As it prepares to mark its 60th anniversary (in Rome in March), the EU stands at the crossroads between creeping disintegration and a modest
revival, writes Paul Taylor in Eurozine. A great federal leap forward seems impossible, he says, but there are no other obvious candidates waiting to emulate Britain’s example and leave. Opinion polls suggest that support for EU membership rose in most member states after the Brexit vote as Europeans reached for stability.
'For founders like Germany, France and Italy, notwithstanding economic or political frustrations, the EU has become an extension of their national identity and international influence. Even in the Netherlands, where Euroscepticism has made deep inroads on the back of anti-immigration populism, old-fashioned Dutch common sense dictates keeping open borders and a common currency with Germany and Belgium'.
Taylor acknowledges that the 'improbable but not wholly unimaginable eventuality' of Le Pen winning the French presidential election would trigger a profound and potentially fatal crisis in the community. But the most likely political scenario is 'continued muddling through with weak, domestically-focused governments, and a feeble, insecure leadership of the European institutions'.
The threat to Europe, he believes, lies more in a long, debilitating decline than sudden collapse. 'Without a leap forward in innovation and productivity or an influx of young, skilled migrant workers, an ageing European society appears doomed to prolonged economic stagnation and puny growth rates at best. That will exacerbate conflicts among and within nations over resource allocation...Many on both sides of this conflict will blame the EU for failing to deliver rising prosperity for their generation...'
Yet, Taylor remains mildly optimistic, so long as the European model – of a society that softens the rough edges of capitalism through regulation and social welfare – adapts itself to the new realities: 'Britain opted for political and economic self-harm, but the rest of Europe need not'.
Most of the money raised by the so-called Islamic State to fund its terrorism has come from 'taxes and fees' that are imposed on areas under its control, with oil reserves its second largest source of revenue followed by 'looting, confiscations and fines'.
Christoph Reuter, writing in Der Spiegel, draws on a study by King’s College London to examine IS’s failing business model. The model collapses when the group ceases to expand, and its strategy of increasing the territory it controls stops working; and that, says Reuter, is exactly what is happening. IS has been losing territory, people and oil wells for months; and with the impending collapse of Mosul it is about to lose more.
But he warns that IS’s troubled finances are unlikely to make Europe a safer place. The costs of mounting an attack on a city such as Paris or Brussels are alarmingly low; the most recent atrocities in Paris and Brussels were financed on credit.
Should the Democrats in America 'reach out' to Trump voters?, asks Paul Waldman in American Prospect. It seems like sound advice: wouldn’t it be the simplest path to a different outcome next time? Waldman says no. He points out that Hillary Clinton actually spent an extraordinary amount of time reaching out to Republicans. One of her worst mistakes was to try to define Trump as outside of Republicanism, yet in the end 88% of Republicans voted for him.
Waldman is more intrigued by exit polls which showed that some who voted for Trump voted for Obama last time. 'Maybe they bought into the ludicrous idea that Trump is a businessman so he knows how to "get things done"; or maybe they wanted Washington to change in some way; or maybe they believed Trump when he said he’d take on the elites and bring terrific jobs pouring back into America. But one way or another they decided to give him a shot'.
If Democrats wanted to reach out to any on the other side, Waldman suggests, it’s the group of former Obama voters who turned to Trump that could provide the most fruitful ground for electoral recovery. Nevertheless, he counsels against any such move in the near future. Waldman reckons that the Democrats should be concentrating on retaining their core vote in the 2018 mid-term elections, where turnout is as low as 30%.
A piece in the Economist’s 1843 magazine explores whether high-pressure parenting pays off. Ryan Avent writes: 'The trend towards spending more time with one’s offspring is especially strange given that better-educated, better-paid parents are not spending less time at work; on the contrary, they are spending more, both in absolute terms and relative to the working lives of less-educated households. High-income parents are instead spending less time on other personal activities, including sleep'.
Avent wonders why. He points out that much of the increase in the time which parents spend with their children happens not in the critical formative years, but later on. Do teenagers really learn much from a parent who ferries them from dance class to tennis lesson, then brews the coffee while they finish their homework?