Renowned Political Economist Visits UVM

Between sitting on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change in Paris and advising Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on economic sustainability, Jeremy Rifkin, an acclaimed American econo-mist, had time to visit UVM to present a lecture on “Europe, America and the Global Econ-omy.” The lecture, part of the Burack President’s Distin-guished Lecture Series, took place Jan. 13, at 5 p.m. at the North Lounge of Billings. Over the past 30 years, Rifkin has been quite active in the field of economics, work-ing to bridge the gap between politics and the environment. He has advised the heads of states of numerous countries, testified before Congressional committees on Capitol Hill, lectured at over 200 universi-ties worldwide and mentored CEOs and senior management officials. Rifkin focused his lecture on his 2004 book, “The Euro-pean Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Qui-etly Eclipsing the American Dream.” The book illustrates a new conflict of ideals that is brew-ing between the United States and the European Union. It jux-taposes the American Dream with the European Dream. Using his 20 years of ex-perience in the European con-tinent, Rifkin argues that the European Dream is more suit-able to meet the challenges of globalization. “I grew up on the Ameri-can dream,” he said. “[But] in America, we still have that frontier idea. If you spoil your nest, no problem, move to the next one.” The American Dream, he continued, is about freedom, independence and growth. “Throughout our childhood, our parents teach us to be self-sufficient.” The American Dream is about religiosity. The European Dream, on the other hand, “…is new and emerging. It’s young and em-bryonic. The European Dream is about the quality of life.” Rifkin explained that the European Dream is adaptable; it promotes inclusivity; and, most importantly, it adopts the ideas of sustainable devel-opment. They are concerned with human and social rights, and such rights like the right to vacation, he argued. In a world that is facing the difficult challenges of glo-balization, the problems of overconsumption, the disap-pearance of natural resources and an annual rise in global temperatures, Rifkin explains he is providing an answer. “There are caveats, and there is a strong hypocrisy in the European Dream,” Rifkin said. Multicultural diversity and inclusiveness are not wide-spread ideals on the European continent. “I wrote this book for my American friends to say ‘may-be there is something we can learn from the Europeans.’ And for my European friends to say ‘maybe there is some-thing we can learn from the Americans,” Rifkin said. Currently, Rifkin is presi-dent of the Foundation on Eco-nomic Trends (FOET) in Wash-ington, D.C., where he studies emerging trends in science and technology and identifies their impacts on society, the environment and the economy. He is the author of 17 books, which have been translated into 30 different languages.