By: Chris Warren
A little less than a year ago I wrote an article about African and middle eastern war refugees escaping to Europe and the difficult and often deadly journey they risked. At the time, I knew a positive outcome would be difficult; I also knew that the Europeans have a hard time accepting that there is a practical limit to generosity, even for refugees in life and death situations. I did not predict that it would become so obvious so soon.
To truly understand this issue one first has to rewind back three generations. That’s roughly how long Europe has overindulged itself in a cradle-to-grave nanny state where nearly everything is a government entitlement. For most of this time it was all paid for, sort of. By “sort of” I mean that the system was financially solvent on paper but only because of massive taxation, fuzzy accounting protocols, and constant debt deferment and restructuring. Financial doomsday has already hit Greece and is seeping out across the continent like The Plague of the 1340s-1350s. It’s the macroeconomic equivalent of transferring balances between maxed out credit cards.
When hundreds of thousands of middle eastern war refugees started arriving at the borders of Europe, Europe’s initial reaction was to accommodate them. There were grand pronouncements of generosity from government officials and a wave of social media love. Everyone, it seems, was gushing with refugee support.
Europeans will be all about doing whatever it takes to help the refugees until a collective epiphany (which has already begun here and here) makes them see that “it” is going to impact them individually. I wonder how many British or German or Greek citizens will still be Tweeting #refugeeswelcome when their kids’ school class sizes increase or the wait times for their rationed state healthcare systems becomes longer because of all the middle eastern castaways they so altruistically took in.
In what could be Europe’s very first ever introduction to economic reality, entire nations that less then a month ago were preaching humanitarianism across the internet are suddenly reconsidering after realizing that they will have to give up a sizable chunk of their money and standard of living to provide for the glut of hundreds of thousands of people who will take far more out of the government entitlement systems than they put into them. Wow, what a difference a few weeks makes.
The liberal left here in the United States, who think moral obligation never has a spending limit and all problems would be solved if only everyone gave more money to the government, has long envied European socialism. Yet, no one on the American left is speaking in support of their European cousins’ sudden change of heart. To do so would be to imply that their cherished entitlement system isn’t working.
The subtext of the very real and very sad plight of the refugees is the failure of big government liberalism and its two-faced supporters who embrace the the idea of helping refugees, but only if at the expense and inconvenience of others. As Twenty First Summer has discussed before, the political left was, is, and always will be grounded in two related basic tenets: Appearances and feelings are just as good as actual results, and a good cause is made better when the expense can be pushed off on others.
That is why Europeans continue to embrace collectivism. That is why they think they can hashtag their way to a better world. That is why after three generations of lavishing themselves in an egalitarian culture of “free” stuff, there are, as former US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney once famously quipped, too many people riding the cart and not enough people pulling it. And that was before the refugees showed up at the gate. The refugees have unwittingly exposed European socialism for the crock of sanctimonious shit that it is: Everything is free, until the bill comes due.