05 September 2007
Why does Europe lag behind?
Patrick Crozier

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Slow coach
This is not the BBC.

As updated 19th Century technology finally arrives into an updated 19th Century trainshed we ask why is it that Britons literally fly around Europe while Europeans still choose to dawdle on trains.  Why is it that, in the shape of the budget airlines, Britain has succeeded in providing fast and frequent travel for the masses while Europeans lavish ever greater sums on a technological dead end?

It is far from a simple question and there are plenty of potential culprits.  Many put the blame on the powerful climate change lobby.  Since the time of Asterix, Europeans have worried that something very bad is about to happen.  By the clever use of well-funded propaganda, the climate change lobby have convinced European populations that the something very bad is all the fault of the airplane.  As, in an attempt to appease Gaia, ever greater sums have been squandered on Europe’s so-called “high-speed” rail network Europeans have found themselves locked-in.  To admit the mistake would be to admit that they have been very wrong and very stupid for a very long time.

Meanwhile others look to latent militarism.  Many of Europe’s original railways were built at the behest of the military in order to ferry troops to national borders as quickly as possible.  Although Europe has to a large extent exorcised the ghost of militarism many see the obsession with new railways as a way of rekindling the flame.

But we can’t ignore the possibility of deep cultural differences between ourselves and the continent.  Europeans have a far greater appetite for the likes of Sartre, Goethe and Kierkegaard whose works continue to fly off the shelves. 

Put simply, Europeans like being miserable.

Further reading

The Success of the Industrial Revolution and the Failure of Political Revolutions: How Britain Got Lucky, Findlay Dunachie, Libertarian Alliance, 1996.

Why I am not that worried about the absence of high-speed lines in the UK, Transport Blog, 10 August 2004.

Against state-funded rail schemes, InstaPatrick, 6 December 2006.

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