutiny. Whatever the rationale the French people may have had for voting No, I am sure the criticism of the social structure they hold so dear did not figure in the mix.

An Op-ed column in the NY Times by Davik Brooks quite succintly points out what the problem is. I qoute Brooks below:

"The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.

Over the last few decades, American liberals have lauded the German model or the Swedish model or the European model. But these models are not flexible enough for the modern world. They encourage people to cling fiercely to entitlements their nations cannot afford. And far from breeding a confident, progressive outlook, they breed a reactionary fear of the future that comes in left- and right-wing varieties - a defensiveness, a tendency to lash out ferociously at anybody who proposes fundamental reform or at any group, like immigrants, that laters the fabric of life.

This is the chief problem of the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program. The liberal project of the postwar era has bred a stultifying conservatism, a fear of dynamic flexibility, a greater concern for gaurding what exists than for creating waht doesn't"

I might add that Brooks is an American conservative.

The French really want to stick to their 35 hour week. Last year, a book by a employee in Franc'e state owned electric company, EDF, wrote a book on how to spend the entire day ( 7 hrs) without working and cheat you boos. This book was a bestseller there!!!! These people have problems.

Having lived in both the US and Europe, I really do notice the difference. The quality of life in Europe is much much better and I certainly do lead a fuller life here. Yes, American society is certainly more dynamic - but there are loads of problems associated with it.

In short - no system works perfectly. Is it possible to find a good balance between the European model and the American one? The Canadian model is a model with such a compromise - with its own share of problems.


venkat said...

Interesting backbround...I lived in th e US for 14 years, and moved to Brussels with my wife last October. I hear what you say about the differences in lifestyle. I love it here, but not sure if this can be sustained...

Iyer the Great said...

Yes. I think that is the problem Europe is facing now. They are afraid that they will not be able to sustain this life of theirs, and with fear comes the defensiveness you see today.