The Right Coast

April 19, 2004
The German gravy train without the gravy
By Herr Professor Tom Smith

This via Brian Leiter as well, same post as below. Verrrrrrry eeeenteresting, and not stupid (if you're old enough to remember that), from AIE address of Niall Ferguson:

And this, it seems to me, takes us to the very heart of the political economy of European integration Let me tell you some simple percentages about the way the European Union works, to illuminate the fundamental imbalance between representation and taxation which is at the heart of the story of European integration.

Today, Germany accounts for around a quarter, a little under a quarter, of the combined gross domestic product of the entire European Union. It accounts for just over a fifth, 22 percent, of its population. It accounts for 16 percent of the seats in the European Parliament, and around about 11 percent of votes on the Council of Ministers, though that process of voting is, of course, under a process of reform. (In fact, if the draft treaty isn't enacted after enlargement, Germany's share of votes in the Council of Ministers will fall to 8 percent.) But if you look at net contributions to the European budget in the years 1995 to 2001, Germany contributed 67 percent.

So the Germans get between 8 and 11 percent of the decisive votes in the Council of Ministers, that is, the key decision making body of the European Union, but they contribute two-thirds towards the combined budget.

Now, that's all very well, ladies and gentlemen, if Germany is the fastest growing economy in Europe. But as I've already pointed out to you, it is today the slowest growing economy in Europe. It is, in fact, the sick man of Europe. And although the German economy is very large, it is far from clear why, when it has not grown at all in the past six quarters, that economy should continue to subsidize the economies of the smaller, poorer countries of Southern and now also Central Europe.

My estimation, ladies and gentlemen, is that the train is still running, but there ain't no gravy anymore. And as that reality gradually dawns, the process of European integration, which I believe has depended from its very inception on German gravy, is bound to come to a halt. Who, after all--who is going to pay for those, and I quote, "maximum enlargement-related commitments," to the 10 new member states which have been capped at 40 billion euros? The general assumption appears still to be that the German taxpayer will pay that money. I see no reason whatsoever why that should be the case. Indeed, the very smallness of the sum that has been agreed illustrates the way the German purse-strings are tightening.

So that's how the EU works. Note to self: don't lose any wars.

And there's this cheery news:

. . . It is the argument that Europe is fundamentally a Christian entity; that the European Union is a kind of latter day secular version of Christendom.

Ladies and gentlemen, I only wish that were true. The reality is--and it is perhaps the most striking cultural phenomenon of our times--that Western and Eastern Europe are no longer in any meaningful sense Christian societies. They are quite clearly post-Christian--indeed, in many respects, post-religious--societies. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, less than 1 in 10 of the population attends church even once a month. A clear majority do not attend church at all. There are now more Muslims in England than Anglican communicants. More Muslims attend mosque on a weekly basis than Anglicans attend church. In the recent Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes conducted just a couple of years ago, more than half of all Scandinavians said that God did not matter to them at all. This, it seems to me, makes the claim to a fundamental Christian inheritance not only implausible but also downright bogus in Europe. The reality is that Europeans inhabit a post-Christian society that is economically, demographically, but, in my view, above all culturally a decadent society.

They cannot, though they will try, resist forever the migration that must inevitably occur from south and from east. They will try. Indeed, they try even now to resist the migration that really ought legally to be permissible from the new member states to the old member states after May the 1st. Even that has become contentious. Increasingly, European politics is dominated by a kind of dance of death as politicians and voters try desperately and vainly to prop up the moribund welfare states of the post-Second World War era, but above all to prop up what little remains of their traditional cultures.

I understand Samuel Huntington is worried that Mexican culture is taking a firm root in this country and shows no sign of being dissolved into the traditional American melting pot. I read an alarmist article by him in Foreign Policy this week. Well, I have good news for him. Long before the mariachis play in Harvard Yard, long before that, there will be minarets, as Gibbon foretold, in Oxford. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, there already is one. The Center for Islamic Studies is currently building in my old university a new center for Islamic studies. I quote: "Along the lines of a traditional Oxford college around a central cloistered quadrangle, the building will feature a prayer hall with traditional dome and minaret tower." It will open next year. I wonder what Gibbon would have said.

Note to self: pay sentimental journey to Oxford while Christians still allowed there.

Here's what the center at Oxford is going to look like. Notice how the seal of the new Centre contains no words we heathen can read. Oh, well, Europe was nice while it lasted.

Almost forgot to mention, my favorite touch of all, you guessed it, ladies and gentlemen, the Bin-Ladin Visiting Fellowship! As we say in the academy, petro-dollars are petro-dollars. I suppose the helicopters could land on the Magdalen playing fields to evacuate princelings and princelingettes in the event the terror threats against London materialize.