The Decline of Europe

The Decline of Europe

A quote from Walter Laqueur in The Chronicle Review, 11 May 2007

True, the achievements of the European welfare state had been remarkable. Americans can only dream about a 35-hour work week or five weeks of paid holidays a year. But the problem was that all those social-assistance programs were affordable only as long as substantial economic growth took place. […] Future historians may well be at a loss to understand why the sorry state of affairs was realized only late in the day, despite the fact that all the major trends — demography, the stalling of the movement toward European unity, and the crisis of the welfare state — had appeared well before the turn of the century.

The decline of the Roman Empire has been discussed for centuries, and it could be that the discussion about the decline of Europe will last as long. Decline often does not proceed as quickly as feared; there are usually retarding circumstances. But it is also true that, for better or worse, the pulse of history is beating quicker in our time than before.

[…] Surely decline offers challenges that ought to be taken up, even if there is no certainty of success. No one can say with any confidence what problems the powers that now appear to be in the ascendancy will face in the years to come. And even if Europe’s decline is now irreversible, there is no reason that it should become a collapse. There is, however, a precondition — something that has been postponed. The debate should be about which of Europe’s traditions and values can still be saved.

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