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New Republic: What Happened to Europe?

Author: Amartya Sen
August 2, 2012

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Amartya Sen writes: "Europe has been extraordinarily important for the world, which has learned so much from it. It can remain globally important by setting its own house in order--economically, politically, and socially. The first step is to understand properly, with some clarity, the policy challenges that Europe faces today. A failure to do so will reverberate far beyond Europe's own borders."

About fifty years ago, in 1961, Jean-Paul Sartre complained about the state of Europe. "Europe is springing leaks everywhere," he wrote. He went on to remark that "it simply is that in the past we made history and now history is being made of us." Sartre was undoubtedly too pessimistic. Many major achievements of great significance have occurred in the last half a century in Europe, since Sartre's lament, including the emergence of the European Union, the reunification of Germany, the extension of democracy to Eastern Europe, the consolidation and improvement of national health services and of the welfare state, and the legalization and enforcement of some human rights. All this went with a rapidly expanding European economy, which comprehensively re-built and massively expanded its industrial base and infrastructure, which had been devastated during World War II.

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