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31.10.2006

Is Social Democracy a viable model for the European future?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:11 pm

From one of my favorite bloggers, Tyler Cowen… (you should read his the whole post)

Part of the demographic problem, of course, is that the real standard of living in Western Europe is remarkably high. Western European women have learned how much fun they can have, living in Europe and traveling abroad, when they are not tied down with four children. The extreme secularism of Western Europe – a philosophy which I share and indeed cherish – also promotes small families. Religious exhortations to have more children, combined with a child-friendly church culture, do in fact raise birth rates. In both economic and cultural terms, Western Europe is not investing enough in its future.

It seems that for Western Europe to regain its dynamism, it has to move to a freer market economy, higher rates of childbirth, higher immigration, and greater religiosity. It has to stop being the Europe which we (or at least I) love, and become more like the United States.

  • Kristian (in Espoo)

    I have one main disagreement with his argument: WE DO NOT NEED MORE CHILDREN IN EUROPE!

    Europe is bursting at the seams with people. And our politicians think we need to raise birth rates. And when it doesn’t work, they make arguments for immigration.

    I’d hate to think about what would happen if we had a famine here in Europe. How would we feed everyone? Sure, it’s easy here in the Nordics, but what about the rest of Europe?

    Plus, I’m sick of seeing graffiti everywhere. Kids suck. I really don’t like them. And I’d rather work until I die, rather than try to influence demographic trends to secure my retirement or “Europe’s future.”

    I do agree with some of his other points though: We should be more like the US. America sends rockets and astronauts into space every few months, and we, in Europe, are still trying to figure out ways to reach deeper into each other’s pockets.

    But, I must admit, I don’t mind the 5- or 6- weeks-per-year vacation attitude in Europe. The American working life sucks, although Americans seem to like it….at least they talk about their jobs non-stop….even at restaurants on Sunday mornings.

    Can’t we pick-and-choose between America’s and Europe’s best points?

  • Helsinkian

    Social democracies may change over time. Sweden today is different from the early years of the welfare state, to name one examply. I’m not sure the social democrats of 1930s could foresee how the system would change over decades of social democratic government.

    What does this blogger think of birth rates in Italy and Poland? Aren’t they more like America in terms of religiosity, yet the birth rates are much lower?

    I’m very skeptical about the idea of going back to Christian roots bringing a higher birth rate in Europe. I just don’t buy that.

    A more Islamic Europe might, however, reach a higher birthrate. My bet is that the birth rates of Islamic immigrants will gradually go down to European level, regardless of what happens to their religiosity over time.

    A lower overall education level might get the birth rates up in Europe.

  • Helsinkian

    Kristian, nice post. I think we should strive for the best possible society for those people who live here rather than striving to produce the people to satisfy the needs of a political theory.

  • http://fredfryinternational.blogspot.com Fred Fry

    Hmmm. More children means more greenhouse gases!

    There was arecent report about why the US has a higher birthrate. One main reason was that American parents were more optimistic than in other countries. There were three reaons but I forget the other two.

    Kristian,
    You rock!

  • prince of dorkness

    @3,
    haven’t you noticed? The economy is not here for us, we’re here for the economy.

  • N. Siinistö

    Personally, if I have to make a choice between being rich and religious or poor and free, I choose freedom anytime.

  • http://finnsense.blogspot.com finnsense

    First, please note that Cowen was taking part in a debate on Crooked Timber that centred around a book in favour of social democracy. Go to Crooked Timber for other comments from very smart people.

    Second, the US also has a baby boom population timebomb. The people that keep pushing the population up are low skilled immigrants and the children of low skilled immigrants. The pensions of the US are not going to be paid by Walmart employees.

    Third, some countries are already running large surpluses in anticipation of the population timebomb. Not surprisingly they are the Nordic countries and have been praised for their far-sightedness.

  • Erik

    The main problem is that Tyler Cowen don’t really substantiate his claim that social democracy is the actual cause of lower economic growth in Europe. What if social democratic policies is GOOD for the economy (which I strongly suspect is the case in the Nordic countries), and that Europe would be even worse off without it? Also, it should be noted that social democratic policies isn’t exactly unheard of in the US, either. The active role of the state in funding scientific research is just one example.

  • http://www.palun.blogspot.com giustino

    Plus, I’m sick of seeing graffiti everywhere. Kids suck. I really don’t like them. And I’d rather work until I die, rather than try to influence demographic trends to secure my retirement or “Europe’s future.”

