Conservatism dominates US, Europe
As expected this week American voters voted for more of the same. But while President Reagan was authorized to continue on his chosen right-of-center course , he was, in effect, told to keep down the speed.
His economics and his politics were neither repudiated nor enthusiastically endorsed. He was allowed to keep the same majority of his own party in the Senate (54 to 46). But the Democrats were allowed to keep control of the House of Representatives and were given an extra 26 seats there.
By increasing their House majority the Democrats will be able to see to it that Reaganomics does not move further to the right or dismantle more of the welfare state. The general direction will continue to be one of trying to curb and restrain welfarism.
All of which keeps the United States in the mainstream of moderate conservatism that has been running in the Western industrial community over the past four years. And it demonstrates once again that American politics is less sensitive to unemployment than is the politics of most other modern industrial democracies.
The Republicans went into these last elections with American unemployment standing at 10.1 percent (or some 11 million jobless workers) and came out reproached but not repudiated. Unemployment in the members of the European Community stands at 9.8 percent (11.2 million). That sort of unemployment is regarded as almost intolerable in Europe.
High unemployment was a main reason France went Socialist last year, and it might bring down Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in Britain today had she not presided over a popular military victory in the Falkland Islands last summer.
But the trend throughout the modern democracies continues to show the same conservative inclination that survived this past week in the US. All of their economies are suffering both from stagnation and from high unemployment. But the tendency is to seek the remedy on the right rather than on the left.
There are exceptions to the trend. France went Socialist in June of 1981. But the Socialist government there has turned from an anti-unemployment line to an anti-inflation line and is trying to stabilize the economy by wage and price controls.
Spain went Socialist in October, Sweden had moved left in September, and Greece did the same in 1981. But there were special reasons in each of these cases. West Germany has just turned to the right. Italy remains stalled in a center coalition - going neither right nor left. Japan continues to seek a solution for rising unemployment and a sluggish economy through conservative devices. Britain remains on the right.
The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, and Luxembourg have all moved right since 1979 and today stand with West Germany, Britain, and the US on that side of the political and economic fence.
While the whole of the industrial world continues to be plagued by economic difficulty, the democracies at least have the consolation of knowing from a speech Leonid Brezhnev made the week in Moscow that the Soviet Union also suffers from economic stagnation. He identified major bottlenecks as being ''metal, fuel, and transport.''
He recognized ''shortcomings'' in the management of the Soviet economy. He recognized the unsolved problems of Soviet agriculture by promising to try to ''eliminate in the future the need for grain purchases abroad.''
Western capitalism is in obvious difficulty, but from the Brezhnev speech, and from many other confirming and more detailed sources of information, we know that Soviet-style communism is considerably less efficient and less able to meet the economic problems of the times. Official Soviet statistics do not show the same problem of unemployment, but it is there all the same. They have concealed unemployment in the form of overemployment and inefficient use of manpower.
Middle East affairs mark time for the moment pending conclusion of the investigation of the massacres in the Palestinian camps of west Beirut. There is little point in pushing negotiations with the Begin government until one knows what will be the impact of that investigation on the tenure and future direction of that government.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin was still refusing during this past week to respect President Reagan's request for a halt to the settling of more Jewish colonists in West Bank and Gaza Strip lands. But the American President will have more time to devote to such matters now that his own midterm elections are out of the way and he has emerged with relatively little damage.
In diplomatic circles the main subject of appraisal and analysis is the recent series of Sino-Soviet talks which took place in Peking from Oct. 5 to Oct. 21. The official communiques tell little. The same Brezhnev speech that spoke of unsolved Soviet economic problems told us a little more. Mr. Brezhnev asserted that his government is ''doing everything within our power'' to improve Soviet relations with China.
It seems reasonable to assume that if those relations had been substantially improved during the Peking talks Mr. Brezhnev would have said so. As it was, he merely stated the desire for normalization but made no claim of progress having been made.
The net of the talks is probably that the holding of them was more important than anything said during them. They were held. There is to be another round, the next time in Moscow. That means a continuing dialogue between Moscow and Peking. That means a small but important improvement in the relationship of Peking to Moscow.
There had been momentum in the Chinese-American relationship beginning with the Nixon visit to Peking in 1972. From then through the Ford and Carter administrations there was a steady increase in the relationship. President Reagan ended that trend and put a virtual freeze on US relations with China. The Soviets saw an opportunity, seized it, and have been rewarded with the dialogue.