Many ideas that have motivated men become doomed well before the opinion leaders notice the inevitability of their decline and death. For example, in June, 2007 I suggested that Anthropogenic Global warming had already peaked as a political issue:
The "Global Warming" catastrophe has not yet occurred (safely established as >40 years in the future) but the first signs of the Apocalypse are scheduled for the next several years, when the danger will supposedly become irreversible. We are much too sophisticated to prematurely ridicule the alarmists* but it is safe to say that the "Global Warming" crisis as a poltical issue has already passed its peak; its political utility will end with the 2008 Presidential elections and it remains yet to be seen how influential it will be as an election issue.
[*The ridicule that Al Gore, John Edwards, and other energy profligate AGW alarmists have been subject to has been achieved the old fashioned way: They earned it.]
There are several signs that we have passed the peak of the "Global Warming" inspired hysteria and unmistakable evidence that as a serious political issue, it will have diminishing effects as time goes on.
Three years on it is safe to say that the AGW alarmists are laying low and that their glorious plans to leverage AGW into an international quasi-governmental structure designed to redistribute wealth are moribund. We will surely hear less and less about AGW as time goes on.
It is now clear that another treasured liberal idea, Multiculturalism, has passed its peak. Multiculturalism is dieing; the dagger to the heart of Multiculturalism is the European Debt Crisis, which at its core is a crisis of liberalism and multiculturalism.
Liberalism is a workable political philosophy under two conditions:
1) The majority of a population is composed of industrious, hard working individuals willing to tolerate relatively high levels of taxation to support those less willing or able to earn a "decent" living. As time goes on, the definition of "decent living" (in other manifestations, known as a living wage or an ever rising poverty level above which everyone deserves to live) rises. Today, people living in "poverty" in the West do not worry about food or shelter; rather they worry (if they worry at all) about obesity (apparently caused by lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, if one is to believe various self appointed spokesmen), cable television and flat panel TV availability. The ranks of the homeless are predominantly filled with people suffering from chronic Psychiatric problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and in small numbers, ideologically committed squatters. (The latter are more common in Europe than America today.)
2) The economy is expanding. With an expanding economy the cost of social welfare programs is absorbed by the productive with minimal discomfort. Once a recession or slowdown occurs, the pain of paying the taxes required to support others' welfare becomes less tolerable. If the slowdown becomes chronic, the always increasing needs of the "entitled" increasingly impinges upon the ability and willingness of the productive to maintain the social safety nets.
The European Debt Crisis represents a failure on both counts. Its roots are in the Multicultural mindset that insists that all peoples and all cultures are equivalent. Thus the Greek grasshoppers are assumed to be exactly as productive as the German ants. Now that the Eurozone economies have slowed, along with much of the rest of the developed world, the needs of the entitled Greeks (soon to be followed by the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Irish, et al) are seriously impinging upon the Germans who are expected to pay the price to preserve the EU, a structure which embodies the fantasy of Multiculturalism.
All indications are that any recovery in Europe (and America) is likely to be anemic. The boom times are over, at least until we get our financial houses in order, which could take many years especially if we continue to delay the day of reckoning. With slow growing economies unable to painlessly maintain the welfare state from its excess abundance, the willingness of Culturally distinct populations to support Others will diminish. The staggering loss in the recent regional elections by Angela Merkel's party is instructive.
The high water mark of Multiculturalism is behind us. Non-assimilated populations who insist upon living off our largess or insist upon "biting the hand that feeds them" (in the case of homegrown Islamic terrorists) will find the larger population increasingly unwilling to indulge in the fiction that everyone's culture, even those that are manifestly less productive, is perfectly and exactly equivalent.
If the Germans and the Greeks cannot find a way to assimilate, how can we expect people who are even more disparate to assimilate? America has traditionally allowed anyone to join our club if they agreed to give up their old culture (not completely but in some essential parts.) Those who desire only to transplant their old culture to a new setting will find themselves less and less welcome in the West. As always the strongest backlash will occur in Europe, which has a long history of dealing with minorities in unpleasant ways. In America we will be more circumspect and leave open the opportunity for anyone who wishes to assimilate and join us. However, our derivatives of multiculturalism (Affirmative Action, Diversity) are going to fade from the scene one way or the other. Either we will become a more meritocratic society or, I suspect as more likely, a parallel economy will continue to develop (see Resilient Communities) and the unproductive will be walled off, out of sight of the majority, behind (admittedly) leaky barriers.
NB: The very liberal Roger Cohen agrees with me, though I doubt he appreciates what portends:
No, the blame for the Greek mess lies much deeper: in allowing Greece into the euro in the euphoria of 2000 and then watering down the stability pact (deficits not to exceed 3 percent of national output) for France and Germany; in the current post-European German condition; and in the demise of any cohesive E.U. ambition as the British view of a loose trade pact rather than political union prevails.
Greece used to inflate away its inefficiency. It’s O.K. not to pay taxes if you can impose taxation in the form of devaluations. That became impossible with the euro, but the practices — of tax evasion and rampant corruption and 14 months’ salary — remained until the world woke up to the fact that Athens has a 13 percent deficit as well as a new E.U.-funded airport.
Europe now faces the choice Timothy Geithner faced in the United States over a year ago: costly containment or collapse. I don’t see a serious alternative to the $140 billion E.U. and International Monetary Fund Greek rescue; and an even bigger E.U. emergency funding facility should help shore up confidence. But the core problem — that the euro has bound vastly disparate nations in a halfway house where monetary and fiscal policy are not under unified direction — will fester.
It will fester in part because Germany has turned away from Europe. Merkel’s delaying tactics have been shameful, costly — and revealing. Solidarity of the European kind is now a dirty word in Germany (“The Greeks are stealing our money!” screams the Bild tabloid) when European solidarity was once Germany’s route out of post-war shame. There’s something a little obscene about Germans wagging a finger at all these Greeks who have crossed the road on a red light.
If solidarity goes, Europe goes. As Ivan Krastev, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, put it to me, “Without solidarity, how do you convince Poles that Germans are prepared to die for them?
The arrogance of those who have for so long insisted that ideology could trump culture is astounding.