Have the inhabitants of Bizarro World finally broken through to Earth? Krugman offers, with no apparent sense of irony, a column proclaiming the virtues of the modern welfare state and a Times magazine article explaining the collapse of the modern welfare state. It's two Krugmans in one!
Let's start with the virtues, as described in "A Tale of Two Moralities" (that would be "good" and "evil", as everyone familiar wth Krugman's world view knows):
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
The compssionate versus the heartless - yeah, yeah. I will come back to that, but let's press on to Krugman's article about Ground Zero of the modern welfare state, Europe itself. The title is "Can Europe Be Saved?". Yes, mind the whiplash! It was only one year ago Krugman assured us that "Europe is an economic success", but time passes inexorably on:
Not long ago Europeans could, with considerable justification, say that the current economic crisis was actually demonstrating the advantages of their economic and social model. Like the United States, Europe suffered a severe slump in the wake of the global financial meltdown; but the human costs of that slump seemed far less in Europe than in America. In much of Europe, rules governing worker firing helped limit job loss, while strong social-welfare programs ensured that even the jobless retained their health care and received a basic income. Europe’s gross domestic product might have fallen as much as ours, but the Europeans weren’t suffering anything like the same amount of misery. And the truth is that they still aren’t.
Yet Europe is in deep crisis — because its proudest achievement, the single currency adopted by most European nations, is now in danger. More than that, it’s looking increasingly like a trap. Ireland, hailed as the Celtic Tiger not so long ago, is now struggling to avoid bankruptcy. Spain, a booming economy until recent years, now has 20 percent unemployment and faces the prospect of years of painful, grinding deflation.
The tragedy of the Euromess is that the creation of the euro was supposed to be the finest moment in a grand and noble undertaking: the generations-long effort to bring peace, democracy and shared prosperity to a once and frequently war-torn continent. But the architects of the euro, caught up in their project’s sweep and romance, chose to ignore the mundane difficulties a shared currency would predictably encounter — to ignore warnings, which were issued right from the beginning, that Europe lacked the institutions needed to make a common currency workable. Instead, they engaged in magical thinking, acting as if the nobility of their mission transcended such concerns.
As Ms. Thatcher noted, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money. The Euro was a brassy attempt by the European elites to defer that day.
Now the Euro may go down as yet another Big Government fail. That won't have any impact on the faith-based community of the left, which never saw a problem that a government program couldn't improve.
THREE KRUGMANS IN ONE: From one year ago:
The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.
Yes, its hard to keep up.
AS TO THE TWO MORALITIES: Let's note that in this country at least, Krugman should be referring to the "post-modern" welfare state - the 1996 welfare reform undid some of the absurd incentives of the original Great Society program, which paid young women to have babies, then penalized them if they either got married or got a job. One wonders whether libs were honestly surprised when they got what they paid for (more babies, less marriage, higher unemployment) or had always intended to create a huge dependent class that would reliably vote Democratic. Krugman would consider the architects of the original program the good guys; Evil Newt Gingrich led the reform effort.
Today, Democrats want a generous social safety net and de facto open borders with occasional amnesties, with no real attempt to mask the political goal of creating a new class of Democratic voters. Krugman admits that this puts a burden on unskilled native Americans, but hey - the Democrats are the good guys.
As a bit of personal history, back when I was choosing sides in 1980 and 1984, I saw a Europe that could not create jobs, could not absorb immigrants, and was free-riding on defense as well as medical and pharmaceutical innovation. That did not strike me as a workable model for the United States and I did not then and do not now see the moral virtue in promoting an economic system that predictably leads to high unemployment, low growth, and dependence on the public sector.
MY STINT AS MORAL EDITOR: I can't let go of Krugman's description of the good guys:
It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
More accurately, it's only right for the less affluent to force the more affluent to help them. Elsewhere, a person with the moral view that "it's only right" that an unborn child receive protection is out of luck - the penumbra of the Constitution protects the mother, don't you know? Not all moral views are created equal.
UPDATING MY BELIEFS: This article about the immigrant ghetto in Sweden is from 1998. I am certain I blogged on this topic years ago, but can't find the evidence (I would promise I mentioned ring cities, 50% unemployment of Kurds, and noted that a lot of Swedish "immigrants" are from Finland and Norway. I would further promise I mocked that heroic attempt at diversity by noting my own transition from New Jersey to Conecticut. Yet Google and Bing deny me. [Hmm, seek and ye shall find, down in point 3.]
This AFP article from 2005 also paints a grim picture:
Sweden has welcomed immigrants with open arms for decades but now it is grappling with how to integrate them into society, especially in the southern town of Malmoe amid a massive influx of refugees.
Once a thriving industrial town with full employment, Malmoe has seen many of its plants shut down since the 1990s. That, combined with a never-ending stream of foreigners arriving, has led to rising juvenile delinquency and rampant unemployment.
Of the town's 280,000 inhabitants, a third are foreigners and 60,000 are Muslims.