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Should the US be like Europe
Symbols of Different Cultures
Europe - the Hub of Great Civilizations
As a source of Great Civilizations starting with the Greek and most recently with the German, time and again, the Europeans for the last 2500 years have lead the world in Art, Philosophy, Poetry, Physics, Chemistry, Music, Mathematics and just about any area of human endeavor. But their history is also tainted with war, genocide, racism, and slavery to name some of their problems. So should the US be more like Europe?
They produced some of the most notorious leaders in history. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Lenin. These were men that started wars not only among their enemies, but also among their fellow countrymen.
The Europeans produced some of the greatest reigns of terror known to man. The Reign of Terror (aptly named) in France in the 1790's, the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1500's, the Italian Inquisition in the 1600's, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in the early 1900's, the Jewish genocide in the 1930's and 1940's.
The Europeans brought slavery to the new world, and even introduced the special brand in Africa in the territory then known as the Belgian Congo.
They have had many wars. Most recently they started World War I and World War II in the 20th Century. But going back over 2000 years, they had wars that lasted decades (the 30 years war) and centuries, (the 100 years war).
They produced some of the most radical and controversial philosophies of government. There was Nazism, Communism, and Fascism. Each one of these theories gave the dictator great power, and found new ways to subvert any semblance of political consensus or democracy. Even when the theory was supposed to embolden the people, it was quickly dominated by a Machiavellian prince.
The European Legacy
As civilizations go, there is no doubt that they have been creative and have dominated the course of world history for 2500 years. As such they created their own culture which makes them charming to outsiders but also aggravating. Because the culture is a product of their long diverse history, they are tied down. What makes them what they are today is the product of years, millennia even. But Europeans believe that their egalitarian tendencies now supercede their history. One author, Jeremy Rifkin even writes in his book, "The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream." that the American model of self aggrandizement is stuck in the past.
The American Experience
The first thing to note about the American experience is that it is a cut from the past. One may have heard over and over again that the Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom, to start a new way of life. That is true. In America, the immigrants were not bound to the historical legacy that locked them in. The immigrants were emboldened. They could make their own way of life. The cut was created not just because of the new continent, but by the Atlantic Ocean. There was separation, culturally and physically.
The American Experience is unique but if you compare leaders to leaders, consensus to ideology, party to party; Americans will prefer American ways of doing things. Which leader would Americans prefer: Washington or Lenin, Eisenhower or Stalin? Which political party would Americans prefer the Republican or the Nazi? Which economic ideology would Americans prefer Capitalism or Communism?
The American Vs European Economic Experience
One of the big differences between the two continents is in economics.Mauro Gullen of the Wharton School of Business identifies several issues with the European economy. One is welfare reform. It does not appear to affect the economies of countries, pointing out that the Scandanavian countries have booming economies without changing their welfare system. But business expert Mauro Guillen says that "countries like Britain, Portugal, Italy and especially Spain have been rapidly restructuring their economies on the more efficient U.S. business model and have generated higher growth rates than their European counterparts."
But other writers point out that government spending, when it is too big doesn't help the economy. According to Walter Williams in Capitalism Magazine, (November,2006), "Government spending exceeds 50 percent of the GDP in France and Sweden and more than 45 percent in Germany and Italy , compared to U.S. federal, state and local spending of just under 36 percent." Growth in the US economy was twice as fast as the European in the last decade."
The American Social Experiment
America has long been considered an experiment. A social, cultural, and political experiment. The Constitution, a very unique political document forces consensus in order to get legislation to be passed. Built in limits to the leadership exist, and the leaders comply with the term limits. Enlightened political thinking has not been the strongest part of the experiment, rather it has been reactionary. For example, once slavery was outlawed, Americans in the form of Jim Crow laws found a way to keep Blacks separate and segregated.
Yet the gene of progressivism has been in the American political genome since the beginning. Sometimes it is dormant, but at other times it is dominant; it has expressed itself very forcefully. The question then begs to offer, what is to be gained by America striving to be more like Europe?
As Victor Davis, Professor of History at the Hoover Institute, writes in the Free Republic, "The more Europe professes to be egalitarian, the more cynical and conniving the people have become—almost as if the human craving for one’s own property and to make one one’s destiny cannot be denied by the state, but by needs will be channeled into what the state mandates as anti-social for most, but quietly a perk for a few."
Their social experiments have not produced an enlightened society, their history is marked with strife of every kind. Their revolutions have not made their countries better.