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Comments

Sahil

I don't see Berlusconi's defeat (according to the latest reports) as being a step backwards. When you have a single individual in control of 90% of a country's broadcast media, when this individual has spent years weakening the country's judicial system to avoid being prosecuted, I'd think the people would prefer an alternative. Perhaps, you'd prefer another candidate to replace Berlusconi on the right which would be a much more acceptable argument (to me). As far as I'm concerned, the worst part of the election results in Italy is that almost 49% of those who voted, voted for Berlusconi and his allies. Berlusconi’s pro-US stance is not enough to make him more palatable.

GK

Sahil,

Yes, another right-wing, pro-free-market candidate would have been good, but was not among available choices.

Sahil

Do you agree that Berlusconi has spent a lot more time on legislation that is intended to protect him from prosecution? More than he has on economic reform? (Labor law reforms and attempts to reform the pension system were very early on in his first term, I believe.)

If yes on either of the questions or both, would you still prefer him over a candidate (Prodi) who during his first term reduced Italy's debt burden? I am assuming that the 4-day workweek was mentioned in jest. If anything, Prodi has promised to reduce employer contributions and labor costs.

Also, is a left-wing candidate worse than someone who is destroying the credibility of valuable civic institutions?

Assistant Village Idiot

Sahil, that may be a false dichotomy. It is at least an exagerration. I do not consider it established that Berlusconi has spent his energy in corruptly protecting himself from prosecution. Your subsequent complaint that he is "destroying the credibility of valuable civic institutions" depends on that assertion.

jeffolie1

France's approach to the labor law was the same that France uses when confronted in battle - retreat and surrender.

a@b.com

GK,

Unfortunately, Berlusconi's image of a free-marketeer is inaccurate. His administration is littered with missed opportunities.

He has done virtually nothing to make Italy a more dynamic economy. He's done nothing to reduce state participation/intervention in the economy, nothing reduce the pension burden, and, most importantly, nothing to cut regulation for the services sector (so that it can take up the slack of the textiles/tools/etc manufacturing sector which will continue to cop a hiding from the Chinese).

What is hilarious is that he keeps on blaming the Euro-zone because he can't take that classic Italian move from the bad-policy playbook: currency devluation.

In short, no true free-marketeer should mourn his departure.

JoePike

I'm not surprised about most of Europe's lack of reproduction. But I am surprised that Spain, with it's high Catholic populatioin, is also having a decline of new children being born.

jeffolie

Socialist Spain is Catholic by birth only. Most of the faithful are Muslims.

Socialist Eurozone is evolving into Muslimzone much faster than the comand and contol socialists were even able to recognize the demographics of unintended consequences.

Muslimzone will turn Eurozone backwards toward the 14th century.

usnjay

Comment/Question following JoePikes thoughts:

Why is Europe's population declining? I've heard various arguments which point to Socialism as the cause. In order of importance:

1- Socialism taxes individual wealth and destroys capital required for new wealth creation, making children prohibitively expensive for young people. The number of Europeans living with their parents until they are in their 30’s is a result of this, further hindering population growth.
2 – Socialism replaces religion. Religion promotes strong families by discouraging premarital sex & divorce while encouraging having several children.
3 – Less directly: Socialism teaches that being a house wife with children is demeaning and inferior to having a career, further discouraging population growth.
4 – Less directly: Socialism teaches that humans are essentially parasites of the planet, and the fewer people the better the world will be.

Actually this link seems strongly obvious, and I don’t think it would take much research to prove a causal, inverse relationship b/w levels of socialism and population growth.

GK

Excellent points by usnjay. Even within the US, we see very different reproductive rates between regions that voted heavily for Kerry vs. those what voted heavily for Bush.

http://www.isteve.com/babygap.htm

There is a flaw in the article linked, in that they only examine white birthrates (blacks and Hispanics have high birth rates and still vote Democrat). But still, the corelation between high taxes, low birth rates, and voting for Democrats is very strong.

Assistant Village Idiot

Parents have about as many children as they believe they can bring to adulthood at their own standard of living. Europeans are being overcautious because of their impression of the economic future.

GK

AVI,

Not always, though. Pakistan has a very high fertility rate (4.4), while neighboring Iran is just 1.8. Both countries have roughly the same economic growth rate and cultural similarities.

Girgl

On average, the more education, the fewer children, and that holds true especially for women. College is free in much of Europe.

There's also the "hedonism" angle. Lots of folks realize that the good life is over once the first kid arrives, so they don't have it.

GK

Girgl,

That is partly true, but not entirely. Education reduces the level of children from a high number down to two.

However, culture, values, and tax levels make the difference in whether people have 1-2 children vs. zero.

In the US, wealthier people (who often have more education from top institutions) have more children than middle class people.

US education level is actually higher than the average of Europe, in terms of percentage of people with bachelor's degrees. Furthermore, countries in Eastern Europe also have very low birth rates, despite not being as prosperous or educated as the US.

Assistant Village Idiot

GK -- agree somewhat. I think that the parents' expectations for the future is different for the two countries. But I admit, that's a lot of statistical difference to explain with just "parents' expectations."

GK

It also has to do with tax rates and cultures.

Parts of the US that vote heavily for leftist politicians tend to have European levels of reproduction.

http://www.isteve.com/babygap.htm

Laika

Failed Arab states use hysterical anti Israeli propaganda to divert public attention from their own failures and the failing european socialist elites do the same with their smug, deranged anti americanism. This is not the end of Europe though, the states recently freed from Soviet oppression are not making the same mistakes. New Europe, the baltic states, the Czech republic, Poland and all the others will ensure that wealth and influence shift ever eastwards.

Tom West

I don’t think it would take much research to prove a causal, inverse relationship b/w levels of socialism and population growth.

Oh please. Birth rates are dropping across the planet, and the change has been so fast that anyone who wants to predict birth rates 20 or 50 years from now is talking nonsense.

Give men and women the social and economic flexibility not to have children, and they'll have a lot fewer. Make the social and economic cost of having children lower, and they'll have more.

Europe and Japan are crowded, expensive places. Unless you really really want to have children, the benefits of having children will be outweighed by the cost of having children.

In the middle-US, it's not so costly, so there are more children.

For people triumphing individualism, there are an awful lot of people who expect Europeans to sacrifice their comfort for the fairly dubious privilege of helping "save civilization".

GK

Tom West,

The tax and welfare state structure in Europe make it far too expensive to have children in Europe.

If Europeans are not reproducing, and Arab immigrants are, that will cause major changes in Europe very soon.

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