Old Europe now lives in a world of unpayable public pension obligations, weak job creation for its youngest workers, below-replacement birth rates, fat agricultural subsidies for farms dating to the Middle Ages, high taxes to pay for the public high-life, and history’s most crucial proof of decay—the inability to finance one’s armies. Only five of the 28 nations in NATO (the U.K., France, Turkey, Greece and Spain) achieve the minimum defense-spending benchmark of 2% of GDP.

The effect of arriving at a state of political decadence, of no longer being able to rise in the world, is that many people increasingly discover that soft moralism is a more congenial pastime than producing answers for the hard questions. As when David Cameron, the Tory leader and likely next British prime minister wonders: “The insatiable consumption and materialism of the past decade; has it made us happier or more fulfilled?”

This isn’t to say that soft moralism is about nothing. But when matters such as climate change become life’s primary concerns, it means one is going to spend more time preaching, which is easy, than doing, which is hard. One thinks of Nobelist Al Gore’s unstoppable sermons.