    What has really happened is that today’s generation of adults were born during a period of “childphobia” and many have inherited that perspective. They see children as they were once seen in the 70s and 80s – as an obstacle to self-absorbed ‘self discovery’ and ‘recreation.’

    But is that what life is really about – personal fulfillment of every selfish desire? Obviously not. People find out the hard way that the self-absorbed lifestyle has its consequences too. What is at the center of this ‘new’ way of living in Europe is the illusion of control.

    For example, “if I just put this condom on, I won’t get an STD” or “if I just take this pill, I won’t get pregnant” or “I can wait until I am 40 to have kids because some other people have managed to do it.”

    But this is false, because – as statistics show – women DO get pregnant and men ARE the fathers, despite the availability of “birth control.” And what happens then? The future of Europe is sucked out by an abortionist so that the man and the woman can go on pretending like life is really just about recreation and self discovery.

    But that’s a lie. We all know it is. Sex really is for reproduction, no matter how many rubbers you wear.

    I am not really criticizing them for doing that, who am I to judge? But I do feel in my bones that this ‘prolongued adolescence’ that many young adults find themselves in in Europe is the by product of good economic times. If life wasn’t a party, then more people would come to grips with the reality of the human situation.

    And the situation is that men and women naturally have sex and naturally produce babies. You can put latex around it or take hormones to prevent it – but the natural state of existence is one where children are produced by sexual union.

    So the real question for Europe and America is this – why are we lying to ourselves? Why are we so unwilling to accept the natural balance of life?

  • http://www.palun.blogspot.com giustino

    PS – I just want to clarify that I am not telling you that you SHOULD have children for whatever reason.

    I am just saying that perhaps society should stop viewing kids as an “anxiety-inspiring obstacle to me doing my own thing” and view them more as “a natural, unthreatening consequence of me doing my own thing.”

    May I even be so bold to say that having kids is NORMAL and NATURAL. I mean every person in my family tree has managed to do it since time eternal. It can’t be that hard!

  • Kristian (in Espoo)

    The people that keep pushing the population up are low skilled immigrants and the children of low skilled immigrants. The pensions of the US are not going to be paid by Walmart employees.

    ….some countries are already running large surpluses in anticipation of the population timebomb. Not surprisingly they are the Nordic countries and have been praised for their far-sightedness.

    If I’m not mistaken, the US pension system is highly privatized. Much of it doesn’t rely on public funding. Conversely, we in Europe rely on always finding a new set of pockets to reach into.

    Also, it should be noted that social democratic policies isn’t exactly unheard of in the US, either. The active role of the state in funding scientific research is just one example.

    Sure, but the United States funds scientific research without constricting people’s ability to participate in the economy. Unfortunately, we in Europe do just that. Could this be why we always need to wait for America to innovate things, before we can eventually implement them?

    http://news.com.com/SAP%20chief%20tells%20European%20tech%20companies%20to%20wake%20up/2100-1014_3-5608981.html

    Fred, Helsinkian—Thanks.

  • comma copulation

    Save the planet, use the condom.

  • prince of dorkness

    @12,
    or as S.J.Lec put it ‘The unborn will bless you.’

  • N. Siinistö

    No, no. Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

  • Boyle

    NO need for more people – AGREE !
    Europe is what the rest of the world should become. The decrease of rotten human population that just consumes is the only hope we’ve got.

    Is any of the far-right authors of this blog worried at all of the climate change? It is the most worrysome problem this world is facing, it’s not the economy, but the environment we should be worried about. You seem so arrogantly blind that it is unbelievable.

  • Evil Creature

    I can’t understand people who try to think up ways to raise the birth rate in certain countries when the world’s population as a whole is rising so fast. Worry about birth rates when Earth starts running out of humans for god’s sake, not when tiny Europe does.

  • Anonymous

    Kristian:
    And I’d rather work until I die

    Ha. If they let you. Did you say you were a programmer? I get the impression that you’re over 40. The clock is ticking…

    giustino:
    So the real question for Europe and America is this – why are we lying to ourselves? Why are we so unwilling to accept the natural balance of life?

    The natural balance of life is that a woman starts popping out babies at around 13 until her death at, say, 35. Most of the kids will, of course, never see their 5th birthday. Now, I’m a little unwilling to accept this state of affairs. Mankind has moved on.

