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Why the sluggardly European matters

Nice cartoon. Two meteorologists in their super-modernistic weather station, surrounded by state-of-the-art weather-prediction tools.

“I predict rain,” says one of them. “Why?” asks the other.

“Because,” replies the first, “My corns hurt!”

And that’s exactly how I arrive at my stock market forecast.

Sometimes the right answer is the least dramatic. A philosopher asked a media group to nominate the greatest invention of all time. There followed the expected roll call of light bulbs, TV, computers, various engines, the hypodermic needle, anesthesia and so on. The philosopher’s nomination?

The invention of writing.

OK, no gee-whiz there, but hard to argue with. All this is meant to excuse the lack of pizzazz in my answer to the question: What’s the most important question confronting Americans today?

Where do we start? Can Romney win? Will the economy tank again? Was Chief Justice Roberts helping or harming Obama with his dazzlingly unexpected ruling? Will Eric Holder produce the desired documents? Will Russia and China team up to confront an America that’s not emotionally fit to fight? All important, and who among us can’t ad-lib a hundred more logical suggestions? I have a sleeper candidate that occurred to me last Friday when the Dow surged a whopping 2 percent, supposedly on some kind of good patchwork going on among the erratic economies of Europe: Will U.S. markets stay high, rise higher or tumble back down to enervating new lows?

My answer is “new lows” because of my honest answer to what I consider the most important question confronting America. The question is, “Will the individual European change his lifestyle?”

I’m afraid not. The “European,” from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, will not make the lifestyle changes his plight demands. And, dammit, it’s our plight, too! Oh, he may do with one less latte a day. Or a less expensive wine. But suggesting that his retirement be moved up into his 50s, or anything that really changes anything, will trigger firebombings. I fear our European friends and allies of World War II will resume burning cars and throwing things at police rather than gulping and saying, “May I see the Austerity Menu, please!”

Can you imagine our major European enemy of World War II coming off as the hero here? Here we have a free, democratic and strong Germany telling Nazi-victim Greece to quit whining and get with the program. Whoever thought of the possibility of dominating the world without conquering, killing or even cajoling anybody else? If Adolf Hitler were alive, he’d drop dead!

The one-word essence of stage magic, the magician’s trade secret, is “misdirection”! It’s the ability of the magician to make you look where he wants you to look rather than where your instincts direct you to look. Misdirection got us where we are. And the misdirector-in-chief?


From 1947, when the Cold War began, until it was too late, we mentally divided Europe according to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” map. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended …!” Right! And in all those years we bunched those countries east of the Iron Curtain together as “Communist” and those west as “Free countries; democracies, NATO members; Hooray!

We didn’t care about the direction of our “free, democratic allies” in western Europe. They were all, to one degree or another, surrendering to the “welfare state” of high taxes, broad welfare and “How-Soon-Can-We-Retire-on-How-Much-More Income?”

And those spores of socialism had no trouble at all broad-jumping the Atlantic, even before a willing importer named Obama came along. America’s first great fighter against drugs, Dr. Robert Baird, who opened his clinic in Harlem in the 1950s, told us, “There are two kinds of addicts; those who want to quit and those who want to want to quit.” I fear most of the Europeans want to want to quit. I’m not sure they can quit nanny-state-ism any more. It may be too late.

Filet the bone out of a fish and you have mush. Filet the hustle-bone out of young people, as the welfare state does, and you have a population bereft of the hustle that distinguished America in its growth to greatness.

Capitalism, fortunately, has arguments of overwhelming power. For starters, all socialist economies have failed or are failing. (Bye, bye, Sweden, and congratulations on lasting so long!) Have you ever seen people crowd into un-seaworthy boats to sneak from a capitalist country to a socialist one? And why is it the free country of choice always seems to be America? Easy. We’re not as far gone as most other free countries.

Capitalism’s closing argument is simple good feeling. I’m sure it’s comforting everywhere when the government check arrives. Drugs, sex and alcohol all offer their own galaxies of good feelings along with their inadvisabilities and dangers.

But there’s no thrill anywhere that can equal the development of a product that takes your company public and turns you into a multi-millionaire.

Or even having the boss call you in and thank you for a great job with a 10-percent raise.

There’s lots of power there.

Turn it loose and get out of the way.