Robert Samuelson has an interesting column in the Washington Post on the fact that, far from becoming a counter-weight to US power, Europe is actually well on its way to extinction. While I do believe that when the situation becomes critical enough, as in Great Britain in the 1970's, a society can undergo enormous changes (if there is a strong and committed leadership), it is undeniable that many Europeans are simply blind to the most pressing problems we face: declining birth-rates and lackluster economic growth. Samuelson says it best:
I really do believe that we are capable of solving these problems. However, I suspect that, unfortunately, it will take more acute malaise and stagnation before continental Europe is awakened from its torpor. It is a pity that these things take so long here.A few countries (Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands) have acted, and there are differences between Eastern and Western Europe. But in general Europe is immobilized by its problems. This is the classic dilemma of democracy: Too many people benefit from the status quo to change it; but the status quo isn't sustainable. Even modest efforts in France and Germany to curb social benefits have triggered backlashes. Many Europeans -- maybe most -- live in a state of delusion. Believing things should continue as before, they see almost any change as menacing. In reality, the new E.U. constitution wasn't radical; neither adoption nor rejection would much alter everyday life. But it symbolized change and thereby became a lightning rod for many sources of discontent (over immigration in Holland, poor economic growth in France).