Both Instapundit and Powerline have linked to this curiously titled NYT article, “Europe’s Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects” – probably because it represents a rare acknowledgement by the newspaper that all is not well with the social democratic model on the other side of the Atlantic. The piece purports to discover a “deep malaise” among young people in Southern Europe, caused by a lack of employment possibilities. Yet it reveals nothing new, and raises many more questions than it answers.
The social model, as presently configured, could only last a generation. Those who have been paying attention – not just the bright ones like Mark Steyn, but the plodders like yours truly – have known this for years. The bargain was for citizens to consume at a level determined by some abstract sense of right, while producing at a far lower level determined by one’s sense of comfort. To enhance the douceur de vivre, Europeans stopped reproducing. Once the baby boomers become pensioners instead of contributors, the demographic end of days will have arrived for social democracy.
The system quite consciously sacrificed the young to the old. Since the young are fewer and came later, they were outvoted and outmaneuvered by their elders. What I find strange, however, and what the NYT fails to explain, is why the Euro-young have so passively accepted the model that is crushing them like a python.
A handful of twentysomethings are trotted out in the article, all overeducated and underemployed. An Italian woman, 29, is said to have earned “an Italian law degree and a master’s from Germany.” “I have every possible certificate,” she complains, calling the lack of work for such a mightily qualified person “absurd.”
Powerline’s John Hindraker observes that collecting certificates isn’t quite the same as garnering value in the labor market. We are also told nothing about this young woman’s efforts to land a job. Is she knocking on every door, running down every opportunity, or is she just waiting for someone to reward her for all the years of schooling? Would she accept an entry-level position, as young people in the US habitually do, or is she holding out for something worthy of her self-esteem? She trained as a lawyer: has she considered opening her own practice? If that is not feasible in Italy, would she change to a more marketable field?
After all, she’s nearly 30. One presumes she’s been out of school for some time, and could easily have retrained. But we are not told how long she took to get her multiple degrees, or what she has been doing with her time since.
Ellisions and silences are typical of how the article deals with the response of the young to their predicament. A few, we read, take to the streets; more on them later. A few emigrate. Most just “suffer in silence,” which is a euphemism for staying at home and whining to the NYT.
But Europe remains rich. Other possibilities are available. Even in the age of the “boomerang” kids, most Americans after 25 would rather live in a mousehole than with their parents. Quite rightly, too, since they are no longer children.
It’s hard to believe that capitalism and the industrial revolution were invented by Europeans. It’s strange to recall that, until a couple of decades ago, French and Italian workers toiled longer hours than their American counterparts. They were also considered more religious and nationalistic. They bred more children. Europe’s peoples were shaped by a way of life discarded by the sterile rebels of 1968 and by now unknown to their meager crop of descendants.
Today, the young Europeans portrayed by the NYT are highly educated but emotionally stunted: free of all restraint yet caught in the coils of their own indolence.
As for the street fighters, they are really sock puppets of a graying establishment, which uses them to rage against reality. In France, university students demonstrated against raising the retirement age to 65 – but if unemployment is the problem, why would they care about such a distant event? In Britain, students rioted against tuition hikes – but why worry about degrees, when you can’t land a job?
The young in Europe don’t want to rebel against the old. They want to be the old. They don’t riot to dismantle the ossified structures of social democracy – they riot to be taken care of like Mom and Dad were. This is a generation of zombies, mechanically alive but ideologically putrefact.
Infantilized Euro-boomers begat infantilized offspring. The difference is in timing: one can eat the seed corn only once. The children of the boomers will be abandoned in the ruins of social democracy, growing ever more agitated by the unbearable pressure of having to assume responsibility for their own lives.