And I don’t mean Africa. On Friday, Tony Blair called for a special summit of European leaders to “debate the European social model.” The facts confronting Europe are bleak. Economic decline, combined with demographic suicide in many countries and a populace unwilling to face the facts about social welfare programs, add up to a bleak future. The crisis is taking an economic form:
“Some have suggested I want to abandon Europe’s social model,” Blair told the European Parliament last month. “But tell me: what type of social model is it that has 20 million unemployed in Europe, productivity rates falling behind those of the United States; that is allowing more science graduates to be produced by India than by Europe; and that, on any relative index of a modern economy — skills, R&D, patents, IT — is going down not up.”
Without radical reform, the future does indeed look bleak for Europe’s social model. India will expand its biotechnology sector fivefold over the next five years, China has trebled its spending on research and development in the last five, while of the top 20 universities in the world today, only two are now in Europe, Blair noted in his Strasbourg speech.
Then there is old Europe’s demographic time-bomb. The ratio of those in retirement compared to those at work is expected to double from 24 percent today to 50 percent in 2050. This will not only lead to even lower growth rates — a full percentage point a year according to the European Commission — but significantly higher spending on pensions and healthcare.
Standing side by side with Blair Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso bluntly reminded legislators that “to have an ambitious social model we need growth.”
While the crisis is economic, the underlying problem is, I think, mostly ideological. It will be interesting to see what it takes for American liberals to tumble to the fact that the European model, which they long to import here, is a failure.