MAASTRICHT, Netherlands — The English like to say, from an old music hall song, “a little of what you fancy does you good.” Well, so does a smidgeon of socialism.
Shock horror! Alert Dick Armey, inform Rudy Giuliani and let Rupert Murdoch know. Heresy is dangerous, and the correct authorities should be informed.
Like most people who rail against European socialism, those three have been the beneficiaries of some largesse that might be described as socialistic.
Armey, who is leading the tea bag revolution and who talks of the socialist threat as though a fleet were coming up the Potomac to sack Washington, is the beneficiary of the rights, honors and money that come from being a former congressman, all the way down to a handsome health care package.
Then there is Giuliani, who presided over the second most liberal city in the United States, after San Francisco, added to its amenities and improved America’s largest subway system. Notably, he did not end rent control, now known as “rent stabilization,” nor did he end a plethora of liberal services available in New York. Yet if the former mayor, who wanted to be president, wants to denigrate something, he utters the “s” word.
Murdoch is special. He has played footsie with the Gordon Brown Labor government in London; played up to the Communist Chinese; cooed over the Clintons and booed ideas of assistance to the media; and employed a staff at Fox Cable News who are devoted to castigating Europe and its left-of-center democracies. Worse, Murdoch has benefitted over the years from various government subsidies including the Commonwealth Press Cable Rate, which moved news inexpensively around the world before the Internet. And he has never cried out against second-class postage, another huge government subsidy to publishers.
OK, socialism, even the mild kind favored here in the Netherlands, isn’t the promised land of governance; but it produces, at the street level, some pretty agreeable result. Scads of American visitors groove on the country’s parks, public toilets, bike paths and buses that are easy to use.
This small city of about 200,000 bears its medieval history with pride and its socialist amenities with grace, from miles of bike paths to trains that can whisk you to the next hamlet or to Hamburg, Germany.
Travel to a nearby major city, like Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris, and Europe is yours with its high-speed trains that crisscross the continent at 200 mph, and even plunge under the English Channel to London’s St. Pancras Station, a masterpiece which has been restored to its Victorian glory.
London itself adds public amusements with pride. Three recent ones are the Ferris wheel, known as the London Eye; the foot bridge across the Thames, nicknamed the “wobbly bridge”; and the New Tate, an art gallery in an old power station.
You can put this down to the kind of post-socialism that former British prime minister Tony Blair (a Murdoch man) described as “social-ism;” not the old-school, “Keep the Red Flag Flying” socialism, but the idea that people are entitled to services beyond national defense. A good question for Giuliani might be: “Would you have approved the building of Central Park?”
Where socialism–lite has failed in Europe is in an excess of regulation, particularly the rigidity it has brought to hiring and firing. This has kept small business in Europe operating at the mom-and-pop level, scared to hire because in most European countries firing is subject to a labor tribunal’s approval. Approval seldom comes.
One of the great drivers of entrepreneurism in the United States is the harsh but effective idea that employees serve “at will.” That, the socialists can’t stomach. They want Paradise enow.
A little socialism will do–and we needn’t mention single-payer health care.
So much for the Chunnel for the time being….
Llewellyn King wrote in praise of European style socialism. He advises Americans to at least walk part way down the Road to Serfdom against which Friedrich von Hayek warned us in 1944. If Mr. king is at home in Europe I wish him well and he can take comfort in the advice from Samuel Adams: “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your consul, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget ye were our countrymen.”