“The cuddly form of capitalism embraced in Europe has markedly failed to create world-beating companies. Big tech firms are all American or, increasingly, Asian.”

Clever road yclists who run out of puff keep up the pace by discreetly tucking themselves behind faster riders. Carried by this slipstream, it is easy to get comfortable, if not outright lazy. Why expend the effort needed to forge ahead if you can get away with this dolce vita? Occasionally laggards have to soothe the tired (and increasingly irate) front-runner with a vague pledge to “pull their weight”. That seems like a small price to pay. Only much later, perhaps ensconced in the comfort of a peloton, does the realisation dawn that staying too long in the rear means blindly following someone else down a road not necessarily of your choosing.

Europe is the free-rider continent. For decades its defence has been underpinned by America—leaving it in a supporting role even as war breaks out on its own borders. Economically it has piggybacked on innovation from elsewhere, keeping up with rivals, not forging ahead. Even the feel-good environmental ambitions crafted in Brussels are made possible in part by importing from afar the products once made in carbon-spewing factories Europe shut down long ago. How clever it seems to some. All this money saved and effort outsourced has made it possible to live a fine life while working 35-hour weeks and retiring in one’s prime

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