Jeremy Rifkin’s The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream is certainly a must-read for conservatives–though not in any traditional sense that label would normally suggest.
Rather, such characterization springs more from mindfulness of the ancient creed: Know thy enemy. This is a good anchor to grasp while reading this deceptive work, given Rifkin’s expert attempt at condemning America’s spirit of independence in favor of Europe’s penchant for global concession using liberals’ most tried-and-true of political discourse–offering nine parts statistical fact followed by one part spin or outright deception.
For example, Rifkin finds America’s GDP is falling behind that of the European Union: $10.5 trillion to $10.4 trillion. But it’s left largely to the reader to notice that this comparison pits a total of 25 nations against the sole United States.
Even for those who do make this connection, Rifkin has an out.
“So much of our GDP . . . is made up of economic activity that clearly does not improve our well-being,” he writes on page 72.
The message? No matter the facts and figures, the GDP is still a poor method of determining which nation is wealthiest, per se. What’s needed, he explains, is a more subjective rating of wealth that takes into consideration quality-of-life issues, like education and health care, instead of simple dollars.
‘Hot Evils, Cold Evils’
Interestingly, the system Rifkin favors leaves America at the bottom of the list.
“When people think of the older American Dream, what comes to mind is the idea that anyone can go from rages to riches,” he writes on page 83. “By contrast, the new European Dream is more about advancing . . . the collective well-being of society. As to quality of life, it’s clear that Europe has moved ahead of America.”
What’s not clear after reading this book is how Rifkin can seriously report an affinity for America, as he does on page 16 with a formal confession of a “deep attachment” to this nation and with interspersed references of “we Americans” throughout, but yet simultaneously call for acceptance of European socialism. Perhaps that stems from past habits. Rifkin, after all, was a key supporter of the 2002 Treaty Initiative to Share the Genetic Commons, a global document to prohibit patents on all “plant, microorganism, animal, and human life.” But to say the American Dream is dying and then, rather than fight for its return, support the very antithetical European Dream, is unpatriotic at best, downright malevolent at worst.
To understand which is the truer nature at play, consider Rifkin’s desire for the “European agenda [of] extend[ing] the idea of universal rights. . . to our fellow creatures,” all plants and animals. Or his redefinition of evil. “Hot evils,” Rifkin says, are the obvious aberrations against society, the murders and rapes. “Cold evils,” meanwhile, are actions that are destructive in context of global concerns, as with driving an SUV or purchasing Nikes that, respectively, contribute to climate change and exploit child labor.
Ostensibly, publishing a book that uses paper pages processed from trees could be a cold evil, though Rifkin does not mention this.
In a chapter that compares and contrasts American vs. European approaches to “space, time and modernity,” Rifkin shows his true colors (one that includes a radical-left past as a political activist), “Europeans tend to favor social democracy and a community commitment to redress the plight of the less fortunate and the poor, whereas Americans preach the virtues of self-reliance and favor a market approach to bettering the lot of their fellow human beings. For Europeans, Karl Marx’s words still find resonance: ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ Americans prefer to cast their lot with the Scottish economist Adam Smith, who preached a different kind of catechism. In his celebrated An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith laid forth the controversial notion that in a perfectly administered capitalist market economy, each individual works to pursue his own interest, and it is his own welfare alone to which he is dedicated. . . .
“These two very distinctive and contradictory starting points for defining security lead to two divergent journeys in the age of globalization. . . . My hunch is that the newly emerging European Dream is far better suited to addressing the spatial and temporal realities of a globalized world than the older American Dream.”
In other words, Rifkin’s preference, despite the wreckage of failed European socialist economies, is the European model of Marxist-style “globalization,” rather than America’s successful free-market capitalism. Perhaps his motto should be: Once a Marxist, always a Marxist!
Is this really the dream that’s “worth living for,” as Rifkin contends? Those who believe in the founding tenets of this nation would be better served by using Rifkin’s book as a means of defense, taking the arguments presented within as a warning of things to come and arming themselves for intellectual battle accordingly.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter