Monday, April 23, 2007

Sneak Previews

In a brief note regarding the French Presidential election, Stanley Kurtz touches on the demographic angle. France, like most other European countries, is caught between declining birth rates and and burdensome entitlements characteristic of the modern welfare state. This is fairly well known.

However, there is a related phenomenon that ought to be getting more attention that it is. France is suffering the incremental corruption, not just of the political leaders, but of the culture at large. So even when the leadership (or the even voters) want real reform, the body politic is so degraded that they can't get it.

The demographic situation in the developed world is difficult but not necessarily irreparable. As Kurtz' source points out, even though the population is getting older, it is still healthy. Furthermore, over the decades, the nature of work has changed to where we as workers are still capable later in life. With smart reforms in entitlements, workforce adaptations toward the productivity of formerly-retirees, and the ingenuity of the individual, the developed world still has a fighting chance. But can the French pull it off? The field of battle runs through the heart of M. Beaucheron and his retirement benefits.

This is part of the reason why, jingoism aside, America truly is the best hope for the world as we know it. For the real big-ticket items, demographics, engagement with Islam, energy, America is in objectively better shape than the other developed nations. But at least important as that, America still has the spiritual strength to believe in fixing its problems whereas the rest of the world is largely resigned to fate.

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