CZINKOTA: Growing Disenchantment Between US And Europe

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Michael Czinkota Georgetown University
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There is growing disenchantment and a growing psychic distance between Europe and the United States. This can be attributed in part, perhaps, to the growth of socialist thinking.

England used to stand out for the views and perspectives of its educated experts on money and markets. Now they don’t know and don’t care. New announcements and shifts are just shrugged off or, worse yet, ignored. Refusing to think or getting involved is the equivalent of Sokrates’ poisoned hemlock cup — because conditions will not improve by themselves.

British institutions which label themselves as European need to re-think their position as to its meaning in times of Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson may not defuse conflicts and polarization. How do ship captains make a choice between the drowning migrants and personal jail time for their rescue? Are we all in the same boat? Even in theatre performances, the audience and troupe performances have lost their traditional bite. 

Germany has a whole set of growing problems — beyond the physical tremors of Chancellor Angela Merkel. When standing is a problem, Merkel is able to sit. In the U.S., President Franklin Delano Roosevelt served the country despite difficult illnesses, for more than three terms.

But we should be concerned about the diminution of German ability to rely on its traditional strengths. When German intellectuals talk about U.S. policies there is very little well-formed reasoning, or even desire for input and learning. Rather, they make flash judgements and condemnations.

When the official airplanes of both the chancellor and the president repeatedly either can’t fly or must return to land right after takeoff, then the motto of “advancement through technology “does not fare very well. Misleading public information on air contamination by car diesel engines is a shameful event.  Failed technology to measure societal impact of government action is wasteful and inefficient. Expropriation of rental property owners will do little to increase the housing stock.

Increasingly, a sense of proportion and morality is missing. Take the case of Gustl Mollath, who was wrongfully placed in a psychiatric ward for more than seven years after complaining about banking irregularities. Now, the government is offering him a paltry compensation of less than $200,000. At the same time, the Deutsche Bank, provides publicly more than $ 10 million for ineffective managers to depart, and we don’t yet know about any additional hidden support. 

The Nordic countries have lots of goods available but few of them are thrilling. The local food is surely healthy, but not appetizing. Drinks are hard to get, even at events where conviviality is the objective, not a byproduct. (Big praise to the person who found and handed in my missing wallet while I was visiting. Thank you, Gary, from the West Coast!)

European country governments regulate many things, issues and interactions. It’s a form of localized socialism. But it means fewer and quite expensive taxis, no Ubers, and little adjustment to changing conditions. New government thinking stresses more taxes. France, for example, tries to impose a new 3 percent tax on large digital companies.

Italy still has very good wines and beautiful bridges from Roman days, but roads are decaying, and modern bridges are crumbling. Speed and parsimony cannot be the only criterion for quality public projects. Modes of transport appear to be routinely under strike during times of heavy use. Austrian government leaders are caught on tape offering the wholesale transfer of government contracts.

People seem content but not driven or forward oriented. Many tasks are either left unfulfilled or waiting for foreign hands, which both the public and the private sector appear to encourage.

Overarching governing by the European Union seems to be often haphazard, contradicting the desires of the citizens affected. Leadership selection often brings on candidates which govern in spite, not because of themselves. Will European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s new team make its mark with a reduction of regulation? 

All in all, Europe can be nice for travel; it’s great to be exposed to history, remember the British Pound as a world currency, to see Greek and Roman palazzos, and remember the Viking battles. But for now, innovation, change and a forward-looking perspective give good future odds to America.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s  McDonough School of Business and at the University of Kent.

 The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.