Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on March 31, 2010 By Draginol In Politics

The answer is almost always: No, actually it doesn’t.

In almost any debate, we’ll hear about how the “United States is the only X that does Y [or doesn’t do]”.

Except that’s not the case when you compare apples and apples.

One of the constant, long-time, ongoing debates in the United States is one that Europeans now find themselves in as well – where do the “states” stop and the “union” start?

When you dig into countless numbers of political topics, you find that opposition to a given policy starts to melt away when it is suggested that the issue be left to the states.

The reason for that is because the United States, like the European Union, is made up of demographically very different members.

The living standards, culture and priorities of someone in say New York or Massachusetts are very different from someone in Utah or Iowa or Mississippi.  So when someone looks to impose a new federal program – whether it be education, health care, welfare, etc. you get into quite a bit of debate on the issue.

Europeans often enter these debates without realizing that what they advocate for us they would very much likely oppose if forced upon them.

Let me give you an example: Welfare.

We should help the poor right?  Only the greedy oppose helping the poor.  Europeans have great social welfare programs right? No. They do not.  Some EU member states have generous welfare programs just as some US states have generous welfare programs.

The EU advocacy site, Europa, has a lot of useful information on the wealth of Europeans that you may find very enlightening.

For instance, the per person GDP in Denmark is 29,600.  Bulgaria’s is 8,600.  Should the EU start adopting laws that transfer massive amounts of wealth from Denmark to Bulgaria?  In the US, anything less than 15,000 per person is considered poverty level.  In the United States, the average person in Bulgaria would qualify for Medicaid (the US’s already existing “universal health insurance”). 

Consider the reaction of the Dutch, Danes, English, and Swedes if they were asked to endure a massive tax increase in order to pay for new anti-poverty programs that would go entirely to 10 EU members? I suspect there’d be riots.  But wait, the Dutch are “rich”. They average 28,200 a year.  Meanwhile, those poor people in Portugal are only living on about half as much.  What about compassion? What about caring for your fellow man?

I happen to agree with Europeans on that issue, there shouldn’t be massive “entitlement” programs imposed on the entire EU as a whole. Blanket policies are bad policies.  The same is true of the United States.


Comments (Page 1)
on Mar 31, 2010

I'm always impressed by the folks that believe one must pull the top down to make it "fair" for the poor. What ever happened to pull the bottom up?

on Mar 31, 2010

For over 200 year the United States went from a piece of land sparcely populated by Indian to a melting pot of cultures 300 million strong. The majority of that time there were no such things as welfare, social security, food stamps and Gov't healthcare. Yet somehow our society grew to the point of being the most powerful country in the world. This happened because the average person believed in hard work to move ahead, people believed in providing quality over quantity, people believed in earning the American Dream.

Time and again all we hear from foreigners how we should stay out of other countries business yet by the same token they comment on how we should run our country. Last I checked the US was not Europe, Canada, Asia or Australia. So why do we have to do things the same way they do?

on Mar 31, 2010

You are quite right, there is no "real" Europe-wide welfare program, in the same way there is no defense or diplomatic - until very recently - program. Unlike the US, Europe is a long way from being a federation (and it's not happening anytime soon) and the only real power Europe has is over economic and regulatory matters (and only to a point), with almost everything still being the state responsibility.

And low and behold, on those very fronts, there are massive amounts of aid and grants given to the new entrants to help them get up to speed, to private companies (and public research) all across Europe for R&D and to all sorts of economic actors (such as agriculture) to shield them a bit from the rest of the world (in a similar way the US does for it's own industries...).

48% of the EU budget is agricultural subsidies. And while it isn't given only to individuals (the food industry gets a big chunk of it), it amounts for a sizable part of every European farmer income. Overview here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Agricultural_Policy

If that doesn't qualify as some form of welfare, I don't know what does.

And yes, a lot of people (from the right and the left) want it changed, whether it be to stop giving huge amounts of money with little ROI, or to shift some of it to other welfare programs that might prove more useful.

Edit: And the states opposing any form of social welfare are usually among the new entrants because that would also prevent them from doing social dumping and getting a lot of jobs & money from companies that move their jobs there. Yes, Europe is even more of a mess than it looks at first sight.

on Apr 01, 2010

Unlike the US, Europe is a long way from being a federation (and it's not happening anytime soon) and the only real power Europe has is over economic and regulatory matters (and only to a point), with almost everything still being the state responsibility.

You cannot describe the whole of "Europe" in a single sentence. If you think the USA are diversified internally, Europe's people are a hundredfold more. (Note: I am not contradicting your point. Simply building on the door you light up. Yes, that's 3 mixted metaphores)

There are germans, english, french, netherlander, spanish, italian, greeks, macedonians, polish, swedish, danish, irish, etc... All of these people being more different to each other than a Texan and a Californian are. And having a much different government system, and a different constitution, history, culture, language.

