In the wacky, long-running, and possibly-doomed gameshow that is the European welfare state, everyone in the EU just moved one step closer toward winning a free vacation:
Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer.
Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.
The idea for the subsidised tours is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.
The scheme, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year, is intended to promote a sense of pride in European culture, bridge the north-south divide in the continent and prop up resorts in their off-season. (Link via Greg Mankiw)
European pride has always struck me as vaguely Shakespearean, though mostly in the sense of Troilus and Cressida: "He that is proud eats up himself. Pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle; and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise." And, as with that play, it's tough to tell whether to call this story a tragedy or a comedy:
Tajani, who used to be transport commissioner, said he had been able to "affirm the rights of passengers" in his previous office and the next step was to ensure people's "right to be tourists".
So everyone has a right to a publicly-funded Amsterdam bender? If only. Promoting "a sense of pride in the European culture" on the taxpayer's tab means your ideal destination has to be edjumucational:
Officials have envisaged sending south Europeans to Manchester and Liverpool on a tour of "archeological and industrial sites" such as closed factories and power plants.
Fun! That is, if by "fun!" you mean "so boring it might cause instant brain death." If it were up to me, I think I'd opt for a staycation.
On the other hand, maybe Tajani can ditch the Eurocentrism and work out a deal to send everyone to America—in particular, to sunny Washington, D.C., where council member Michael Brown recently declared that the city deserves an additional $10 million in tourist taxes.
D.C. deserves it. EU residents are entitled to it. Is it too much to ask for a little statist synergy?