Liberal politicians, like Hillary Clinton, envy Western Europe for its welfare state. They tell U.S. voters that a European-style welfare state is needed to help the poor. In reality the motives of liberal politicians are not altruistic, but egotistical. Welfare makes people dependent on the state. It is not a coincidence that liberalism and secularism are almost synonyms. Liberals want to replace God by the state.
The difference between Americans and Europeans is the state-dependency of the latter. Contemporary Europe is in crisis. Its welfare systems are running out of money. Its moral and legal order is breaking down, while the influence of radical Islam is growing. Its nation-states are being undermined by the European Union. Most Europeans look on passively. After three generations of welfare dependency, they have lost the ability to take their fate into their own hands.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, North America was colonized by freedom-loving people. They had left Europe because they wanted to live according to their own conscience instead of submitting to the centralist absolutist rulers of the new age that was sweeping across Europe from the 16th century onward. Their traditions were rooted in the late Middle Ages and the Aristotelian philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which was centered on the individual. God had called man to be free from sin, but in order to be free from sin he had to be virtuous, and in order for virtue to have any value it had to be voluntary, implying that the virtuous man had to be free in every aspect of his life, including his economic activities.
Hence the paradox came about that the civil society developing in America was, in a sense, older than the new Modern Age of the absolutist monarchs governing Europe. When Americans rebelled in 1776, they rebelled against absolutism in order to keep their old freedoms. Theirs was a conservative revolution. Europe had its own series of revolutions from 1789 onward, but these were revolutions of a different sort. They toppled the ruling absolutists to replace them by absolutists of an even more extreme form: totalitarians. These were not satisfied with controlling their subjects' political and economic lives but also wished to control their minds and souls.
Here lies the origin of the European disease, which arose from the systematic loss of faith in the Judeo-Christian God and the Judeo-Christian moral legacy, and an increasing reliance on the state as the source of order, authority and legitimacy. That disease culminated, after causing two world wars, in the creation of the European Union (EU) as a superstate, the god to absorb all gods, with a nihilistic and atheist agenda.
The perceptive Irish philosopher (and British politician) Edmund Burke, who supported the American colonies in their dispute with King George III, noticed already at the time that the spirit of the 1789 French Revolution was totalitarian. The same secularist spirit inspired the Russian Revolution, National Socialism and European welfarism.
The British economist John Maynard Keynes, who was handed the pen to draw the blueprint of Britain's welfare system, was very candid about the true nature of his design for society. In the preface to the 1936 German edition of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he wrote explicitly that his “theory of [economic] output is much more easily adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state" than to "conditions of free competition and a large measure of laissez-faire.”
Keynes’ oft-quoted quip, “In the long run, we are all dead” was typical. It also offers a poignant resume of the contemporary “European spirit.” In a moral society people would say: “In the long run our children and grandchildren will take our place.” Europe does not particularly care about the future: It is only interested in enjoying the present. This attitude also explains why Europe’s demographics have collapsed. People who are not prepared to make sacrifices for the future do not invest in children.
This attitude has left Europe with gigantic problems: a rapidly aging population, an unsurmountable public debt, 19 million unemployed and an overall youth unemployment rate of 18 percent. While the world’s economy is booming, Western Europe’s economic growth rate is significantly below America’s (2.6 percent vs. 3.3 percent).
Turkey (5.2 percent) is doing even better. On July 22, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s governing party since 2002, won a huge election victory. During the past five years the country introduced pro-capitalist economic reforms, influenced by libertarian economists such as Atilla Yayla. The AKP does not stand for radical Islamism, as its secularist opponents claim, but is an anti-centralist, conservative party of moderate, but devout Muslims. According to Dr. Yayla, a free society “requires private property, free exchange, limited and responsible accountable government, freedom of expression, religious freedom including minorities and non-believers, the absence of political crimes in law, political opposition, the rule of law and freedom of association.”
European secularists do not like the AKP and prefer its secularist opponents, who wish to build a centralist, socialist Turkey where the state is god. However, as Dr. Yayla says, “Nobody can play god or hold eternal truth in his hands” – not even the state.
Turkey’s recent election results indicate that the Turkish electorate wants to avoid the European disease. Let us hope that the American people will be equally wise next year.
This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on August 1, 2007 .