    As to the selfishness of choosing childlessness, is it really more selfish than popping out babies like there’s no tomorrow with no concern for the planet’s capacity? Is a childless life necessarily an orgy of self-absorbedness and hedonism?

  • http://www.palun.blogspot.com giustino

    As to the selfishness of choosing childlessness, is it really more selfish than popping out babies like there’s no tomorrow with no concern for the planet’s capacity? Is a childless life necessarily an orgy of self-absorbedness and hedonism?

    Many people today are scared of children. I hear it all the time.
    As a parent I get sick of whiny shits poo-pooing my decision to be a father rather than just, like, you know, hanging out at the bar all the time. I mean I’m a Dad, and the other person is still in self-discovery mode – but I am a weirdo and they are the norm? How the fuck did that happen? This is exactly the same messed up attitude that allows guys like George W. Bush to call a DWI arrest at age 30 a “youthful indiscretion.” You’re 30 friggin’ years old dude! 30 isn’t the new 20, it’s the same old biological *30*. You’re a man. You’ve got hair growing out of your ears. You have to fight everyday to stop a paunch from developing around your waistline. It’s manhood. Not boyhood, ya dig.

    I think our generation needs to put on its big boy pants and say, “Yes, kids happen. Adulthood happens. It is part of life. They are part of life. They are cute, and family life can be more rewarding than death by masturbation.” I am tired of this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque characterization of children as bad and endless personal discovery, and yes, self-absorbed hedonism as good.

    In my college days, I’d say that “the corporations” just want us to prolong our adolescence for as long as possible so we can buy “finding ourself” gear, until we are forced by bottling up biology inside for a good 10 years, to embrace family life and then switch gears into buying “family gear.”

    And what good are a bunch of empty nest 50 year olds. Too young to retire. Too old for family gear. Already found themselves. Who wants to sell anything to them?

    Replacing the population in Finland is good for Finland. Your country is huge, but only 5 million people live there. If you only have one child, you will still contribute to population loss. So I don’t see what all the concern is about.

  • http://www.palun.blogspot.com giustino

    I mean Finland is a great country. How the hell do you expect to take over every sauna in the world if all of you decide that barren is the way to live? Who is going to take over the sauna when you drown swimming drunk in lake one day? Ask yourself that question, Jorma. Think hard. Arva ise!

  • prince of dorkness

    @19,
    OK, OK. What I found objectionable about the article Phil was linking to was the idea that we should have kids for the sake of the economy. A sacrifice for Fatherland, as it were, except that the Fatherland is an ideal you can believe in and serve (and even die for), the economy is just a tool, something that is there to serve us and not the other way around. And there have never been more Finns in the world than there are now, so I think it’s a bit early to panic about population decline…

  • Boyle

    We all know that it’s the developing countries that are facing the increase of the population. USA is in the same category than India..

    Giustino, please: Little more holistic thinking, sarcasm on Finnish aging society is your problem? Come on! Get wordly.

    http://www.tampereenkaupunki.net/ekotallaaja/peli/

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    Who is going to take over the sauna when you drown swimming drunk in lake one day?

    Well, a sauna by a lake implies a summer cottage. The way things are now in the Helsinki area, one can pretty much forget about ever owning an apartment in the worst ghetto in town, not to mention a cottage on top of that – despite working 10 to 14 hours a day in a relatively well-paying job. But hey, our yard has just enough room for a small tent. I think we could squeeze a few kids in there. It’s only about -5 now, I’m sure they’d be fine. Someone should just raise them, ’cause daddy’s spending his waking hours at work.

    Then again, one might show some adult responsibility by donating the money that would be spent on diapers to the preservation of endangered species, amidst all the hedonistic self-discovery.

  • AnonyMeaCulpa

    >I am tired of this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque
    >characterization of children as bad

    Children aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re still not going to have them. And yes, that’s a conscious decision from our part, because the responsibility is just too big. Hell, you’re not only married to your spouse if you have children, but to a steady job as well, because you just have to keep on providing no matter what!

    So in my book being childless = more freedom. And nope, we’re not going to change our minds later when we get older either, because I’m 42 and the wife is 40 (and yes, this is a conscious and unforced decision from her part too).

    Make love, not babies is what I say :)

  • http://mrski.com mr skin

    I’d have to say that I didn’t like the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie much at all. The old one was way better.

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