Note: I spent nine days in Great Britain visiting my daughter. These are some observations about the events that unfolded while I was there.
Paralysis in France and Italy
In Western Europe, you see paralysis. The recent Italian elections went in the direction of the leftist Romano Prodi and away from the ruling center-right coalition of Silvio Berlusconi by the narrowest of margins. The election showed Italy evenly divided as a people and not yet committed to the needed reforms to move their economy forward.
In France, mob rule dominated the day as angry young workers, including many unemployed, protested the moderate reforms geared to increase their job prospects. Call it the protest of the unemployed to stay unemployed.
The problem for both France and Italy is that their economies, along with that of Germany, are limping along with high unemployment nearly double of that found in either Great Britain or the United States. Italy’s economic growth has been half of the rest of Europe for nearly a decade, regardless of whether a right-of-center government or a left-of-center government ruled. With taxes high and government over regulation stifling businesses, Italy is an economic basket case.
The dilemma for the French is that the labor market is too rigid and the government too highly involved in the economy. It is virtually impossible to fire someone. When the present French government decided to make it easier for businesses to fire workers under age 26, the goal was to make it more economically viable for French businesses to hire inexperienced workers. With overall unemployment hovering around 10 percent, the unemployment for younger French workers under 25 is nearly 2 1/2 times higher than the general population.
With a fast growing Muslim population becoming more alienated from the greater society and with even fewer job prospects than native born French workers, France is sitting on a powder keg that could explode at any instant. With an inflexible labor force, France is moving backwards in its economic race with the Anglosphere and, in the process, hurting the entire European Union’s ability to compete with the rest of the world. Europe is slowly being remade in the image of France, a France that is no longer capable of leading and that is sinking slowly into the abyss.
End of the Blair Era
In Great Britain, the era of Tony Blair is winding down, and Labor now faces its own test to see if they will follow the more centrist path of Blair or return to the old Labor party that was routed by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s. As for Blair, he followed the Bill Clinton model of pushing a leftist party to the center. Clinton demonstrated that a leftist American president need not be a disaster in a modern day economy and cemented the Reagan revolution. Genuine welfare reform occurred and a Republican Congress actually passed a capital gains tax cut, which he signed.
Blair followed suit and cemented the Thatcher reforms, but he did little to push Britain sharply to the left economically, even while showing courage in the war on terror by joining the United States in the liberation of two Arab countries from totalitarian regimes. In foreign affairs, Blair proved superior in many ways to the American he most emulated on domestic policy matters: Bill Clinton.
Gordon Brown, Blair’s apparent heir, may be a man of the harder left. His most recent attempt to tax the inheritance of the middle class failed, and he was forced to retreat. Brown exposed a major weakness of labor by attempting to change tax laws to raise revenue from previously tax-deductible pension plans that benefited the middle class. His most recent moves make it clear that, under a new Labor administration, taxes will continue to climb. The present British economy is already starting to slow down, partly in response to the tax increases passed in 2004.
With much of Britain’s social services coming under attack for inefficiency, horrendous crimes featured on the front page of British newspapers, and tax increases hitting much of the British middle class, Labor has given the Tories an opening. The good news for Labor is that the Tories decided to forgo principle and simply settle for a “wet Tory” (Moderate in American terms).
David Cameron is the new Tory leader. Cameron is a Tory who dares to dream small. His major platform is to imitate the Labor on many issues and look good saying it. Cameron’s strength is his youth and good looks but, beyond that, there is nothing but an empty suit. Cameron’s most recent pronouncement that the Tories will lose their next election pretty much negates the rationale for choosing him to lead the party in the first place. He was the magic man with a face and voice made for television, and he was to lead the Tories to victory in the next election. Instead, his party’s lead in the polls has slipped, and he is floundering for a solution.
With many Brits, including much of his own party, nervous over the continuing involvement in the EU, and crime a major issue, Cameron has gone soft on crime while ignoring many basic Tory issues and concerns. He is setting up the Tories to lose the next election by splitting his own base. Cameron has none of the iron will that pulsated through Maggie Thatcher’s vein and the Tories may yet regret the day that they chose expediency over principle.
British television contains as many American television shows British shows. Throughout London you see nothing but advertisements for American-produced movies. What is being seen is the Anglosphere expanding as both nations influence each other through the medium of television and movies. British actors, such as Hugh Laurie in the TV show House have become major American stars, and many Americans actors are routinely seen on British television.
Another trend is the invasion of Indian writers and movie producers. Movies such as Bend it like Beckham, a British film produced by Indians, show that soon, India’s “Bollywood” will make its entrance into our market and Britain’s. The final impact of this interaction is on language. American sayings are repeated in England and vice versa. Soon, we will be exposed to the Indian version of English, and the English language will become even richer as the Anglosphere continues to impart its influence.