Let's Do A Tour Around The WorldFrom at least the 1600s, Europe could claim to be the center of world civilization on all fronts. The colonies of the Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, and Russian empires (with the Dutch, Germans, Italians, and Americans as bit players) covered almost the entire planet. In its early days, an empire is both fun and profitable. You get to loot and pillage at will, and an empire provides lots of room to relocate the disenchanted, the overly adventurous, and the criminals. But the natives pick up the imported technology and customs, and they start to resent the intrusion of foreigners on their turf. At that point, an empire becomes a liability and a gigantic cost, since it needs to be defended. The Romans discovered that, and their descendants are rediscovering it. Once an empire starts falling apart, trying to stop it is like trying to stop a tree from falling once its roots have rotted. It can't be done, and it's best not to be around when it happens.
The way I see it, Western Europe is living off its accumulated capital, and it can take a while to burn through assets accumulated over hundreds of years. But they're doing that quickly, as enamored as the continent has been with socialism. The other thing that's kept its head above water is "black money." The convenience of having lots of other countries nearby has helped make Europeans skilled and successful tax evaders; this has given them a lot more capital than they would have otherwise had, to use productively. But the rise of the EU, the U.S./EU drive for "tax harmonization" and against money laundering, and the lust to regulate coming out of Brussels will quash most of the continent's remaining productivity. The place is on a very slippery economic slope.
Will the EU last, and will the euro continue to exist? I would bet against it. A simple free-trade pact (no restrictions on the movement of goods, capital, and labor) in Europe would have been a huge boon to everyone. But, no. That would have been way too simple. They had to try to make it into a one-size-fits-all burnoose that fits no one. Here's what will happen. The EU will fall apart, with bad feelings all around, recriminations for subsidies and loans, and a rebirth of nationalism. The euro will cease to exist, with more bad feelings and a lot of money lost, by what's left of the middle class. And then it will be back to business as usual, which for Europe tends to mean war.
There are two big complicating factors here: Demography and Islam.
Every country in Europe is in serious demographic decline; this is to be expected as any society becomes more educated and more urban. It's aggravated, I think, by the continent's pervasive socialism. When the state acts as your parent, you tend to never grow up, leave home, and have a family. The state wants to take care of your kids, and your kids don't need to take care of you. So the decline of Europe's native population is likely to continue, if not accelerate.
This relates to Islam. It's well known that, due to heavy immigration from their old colonies (North Africa for France, Pakistan and India for Britain, Indonesia for Holland) and other reasons in the case of Germany and Switzerland (mostly Turkish immigration), the population of Europe has changed radically over the last 30 years. Furthermore, the trend is accelerating, because the Muslims, for whatever reasons, tend to have large families. So, it's said, in another 30 years most of the countries in Europe will have Muslim majorities or significant pluralities.
Frankly, I don't care where people come from, what color they are, or what superstitions they may hold (as long as they don't try to impose them on me). But it seems predictable that this demographic revolution, especially coming at a time of rising nationalism, is going to lead to some serious conflict. Could Europe turn into a large-scale Bosnia? I'm not predicting it will, but it's not out of the question.
Bottom line: Europe is fine for vacations (even though it's way too constipated and way too expensive to suit my taste). But for an expat looking for a permanent base, you would be asking for trouble.
THE ISLAMIC WORLD
We've been talking about Muslims in Europe. Does it make any sense to look to reverse the flow? I have to say, regrettably, no. One reason is that Muslims tend to take their religion much more seriously than Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, or any other group I can think of. Islam is more than a religion, it's an all-encompassing world view, with serious economic, political, and social implications. It's one thing being a tourist or a visiting businessman in one of the 40-something Islamic countries, but I think it's something else entirely to focus your life there.
All these countries were ex-European colonies, which has left lingering resentment in some quarters. And practically all of these countries were created - Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Fuhgedabouditstan - by fiat in a European boardroom, with zero regard to existing ethnic, linguistic, and cultural distinctions. That means they're all intrinsically unstable, and most of these "countries" will fall apart sooner rather than later.
The situation is aggravated by the ongoing and growing War on Islam - called by the more politically correct, but ridiculous and dishonest moniker, the War on Terror. This is really just a continuation of what's been going on, sporadically, since the Crusades. I think it's going to get much more serious before it goes into remission again.
If you want to see the pyramids, rent a villa in Marrakesh, or speculate on property in Dubai (or Cairo, as a friend of mine is currently doing), that's one thing. As a focus, I think it's a mistake.
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