You and I live at a juncture. There is no escaping it. The certainties of yesterday are gone. One after another, there is anew crisis. Our financial systems failed and dragged us into an economic recession of unknown proportions. The cogwheels of our society have stopped. Everywhere you look, there are traffic jams. A crisis – or more?
Our technological and social mobility are greater than ever. Our world seems to have shifted into top gear, but why are its wheels not turning? Every right-minded person must agree that our countries are being derailed structurally. Our craving for the faster, bigger, and better has crippled us. This makes me angry – angry that we do not allow ourselves to use new technologies, new ventures, new legislation; and that the political and governmental elite of Europe is redistributing, in a very inefficient way, over 50% of our Gross National Product. This is like they did 100 years ago, and with the approval of the established, larger corporations.
When we look at the European road systems, people tend to smile with pity. Getting around by car has become a contradiction. We are stuck in traffic jams more often, for a longer period of time, and this can happen at any time of day. It is such a shame after all those (alleged) efforts by our governments. The extensive road system serves as a model for the state of our nations. Some stretches of road are wide enough and properly surfaced; while other stretches show the signs of overdue maintenance. Privately owned highways, like in France, are making profits higher than ever on tolls, but going to a highway petrol station means you will have to get in a queue, and it often will cost you over one hour just to get some gas. The plentitude of traffic rules, signs, CCTV, and speed traps have given us the illusion that we have everything under control. And, it has cost us a bundle!
In China, about four thousand miles of highways are constructed annually. In The Netherlands, we reach a mere seventy kilometers. In addition, the European public transport system is not providing the answer either. This sector, which has been in an identity crisis for years between a private company and a government service, will never = be able to meet the rising demand of its services. The annual traffic jam length in The Netherlands has been dropping roughly since 2010/2011, and that really worries me. It means that economic activities are slowing down more than we expected.
Looking at The Netherlands as an example, a symbol of the ‘richer’ Northern European countries, we have to realize that many (semi-public) organizations are no longer capable of doing what we call their “core-activity.” Take the construction industry for example: property developers, builders, investors, and the government have shamelessly capitalized on this self-created shortage, and they have allowed the average cost for building a home to rise more than 5% each year. Housing corporations are the biggest players in this sector. They were given the task to create affordable housing for everybody. Unfortunately, they have been busy with polishing the silverware and enriching themselves. They bought hotels, residential areas abroad, islands, and cruise liners. Or, they found it necessary to invest public funds in Icelandic banks. They have wasted a lot of money – billions of Euros – and, yet, they are still called “housing” corporations.
Our schools still educate people in an industrial way. Students are “end products,” however, they are prepared to fill jobs which no longer exist. There is an enormous mismatch. Youth unemployment throughout the European Union is staggering.
What about the healthcare system? There is no movement there either. Players bicker about capacity. They bicker about remuneration, quality, funding, overspending, and about a free market. But what about the patients? They are left totally out of the picture, and the result is waiting lists in hospitals – hospitals that go bankrupt, but are bailed out by the government. Another result can found in European elderly nursing institutions, where annually, hundreds of people die unnecessarily due to bad management and lack of leadership. We are getting older and older. The system costs of elderly care, as well as our health systems, are astronomical.
The resulting indecisiveness of our political leaders has proven to be crippling for the innovative forces of Europe. All in all, our political system has survived itself. The gap between the voter and candidate has never been so wide. First of all, we have the central European government with the European Parliament: a non-transparent, but costly layer. Then, the national government, with beneath that, a layer which is called the province, Bundesland, or county. Finally, you end up in the pit that citizens and entrepreneurs deal with the most: the local municipal government. And, in between, there are all kinds of semi-governmental organizations, or quangos (“quasi non governmental organizations”). All in all, they are a suffocating blanket of governmental institutions, consuming, costing, and redistributing over 60% of our Gross National Product.