Er, Iceland. Click the image for a larger version. The original image is from this story in the Independent.
…you can’t help but notice something really strange about it: the people have cultivated themselves to the point where they are unsuited for the work available to them. All these exquisitely schooled, sophisticated people, each and every one of whom feels special, are presented with two mainly horrible ways to earn a living: trawler fishing and aluminum smelting. … At the dawn of the 21st century, Icelanders were still waiting for some task more suited to their filigreed minds to turn up inside their economy so they might do it. Enter investment banking.
And don’t miss the little gem about Iceland’s huldufolk (hidden people) tucked away in there:
[Iceland's President] Olafur Ragnar Grimsson theorizes that the surfeit of spirit-beings stems from Icelanders’ abiding sense of loneliness and isolation … Public opinion polls and academic studies show more than half of all inhabitants think it possible or probable — 10 percent call it “certain” — they share their island with otherly beings, ranging from grumpy glacier-dwelling trolls to occasionally gregarious hidden people. … Earlier this year, Iceland’s highway agency had to change the course of a new road leading out of Reykjavik after citizens protested that the original route would disturb an elf’s lair under a big rock. “There are people who believe in elves, and we try to show respect for people’s beliefs,” said Viktor Ingolfsson, an official of the department. “If that means building around an elf stone, we try to accommodate.”
As superstitions go, huldufolk are pretty innocuous. But you have to wonder if the commonplace acceptance of illusory beings made it slightly easier for them to believe in illusory wealth.
JK notes that the good people at the Shiv Sena are protesting a book that paints Shivaji in an unflattering light. Of course, Indians are not alone in banning what they don’t like, it’s just that they do it more often (and with more enthusiasm) than Western Europe. The irony is that most Western Europeans and Indians celebrate their right to free speech without being aware how fragile it really is. The lack of a strong First Amendment in both places means that freedom of speech is malleable, subject to the tastes of the ruling classes (or mobs) of the day. Freedom of speech means nothing if it does not include the right to gore sacred cows.
I’ve linked to posts about Europe before and as you might realize I am not the biggest fan of the European Social Model. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d love longer vacations and shorter workweeks as much as the next man but the results the European Model has produced are nothing short of alarming: an aging population, a looming pensions crisis and double-digit unemployment alone make for a gloomy picture before unintegrated immigrants/minorities are added to create an explosive mix.
So it’s with some relief that I see Brown (yesterday) and Blair (today) have stepped up to give the EU a reality check. At a time when the EU leadership is busy papering over the reality of two popular thumbs-downs (cue Juncker’s ‘they didn’t really vote No’), someone had to point out that the EU was fixating on the past with its focus on protectionism and subsidy in a world of ever-competitive nations.
Let’s hope Europe’s people are listening, for many of their leaders will not.
So insular had [Europe's] utopians become under the aegis of NATO’s subsidized protection that it was increasingly convinced that the ubiquitous United States was the world’s rogue nation, the last impediment to a 35-hour work week, cradle-to-grave subsidies, and wind power the world over. [...]
But this is no parlor game any more. Islamic fascism, scary former Soviet republics, rogue Middle Eastern nuclear states, an ever more proud and muscular China thirsty for oil? these and more specters are all out there and waiting, waiting, waiting…
Welcome back to the world, Europe.
SteynOnline (via Instapundit):
For all M de Villepin’s dreams of Napoleonic glory, his generation of French politicians will spend the rest of their lives managing decline. By 2050, there will be 100 million more Americans, 100 million fewer Europeans. The US fertility rate is 2.1 children per couple, in Europe it’s 1.4. Demography is not necessarily destiny, and certainly not inevitable disaster. But it will be for Europe, because the 20th century Continental welfare state was built on a careless model that requires a constantly growing population to sustain it.
Europe is predicted to become a second-ranking economic force over the next 50 years, its share of world output almost halving from its current 22-percent share to 12 percent… Even that decline to a 12-percent share of the global economy is based on IFRI’s assumption that Europe welcomes 30 million young immigrant workers from North Africa and the Arab world, to swell its thinning labor force.
Germany (and France) is the new Russia, which was once the new Germany. History is fractal…