Victor Davis Hanson
ROME -- If Americans think fuel and food prices are high, they should try Europe, where both can nearly double those in the United States -- while salaries here are often lower.

Italians, like most now-broke Southern European countries, are desperate to privatize bloated public-owned utilities. Politicians are trying to curb pensions, and to encourage the private sector to hire workers and buy equipment, as a way of attracting wary foreigner parents to lend such perpetual adolescents more bailout money.

In theory, Italians accept that they are going to have to be a lot more like the Germans, and less like the Irish, Portuguese and Spaniards. In fact, they may end up like the Greeks, who are still striking and occasionally rioting because too few foreigners wish to continue subsidizing their socialist paradise. Red graffiti on Italian streets still echoes socialist solidarity, while Italian politicians talk capitalism to foreign lenders.

The European Union, like the 19th-century Congress of Vienna, can point to one achievement -- a general absence of war in Western Europe for more than 60 years. Otherwise, almost all its socialist promises of an equality of result are imploding before their eyes.

The higher taxes go, the more people cheat on them, the less revenue comes in. There are sometimes two prices in Italy (and often elsewhere in Europe) -- the official price that includes a high value-added tax that the unwary pay, and the negotiated, under-the-table, tax-free discount that the haggling shopper obtains.

Europe is essentially defenseless, as governments further trim defense budgets to keep shrinking spread-the-wealth entitlements alive. The French and British -- the continent's two premier military powers -- have been trying for nearly three months to defeat Muammar Gadhafi's ragtag nation of less than 7 million, itself rent by civil war. The ancestors of Wellington and Napoleon so far seem no match for Gadhafi or the Taliban. Both nations will soon be leaving Afghanistan in frustration.

Subsidized wind and solar power have not led to much of an increase in European electricity supplies, but they helped to make power bills soar. Highly taxed gas runs about $10 a gallon, ensuring tiny cars and dependence on mass transit. Central planners love the resulting state-subsidized, high-density European apartment living without garages, back yards or third bedrooms. Yet the recent Japanese tsunami and accompanying nuclear contamination have reminded European governments that their similarly fragile models of highly urbanized, highly concentrated living make them equally vulnerable to such disasters.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


TOWNHALL MEDIA GROUP