The Corner

Obama Fiddles, Athens Burns

While the president blathers on about fair shares, corporate jets, and those darn Republicans — and provoked this astonishing, unforced gaffe by Morning Joe’s Mark Halperin, for which Halperin and the rest of the crew spent much of this morning apologizing — the shape of things to come can be seen over in Greece, which is the subject of my New York Post column today:

Listen carefully to those screams of outrage and sounds of shattering glass you hear wafting from the streets of Athens as rioters “protest” the end of an internationally funded gravy train: This is what happens when an irresponsible government and a lazy, entitled public finally run out of other people’s money.

Welcome to the beginning of the end of the welfare state.

Talk about unsustainable: I spent the better part of the nineties working in western and central Europe while based in Germany, and the crash-course trajectory of the European social-welfare model was evident even then — and this was in a country that actually worked. But hey — it’s easy to have a social-welfare state dedicated to la dolce vita when Uncle Sam is providing the troops and the nuclear umbrella. Millions for Cinzano, but not one cent for defense!

Why the anger? For one thing, Europeans lack the American tradition of self-reliance. They expect somebody — the king, the chancellor, the Eurocrat — to protect them from life’s vicissitudes.

For another, the disconnect between productive labor and earned reward has never been so great. Punching a clock is what counts, not tangible results.

Third, the private sector has long been subjected to punishing employment regulations that have made hiring workers too costly, so that basic Western European unemployment rates have long been more than 8 percent (yes — the same rate that Americans are now being told to get used to). And forget about self-starting: In Europe, the self-employed entrepreneur is looked upon as a dangerous radical and social misfit.

A zero-sum mentality regarding capital and labor has brought Europe to its present pass — and Americans should be worried. Because what’s happening in the cradle of democracy could be coming here.

The culture of entitlement will not go quietly or easily, but go it must — and go it will, one way or the other.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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