Mark Steyn explains in a column here why the Welfare State is on life support. The short version is not enough babies and too many people living off the State.
While President Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand new, even more unsustainable entitlement at the health care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split screen – because they’re part of the same story. It’s just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They’re at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is further upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided instead that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter 20 (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter 17 or 18.
What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1, or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: 10 grandparents have six kids have four grandkids – i.e., the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility – the point from which no society has ever recovered. And compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.
We are at a time of transition from a time when governments throughout the Western world established ever more elaborate social welfare networks, to a time in the future, and probably the very near future, when these systems simply can no longer be funded:
Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still just about functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end, it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?
The Welfare States depended upon ever rising populations to pay the benefits ladled out by the government. Now we are witnessing what happens when shrinking populations destroy the tax base for the welfare state. The election of Obama, rather than leading to New Deal II as some of his supporters hoped, may well be remembered by future historians as the Last Hurrah in this country of a Social Welfare view of government that is dying before our eyes.