Friday, June 17, 2005

Europe and the Nihilism of Intellectuals

In a fascinating article (registration required) in today's (June 17, 2005) Wall Street Journal, author Paul Johnson presents his analysis of What Europe Really Needs. He begins by describing the problem:

That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters.
The fundamental weaknesses of the EU that must be remedied if it is to survive are threefold. First, it has tried to do too much, too quickly and in too much detail.
The EU's economic philosophy, insofar as it has one, is epitomized by one word: "convergence." The aim is to make all national economies identical with the perfect model. This, as it turns out, is actually the perfect formula for stagnation.

Of course, the European bureaucracy and attempt at a successful mixed economy (with equal parts of capitalism and socialims) are fairly well known. Even Sweden, which used to be held up as a model welfare state, is now seen to be less than ideal (for example, see this op-ed in the Washington Times). Johnson also mentions rising anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism as part of the problem. Less well understood is the third point that Johnson makes:

There is another still more fundamental factor in the EU malaise. Europe has turned its back not only on the U.S. and the future of capitalism, but also on its own historic past. Europe was essentially a creation of the marriage between Greco-Roman culture and Christianity. Brussels has, in effect, repudiated both.
Equally, what strikes the observer about the actual workings of Brussels is the stifling, insufferable materialism of their outlook.
The EU has no intellectual content. Great writers have no role to play in it, even indirectly, nor have great thinkers or scientists.

Note that Johnson observes that both Christianity and Philosophy (described as "Greco-Roman culture") has been rejected. He does not explain what led to the rejection. But the answer is known to all who have read Dr. Leonard Peikoff's book The Ominous Parallels -- the answer lies in the philosophical trend that led to the present intellectual milieu. Great writers were once admired because they expressed profound views on the important issues in life whether directly through philosophical writings or indirectly through art. Unfortunately, today's intellectuals reject any attempt at greatness or importance as a result of the explicit nihilism that they have adopted. It does not matter to them whether the greatness is religious or secular. That nihilism can be seen in the form of multiculturalism and environmentalism, two ideologies that are fundamentally destructive of all values, spiritual and material.