February 14, 2006
Torino: Europe's Last Hurrah?By Christopher Chantrill
On Friday night in Torino Luciano Pavarotti, close to the last gasp of his career, sang the last gasp of grand opera, Puccini's glorious Nessun Dorma. You have to wonder: Will this Winter Olympics prove to be the last gasp of Europe, the big blowout before the Islamic hordes engulf it?
It seems impossible to believe that the cheerful young Euro—Olympians who passed before the cameras are really intent upon the demographic suicide the pundits predict. They all seemed so alive, so optimistic, so vigorous, so free. And yet if they go on like their parents and don't make more babies....
But let us not forget Stein's Law: 'If it can't go on forever, it will stop.'
It is right to be concerned about the challenge of the Islamists and their fascist threat. But we should be careful about using the Nazi comparison. When Hitler came to power the Germans had just finished reinventing philosophy and physics. They had discovered the Otto and Diesel cycles, and they led the world in the military arts. With these advantages the expansionist Nazis could adopt a seize—and—hold strategy and dominate the whole of Europe—for a while.
Compare the Nazis with the Islamists. The London Spectator has a cover this week showing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a superpower scorpion scuttling across the Persian Gulf with a rocket in his tail. It's a great artist's concept, but think about the reality. Is this scorpion thinking about an amphibious assault across the Persian Gulf, in the face of the US base on Qatar and the Seventh Fleet cruising just below the horizon? Or is it planning a right hook through southern Iraq and expecting the British squaddies there to salute as they drive by?
No such luck. The Iranian president's strategy is only a raiding strategy, fomenting civil war or national demoralization by killing civilians with roadside bombs and suicide bombers. The best the Islamists can do is to seed Europe with seething young men organized into criminal gangs and hope that they will rise up in a generation or two and take over. They are reduced to this strategy because they do not have the power to do anything else.
Essayist Theodore Dalrymple has been thinking about the Islamists, and has realized that they have a culture just like the alienated underclass youths in Britain in his book Life at the Bottom. In National Review, he wrote that the Muslim extremists in Europe and the Middle East in the front lines of the Cartoon Wars:
We Americans know about this too. It is the problem we have had with every new wave of immigrants since the Irish started tumbling out of the coffin ships onto the docks of Boston and Manhattan around 1850. Each wave frightened the daylights out of the propertied classes with its criminal, threatening behavior. But each immigrant tsunami, up to now, has ended up thoroughly Americanized and suburbanized, reduced to Starbucks foam by chickens in every pot, cars in every garage, jobs jobs jobs, and, of course, freedom and self—government.
The Iranians are hoping that their Islamic gangs in Europe will not succumb to the Great Satan. They are betting that the rational Euro—experts and their beloved Social Model will continue to bungle things forever, in violation of Stein's Law.
Unfortunately for the Axis of Evil the west has a secret weapon. It was incautiously revealed a few weeks ago in a World Bank report 'Where is the Wealth of Nations?' The bank came up with a wealth estimate for each nation using the magic of compound interest, computing the present value of each nation's annual consumption expenditures. But when you subtract capital in natural resources and in businesses and factories from the national wealth you are left with a residual: Intangible Capital.
The residual value of Intangible Capital turns out to be the precipitate of efficient justice, secure property rights, freedom, and self—government.
How big do you think the value of this residual would be? Appendix 2 gives us the data to compare three representative countries.
Iran's total wealth per person is $24,023. Intangible Capital amounts to only $6581 of it.
The United States has a total wealth per person of $512,612. Intangible Capital, the product of our society and political economy, amounts to $418,009 of that total.
For Italy, total wealth per capita is $372,666, with Intangible Capital comprising $316,045 of the total.
So that's why those once—angry US immigrants aren't angry any more, and why those Euro—Olympians in Torino are so happy. They are all heirs to a vast hoard of intangible loot: efficient justice, secure property rights, education, and tons of 'global best practice' employers.
Anyone can think up scenarios in which the Europeans just go on as they are, throw away their birthright, and submit themselves to a bunch of excitable oil—meter readers from the Middle East. But really, could anyone be that stupid?