Arrrgg.. the number of american actually believing Europe to be "like the U.S., but liberal" is maddening.

BTW, I agree with your post, Brad. Overall, many so-called socialist programs in Europe are very efficient programs that push people to become more efficient and, if tried to be implimented here (Quebec, at least) would summon the ire of the Unions, who are the first to claim that Denmark is a so great "social democracy".

on Apr 01, 2010

Cikomyr: Thanks for giving a bit more context! It's already hard to explain what Europe is or does to European citizens, so trying to explain it in one sentence to people with a different background is indeed close to impossible. BTW, I'm from France, been living in the US for a while, so I get the best of both worlds (not really ).

And in terms of organization and citizens feeling as part of a bigger whole, one has to remember that Europe as a community is only a bit over 50 years old (and the original union was much much smaller in scope and size, even though the founders were hoping it would one day become a federation).

on Apr 01, 2010

Cikomyr
You cannot describe the whole of "Europe" in a single sentence. If you think the USA are diversified internally, Europe's people are a hundredfold more. (Note: I am not contradicting your point. Simply building on the door you light up. Yes, that's 3 mixted metaphores)

There are germans, english, french, netherlander, spanish, italian, greeks, macedonians, polish, swedish, danish, irish, etc... All of these people being more different to each other than a Texan and a Californian are. And having a much different government system, and a different constitution, history, culture, language.

Actually, you are wrong.  if you meant their "governments" are a hundred fold more diverse, you would be correct.  But the US has "germans, english, french, netherlander, spanish, italian, greeks, macedonians, polish, swedish, danish, irish,", plus Mexicans, El Ssalvadorians, Brazilians, Venezuelans, Chinese, Japanese, Hmongs, Thai, Kenyans, etc...

Did you know the largest population of Poles in one city is not Warsaw, but Chicago?

But both issues are secondary to Draginol's point.  And that is too many Americans (and some furiners) use "Europe" as a comparison, when they are actually saying "France" or "Germany".  While the EU is slowly cobbling itself together, the simple fact is (as you point out), it has a long way to go before it is a unified confederation.  Although the EU is comparable to the US in population and GDP, it is still a bunch of nations that talk amoung themselves alot and do not do much more. Yet.

 

on Apr 02, 2010

The problem with the EU example is that the EU is not a country. States are not to the US what countries are to the EU, in a sense. European countries have similar subdivisions into states. The EU was not established to become a supercountry, but rather to ease restrictions impeding travel and trade.

The Denmark/Bulgaria argument isn't valid. Denmark has a welfare system for its own citizens, as does Bulgaria.

on Apr 05, 2010

The problem with the EU example is that the EU is not a country. States are not to the US what countries are to the EU, in a sense. European countries have similar subdivisions into states. The EU was not established to become a supercountry, but rather to ease restrictions impeding travel and trade.

The Denmark/Bulgaria argument isn't valid. Denmark has a welfare system for its own citizens, as does Bulgaria.

Then we should drop the terms 'Europe' and 'European' from our political vocabulary.

on Apr 05, 2010

Daiwa

Then we should drop the terms 'Europe' and 'European' from our political vocabulary.

Or better yet, just require them to identify the country on a map before using it.

I love driving liberal wingnuts crazy.

on Apr 06, 2010

Did you know the largest population of Poles in one city is not Warsaw, but Chicago?

Yhea, but Warsaw is still more polish than Chicago, by the simple virtue of cultural purity. Not to forget that the news they watch is actually in Polish, not in english.

The U.S. has mainly assimilated immigrants. You have ex-Polish, ex-French, ex-English, ex-Irish. Sure, some of them might still cling to their roots, but they aren't what they used to be. Specially starting from the 2nd generation. They are a big melting pot of American culture, spreaded across many states, who all vote for the same president, the same army, the same budget.

As opposed to Europe, where except for some borderlands (like Lorraine), the cultures are highly concentrated in specific areas, and administred in specific ways that don't overreach between borders.

on Apr 06, 2010

Cikomyr

Yhea, but Warsaw is still more polish than Chicago, by the simple virtue of cultural purity. Not to forget that the news they watch is actually in Polish, not in english.

You have not checked out cable TV lately.  While I do not live in Chicago, I can say we have enough foreign language stations where I live that if there is a demand, someone will fill it.

The U.S. has mainly assimilated immigrants. You have ex-Polish, ex-French, ex-English, ex-Irish. Sure, some of them might still cling to their roots, but they aren't what they used to be. Specially starting from the 2nd generation. They are a big melting pot of American culture, spreaded across many states, who all vote for the same president, the same army, the same budget.

You should run for congress.  I would vote for you.

