Sunday, October 7, 2012
Steven Erlanger has a nice piece in The Times about the rise of regional separatist sentiment across Europe. The paradox, as he points out, is that the European Union, which is supposed to create greater solidarity among the nations of the continent, is weakening national solidarities among regions from Catalonia to Scotland. The problem at this level is Europe's problem writ small, as it were: the rich don't want to pay for the poor and don't acknowledge that they owe their less fortunate fellow citizens anything. Interestingly, we have the same problem in the United States at the individual level: those who are better off resent the taxes they pay to support those who are worse off. In Europe, the principle of the welfare state is more widely accepted as a norm, but the body of fellow citizens--what Tocqueville called semblables--to whom one recognizes a duty of solidarity is not fixed and can vary with ambient economic conditions, as we are now discovering.