Notes On My Recent Trip To Europe

Tony SigI just visited Denmark and Paris with my lovely bride over Spring Break. Here are a few thoughts.

  • Whatever the level of government involvement in economics these countries have, the extent to which they model American stereotypes of “socialism” has been greatly exaggerated. We stayed with friends in Copenhagen and they are a young married couple with two kids, a car, a house in the suburbs, and both of them work. Despite “high taxes” and recent regressive taxes initiatives by a relatively socialist party freshly ascended (Really socialists, regressive taxation? Bastards), it would appear the American dream is alive and well in Denmark. And they’re not even squandering in debt for health care or education. Imagine that.
  • Which struck me. The “family culture” in Copenhagen was unmistakable, in bikes, and in strollers in public, and even the transportation system, clearly Denmark has significantly stronger “traditional family values” than America. Babies were everywhere and people were out and doing things with their babies and families. Imagine how healthy a family (and anyone, really) could be without being forced to be highly indebted, or with the labor and leisure regulations they have? If the Right wants family values, they could do worse than imitate Denmark. (Not that I’m trying to be Mr. Focus on the Family)
  • Part of which, I admit, comes from the relative uniformity of culture there. Paris, in contrast, was huge and thoroughly culturally diverse. But of course there they have the social programs to balance that multiculturalism out.
  • But normal people still start businesses, own houses, cars… It’s just that many don’t have to.
  • European cities are structurally conservative rather than dialectical. If they need to build rails they build down, up, and around. They don’t tear down but in small doses. Le Corbusier’s Paris can never exist, and it would be an abomination if it did.
  • If America wanted a rise in tourism it should make their cities more culturally conserv-ative. Create a history, an image, and a reliability.
  • Pedestrian only streets. Yes
  • Bike system in Copenhagen. Yes
  • I do, however, appreciate the valuable public service private operations in America perform with their widely available bathrooms. Also tap water.
  • Thus, is would not actually be that difficult to Europeanize America. It would simply take a substantial progressive tax increase and a redirection into health care, education, labor laws, and infrastructure. But it would not mean the dissolution of “the private.”
  • Once you steer clear of touristy areas, the food in Paris is everything you’ve heard about. Though not so much in Copenhagen. (We were lucky enough to be directed to The Mikkeller for great craft beer though. A precious commodity there)
  • But Minneapolis and many major American cities are just as world class in their foodie culture. Indeed the beer and coffee culture is lightyears ahead. Rustica is just as good as our favorite bakeries in Paris. Which isn’t to denigrate Paris’s spectacular bakeries in any way, but to compliment Rustica.
  • The church might be threadbare in much of Europe but St. Alban’s Anglican church in Copenhagen was hopping. Diverse in age, race, language, and culture. A definite highlight of the trip. All that and they didn’t even have to have a rock band, fresh ways of being church, or “expansive liturgies.”
  • Sainte-Chapelle was absolutely glorious. A must see in Paris.
  • The Notre Dame was, too, a deeply moving experience.
  • Gothic architecture was significantly more “feminine” than the gaudy neo-classicism of the developing modern states.
  • I don’t have the education to put both feet down on this statement but there was nearly no paganism visible or central in the older churches. It was the aggrandizing, centralizing, modernizing, monarchy and nation state in France that revived paganism in their art, or at least that was the strong impression I got. This spread well through to the post-revolutionary era; yet somewhere there was a shift. Versailles was a total confirmation of this inkling I had in the city.

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