Yes, and "Europe" is trying to assimilate as well.   The problem with Europe (and the reason they even considered the EU) is they are quickly passing into irrelevancy.  For centuries (from about the time of Alexander), they have been the center of the civilized world (in their minds).  That torch passed after WWII, and that means far less influence.  As 20+ separate countries, they are just small voices.  But as a unified entity, they become a power again.  But then you do have the problem of who gets to drive, and that is why if it does come about, it will be a long process.

As opposed to Europe, where except for some borderlands (like Lorraine), the cultures are highly concentrated in specific areas, and administred in specific ways that don't overreach between borders.

Mere semantics.  It will either occur, or they will be assimilated from outside.  It will not be easy.  The assimilation of all nationalities into the USA was and is not a cake walk.  America showed them it can be done, and their ego tells them it must be done.  Will it be done?  I would not bet the farm on it, but they may just pull it off yet.

on Apr 06, 2010

Will it be done?

Do they want it to be done?

Assimilation of foreign culture in the U.S. happened "so well" (compared to other moments in history where it was tried) because the country of origin was so far away. You were effectively cut off from that culture of origin. Which is why Mexican immigrants are much, much, MUCH less likely to assimilate as American as to remain "Mexican" in their mind and heart. Mexicans village/families who were conquered at Texas's separation still see themselves as "Mexican". It's not hard to go back to Mexico to see your family, etc..

While in Europe, it's exactly what's happening. Easy movement between borders since WW2 and 1989 makes it less likely than one will abandone one's original culture. It's simply too easy to be exposed to what made you polish while in Germany.

You have not checked out cable TV lately. While I do not live in Chicago, I can say we have enough foreign language stations where I live that if there is a demand, someone will fill it.

Yhea. But that's relatively new. Was there that much foreign TV available in the 90s? the 80s? the 70s?

And before TV? Was it easy to get foreign newspaper?

People got cut off in the past from their culture of origin, and they had to embrace American's culture. I am sure it was easier to get access to German movies back in the 1920's in France than in USA.

on Apr 06, 2010

Which is why Mexican immigrants are much, much, MUCH less likely to assimilate as American as to remain "Mexican" in their mind and heart. Mexicans village/families who were conquered at Texas's separation still see themselves as "Mexican". It's not hard to go back to Mexico to see your family, etc..

Eh - a misconception. It is not that Mexicans have not assimilated, it is that there are so many 1st generation (many of them illegal immigrants).  2nd, 3rd, etc. generation are as assimilated as you or I.  Indeed, my nieces no longer speak Spanish (although the understand a lot of it), and they are only 3rd generation.  And about as American as they come.

No, the assimilation of Mexicans (former Mexicans actually) is happening very fast.  But not fast enough when there are 12-20 million new ones coming in.  If they could build a wall (hahaha) along the border, the ones here would have children who hardly speak Spanish, eat Hot dogs (that one may be a stretch), and root for the Raiders! (Actually many already do!  Go Raiders!).

Yhea. But that's relatively new. Was there that much foreign TV available in the 90s? the 80s? the 70s?

And before TV? Was it easy to get foreign newspaper?

People got cut off in the past from their culture of origin, and they had to embrace American's culture. I am sure it was easier to get access to German movies back in the 1920's in France than in USA.

You are right of course.  But that slows down assimilation, it does not stop it.  My god daughter's brother is bi-lingual (but then he was born and spent the first half of his life in Venezuela).  When he thinks of home, he thinks here.  He thinks going to Venezuela is punishment. While he is first generation, he is young enough that he could be seen as second generation.  Like I said, it still happens, but with foreign language TV and such today, it just happens slower.

So yes, I do agree with most of your points.  But America has one other major difference.  With very few exceptions, most of the people here WANTED to come.  Last I checked, a majority of Europeans have not voted to become Euros.  And even a majority may not be enough.

Can they?  yes they can.  Will they? Time will tell.

on Apr 07, 2010

Or better yet, just require them to identify the country on a map before using it. 

I love driving liberal wingnuts crazy.

 

I apologize, Dr. Guy, but I don't 100% follow. Are you suggesting that those who compare to countries in Europe should have to identify those countries specifically, geographically, before making commentary? In that case, I agree — knowledge of which European country one is comparing to is imperative. However, the syntax of your sentence suggests that Europe is a country, which I'm assuming you know it isn't. Just a copy error, but it changes the context of the response.

on Apr 07, 2010

NHeerDesign
I apologize, Dr. Guy, but I don't 100% follow. Are you suggesting that those who compare to countries in Europe should have to identify those countries specifically, geographically, before making commentary? In that case, I agree — knowledge of which European country one is comparing to is imperative. However, the syntax of your sentence suggests that Europe is a country, which I'm assuming you know it isn't. Just a copy error, but it changes the context of the response.

It was a 'tongue-in-cheek' statement directed at those who want to use the "European" comparison who do not know the difference between a country and a continent.

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