European and American Mentalities

“[W]hen you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you… you may know that your society is doomed.” — Ayn Rand

Europe Day 2008 in Foreign Ministry
I often read University World News to learn what’s happening with different systems of higher education in different countries. Usually I’m more attracted to articles about what’s happening in regions of the world that are up and coming rather than those that have already peaked, but for some reason I was drawn to this article about research in the EU, and within the first sentence I was reminded why I have so little enthusiasm for Europe as a whole:

European Union Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is planning to create one million jobs in research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the next seven-year research programme.

Why did I consider that so eye-catching? Because I believe that it reveals the European mentality when it comes to how the world works — specifically, it suggests that how the world really works is something that decision makers in Europe don’t understand at all.

Why the harsh assessment? Most importantly, because EU Commissioners do not create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs. Those who run established businesses create jobs. But politicians and bureaucrats, whether at the local, country, or Euro-superstate level, do not create anything, all they can do is get in the way. Now, you might expect someone who’s an EU Commissioner to praise herself at the expensive of the truth, fair enough, but that doesn’t excuse the media coverage of her statements, which accepted this view of the world at face value, rather than challenge it in any way.

Now, I’m aware that there are larger, established corporations that do cooperate with government officials, and that they do this to their own benefit and that it may lead them to hire more people as a result of this favor. But those corporations do this because they are protected by government from competition, not from any intrinsic efficiency or other virtue. Corporatism is not a path to prosperity for all, it’s simply a means by which different powerful factions collude to retain their illegitimate hold on political and economic power.

But corporatism is more of an American mentality, one that neither the American left nor right talks about often enough. Perhaps that’s because those on the left seem very reluctant to criticize government, even when government decision makers clearly deserve it, and those on the right seem very reluctant to criticize business, even when corporate decision makers are just as deserving.

One Comment

  1. Comment by Jeffrey Deutsch:

    Hello Steve,

    You’re darned right…corporations and government often working hand in glove is something neither the left nor the right always cares to discuss.

    John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out that different kinds of business have very different relationships with government. Entrepreneurial forms much more often see the state as an adversary. Established, large bureaucratic corporations often see it as a potential partner.

    Have a great day!

    Jeff Deutsch

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