August 22, 2006

Where do you find courage?...

This was a comment I made this morning, to some thoughts by Hale Adams on this post...

Hale,

Good points, but I think you miss the essence.

Democracies always have great difficulty in making choices that involve sacrifice by a lot of voters. And what's needed now in Europe are huge sacrifices by most of the population. Just in the realm of economics, they need welfare cut drastically, regulations and taxes cut drastically, retirement ages raised, promised pensions lowered, unions broken, "creative destruction" involving job losses on a huge scale, free trade involving job losses on a huge scale...(And that's the easy part. Much harder is giving up ideas one has grown comfortable with.)

Imagine a European leader proposing that most of his population give up their comfort and security for the good of future generations. You are immediately up against the question of the "spiritual condition" of the people. The state of their souls. That's the only place from which people might dredge up the courage and vision to sacrifice their own economic welfare, and, most crucially, their security.

It's similar to asking people to volunteer in a desperate war to save their country, a war where many must die to (possibly) preserve future generations. Libertarian economic calculation has nothing to say in such a situation---only the heart. (You might say that one exception is people with children. They quite naturally may sacrifice their own good for the good of future generations...which is one of the big reasons, I strongly suspect, that Europeans and "Blue-State" types are not crazy about having children.)

"Where do you find courage?" That's the question to ask. It's too late for reason and prudence and calculation. (Too late for Europe--I hope not for us.) Too late for tinkering. John Paul II's constant refrain was, "Be not afraid." That's the most practical hard-headed piece of economic calculation that's been offered to Europe...

Posted by John Weidner at August 22, 2006 7:58 AM
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