Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., has written a very timely book, given the concerning state of our economy and, more importantly, our ever-declining moral life.
Becoming Europe opens with an account of the human slaughter and economic disaster of the First World War, which, as they say, “changed everything.” In particular, it opened the way for the Second World War, in part through the economic collapse of a defeated Germany during the Weimar Republic. The desperate situation in which a bankrupt Germany found itself eventually offered an opening for the hate-filled demagoguery of Adolph Hitler, the Third Reich and the Second World War.
Gregg then explains how, following World War II, a recovering Western Europe grappled with varied economic and cultural influences, ranging from Christian Democratic (largely Catholic) economists and statesmen from the right side of the spectrum to socialist and communist-leaning influences on the left. Both sides vied to establish their own versions of a just society in governmental forms during the ’50s and ’60s, up to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites by 1989.
Much of the rest of the book describes in sorry detail what Europe is today: the crush of enormous debt, government consuming close to 50% of the economy, high taxation and high numbers of public workers being supported by an ever-dwindling class of private-sector employees.
Fr. McCloskey ends his review with this thought:
If we do not want to become like current-day Europe, we need to chart a different course. Perhaps only an unadulterated and evangelizing Catholicism may over time help our country survive in recognizable form and reinvigorate us to in turn re-evangelize with gratitude what is left of Europe, the incubator of our culture.