Lessons from socialism

Political Point of View

“The trouble with socialism is that one soon runs out of other people’s money to spend.” —Margaret Thatcher.

Europe had long been a leader in style, fashion and plain coolness with its picturesque countryside, magnificent cities and good food. Going for a holiday there is a must for most travellers. One had better go sooner rather than later, because some bad stuff’s going to happen there fairly soon.

The unravelling of the welfare state is merely the tip of the iceberg as almost daily reports of Greek debt downgrades, Belgian and Spanish separatism, Dutch electoral paralysis, German governmental torpor, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese bankruptcy warn us the continent is melting down along with its few remaining glaciers.

Just as communism revealed itself to be morally and productively bankrupt, the coddled, supposedly softer side of the European government model with its short work weeks, lengthy paid vacations, many subsidized benefits and social justice for everyone seems to have run out of gas. In Britain now, more than half the workers toil for the government. In Greece, the numbers are worse. Since it’s a worldwide truism that public sector workers are better paid, with enviable perks, there aren’t enough actual productive people to pay for this gold-clad façade. It’s like General Motors which had one person working for every person retired at nearly full pay. It couldn’t and didn’t last.

When Yugoslavia unravelled with Tito’s death 20 years ago,  the various ethnic factions once held severely in check by the strongman didn’t enter a rainbow world of harmony and mutual respect; rather they unburdened themselves of old animosity and grievances by killing each other in yet another Balkan mishmash. This foreshadows what Europe will probably do.

Old Europe is quite literally that now. Birth rates among Greeks, Germans, Italians and pretty well the whole continent are so low that demographers are calling it below replacement levels. There are fewer and fewer children (future workers) to pay for a larger-than-ever retired class. Canada is facing the same problem. Add to this an unsustainable economy, the massive immigration of unassimilated African and Middle Easterners who don’t integrate and add huge costs to an already shaky public purse, one can see the French riots of European-born but culturally antagonistic “youth” will be repeated elsewhere. People can get along if there’s money for everyone but as the financial markets are showing, there isn’t.

There are messages here for Canada. Politicians and public servants enjoy gold-plated pensions paid by the rest of us who don’t, and more and more of our economy is becoming increasingly unproductive. There’s a squeeze between private and public which will become more like Europe.

As it stands now, the U.S dollar is still the best of the worst worldwide. Canada’s lucky to be next to it. Watch the Western European financial system get worse while civil unrest there grows and think why is it again we (and the Americans) are emulating their failed socialistic system?

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