In a 1999 episode of The Simpsons, Moe the bartender asks some European visitors about life in their faraway continent. “To be honest”, says a goatee-bearded chain-smoker called Gunter, “we are adrift in a sea of decadent luxury and meaningless sex.” Leave aside Moe’s less-than-scandalised response (“Where might this sea be located?”) and note the date. Twenty years ago, before the Iraq war, before Robert Kagan wrote of Europe as Venus and the US as Mars, the loucheness of the Old World was well enough established to be satirised as cliché. And still the cliché lives. Some US conservatives think Europe is lost to Muslim immigration, low birth rates and bohemian ennui. In turn, European liberals look at Donald Trump and Alabama’s abortion law and see a kind of counter-Enlightenment. Such is the Western alliance: a continent where nothing is sacred and a country where all too much is. What neither side perceives is the cultural convergence underlying all this. Even as they divorce geo...

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