Euro-Canadians Are Doom-Mongers

Euro-Canadians Are Doom-Mongers

Gurdon Op-Ed in the National Post
November 27, 2002

Atlanticists cheered when NATO opened its door to new members last week, seeing it as proof that the United States and Europe still have more in common with each other than with anyone else.

This is fast becoming untrue. The United States and the European Union are alike in being rich, developed and liberal democracies, but what matters more is where they're going.

A new bipolar world is emerging with the EU and Canada allied on one side and the United States and the Third World on the other.

The split is manifest everywhere. Take the Kyoto climate treaty. The EU seizes on Kyoto as a sort of justifying talisman, and Ottawa tags along. The logic is simple, if unstated: Once the global warming scare story is accepted, saving the planet becomes a moral duty justifying no end of intrusion in markets and commerce. This suits the EU and Canada because it imposes the same growth-inhibiting constraints on everyone else that they have already inflicted on themselves.

The United States sees things differently because it is not just the most developed nation on Earth, but also the fastest developing one, too. With poor nations, it naturally opposes emissions controls that would drag it closer to Euro-Canadian levels of long-term stagnation. President George W. Bush and poor countries want to adapt to the mild global warming now underway rather than engage in economic self-mutilation by attempting to retard the warming rate by a pointlessly tiny fraction. At international climate talks, in Delhi this month, developing nations rejected emissions controls because, as India's Prime Minister said, they would "bring additional strain to the already fragile economies of the developing countries." Delhi repeated the matchup and result of the Jo'berg summit on sustainable development, which furious greens and Europeans accused Washington of hijacking by discussing the environmental benefits of wealth creation.

The same split was clear in this month's United Nations vote to end a moratorium on elephant ivory trading and allow three poor African nations to sell 60 tons. The EU formally abstained, but opposed all sales and was stunned when the U.S. delegation proposed flexibility.

In multilateral debate over population, too, the United States again allies itself with mostly poor nations -- many of them Muslim --who oppose the EU-Canadian pact's aggressive promotion of abortion.

What do all these disputes have in common?

In every case, the EU and Canada are intent on imposing restraints. They want reduced carbon dioxide emissions, reduced economic activity, a ban on ivory trading, fewer births and so fewer polluters and fewer mouths to feed. Their position is anti-growth, anti-expansion, pessimistic and Malthusian.

The United States and poor nations are not so gloomy. They want growth; they want poor people to become rich enough to care about the environment; they want Africans allowed to sell ivory if this is consistent with species protection; they do not want to depress population growth, seeing humans not as merely mouths to feed but also as minds and hands that have God-given potential to make the world better. Americans are natural and constitutional optimists. The Third World is hard-pushed to be optimistic, but it has to be hopeful, and knows that almost any change would, for them, be change for the better.

Both sides of the new divide are adapting policy to their circumstances. The Euro-Canadians are doom-mongers because they are in decline. Half a century ago they packed a punch. Now they are increasingly irrelevant, and see bigger, formerly poor, countries such as India and China overtaking them. So they try to throw obstacles in the way of change to delay their own eclipse. To them, an ossified world is better than a vibrant one in which they cannot compete.

The United States, meanwhile, is pulling away from other developed nations. Its wealth, technology and military are making Europe and Canada marginal. The United States, with 288 million people, accounts for 51.5% of world research and development spending, while the EU, with 380 million, accounts for just 16%. One side of the new global divide is investing in the future and equipping itself to meet it.

So the United States strides into that future impatient of pointless, disingenuously justified restraints, and the Third World hopes that it can have a part in that brighter future, too. But Canada and Europe, with their failed economic and other policy prescriptions, creep fearfully toward tomorrow. They -- unfortunately that means we -- either do not know why we're falling behind or else dare not admit it. And because our dreams are not coming true, we resort to trying to hold back the optimists -- and calling their leader a moron.