Belgium: A Bitter Cure

The medicine of austerity

"Belgium has become, like the Ottoman Empire before 1914, the sick man of Europe." That characterization, by the French daily Le Monde, might once have seemed ridiculous for a country whose postwar prosperity nourished one of the highest standards of living in Western Europe. But while a succession of revolving-door governments (32 in 38 years) grappled with endemic linguistic feuds between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, a reluctance to give up the good life pushed the country beyond its means. Soaring wage costs drove out foreign investors, unemployment...

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