Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Europe's Promise

Monday, I heard Steven Hill, author of Europe's Promise, speak about the book and what the United States could learn from the way European nations conduct social policy. Personally, I believe that we can learn a great but will apply little. The average conservative would have listened to Hill's reasoned presentation and then told him to move to Europe if he thought it was so great. But the presentation was thought-provoking, especially when he demolished some of the myths and preconceptions that obscure American understanding of Europe. Here are a few of them:

France and Germany have single-payer, government owned and operated health care systems.
Not so. Both countries, along with Belgium and Luxembourg, provide universal health care access through payroll deductions and a pool of private, not-for-profit insurance companies. 

Europe's economies are socialistic and moribund.
Actually, Europe is a powerful, thriving capitalist entity with more Fortune 500 companies than the United States and China combined, and the World Economic Forum says that it has some of the most competitive economies in the world. Small businesses? They provide about two-thirds of European jobs compared to one-half of American jobs. 

Europeans pay more taxes than Americans.
Yes and no. European tax rates are higher, but they cover what amount to hidden taxes in the United States, such as college tuition, co-pays, deductibles, sick leave, and parental leave. 

The United States is more technologically innovative than Europe.
Depends on what you mean. European firms may not be developing the latest in military hardware or dominate the software wars, but Europe has high-speed trains and leads the world in green technologies such solar arrays, high tech windmills, hydrogen and electric cars, and sea power. It's no accident that Europe is the most energy-efficient continent. 

OK, but the United States has national and world defense responsibilities that Europe doesn't have.
The European Union and its nations emphasize diplomacy in world affairs over the application of military force. As Hill explains,
velvet diplomacy has been instrumental in bringing greater peace, democracy, and prosperity to the former communist dictatorships of eastern and central Europe, as well as to neighbors such as Turkey, Ukraine, and others in its periphery. All told, this “Eurosphere” links two billion people -- one-third of the world, including many Arab countries -- to the European Union and its way of doing things.
Even so, the combined standing armies of European nation number over 2,000,000 soldiers. Anyway, we can see how far military adventurism has gotten us.

None of this will change anyone's mind, but it may give you a few bullets in the ammo belt the next time you find yourself in a tangle on Facebook...

St. Patrick's Day Irish Stew: To my little home in Westport, in the county of Mayo...Happy St. Patrick's Day, Lakewood style...Irish immigrants...Bob Dylan sings "One Irish Rover"...

Chad Finn remembers Nomah. Me, I'll never forget him. With Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra revived Boston baseball. I've seen some great clutch hitters, including David Ortiz and Edgar Martinez, and Nomar is right up there with them. As Finn writes, everything Nomar hit or threw was a line drive...

Happy Birthday, Nat! Get your kicks on Route 66! (Maybe Nat was Black Irish?)


Roy said...

Ahhhh! It's always good to see and hear Nat!

Just as a St. Patrick's day aside - I'm making Colcannon for dinner tonight.


Foxessa said...

The St. Paddy's parade here concluded about three hours ago. All kinds of people are wearing Mardi Gras inspired St. Paddy's beads, green with stylized cabbages, of the kind I saw in NO on St. Paddy's when we were there. But not until after Katrina did I see them around here.

As per usual, the Irish Gay and Lesbian krewe was not allowed to parade in the annual, official, licensed St. Patrick's Day parade up Fifth Avenue.

In the past mayor bloomie refused to march then, in the parade, but he has joined in these last years of his endless administration, thanks to his overturning by his own fiat the voted-in term limits regulation, which was re-affirmed by the voters twice, in two referendums blooming threw, to overturn term limits.

One gets so sick of these politicians.

Love, c.

Steven said...

I will be reading the book. I started reading an international news magazine about ten years ago and it's been one the best things I've done. Seeing how others see us and how others live has been eye opening. As a nation, we have our blinders on and don't even want to hear anything but praise for ourselves, yet, without a critical view, how can we improve? We can't. We're simply ignorant and we appear to like it that way.

K. said...

There's a Not Invented Here mindset in this country that borders on the self-destructive. You see it in business as well as politics. I'm 54 years old and I still shake my head over the way egotism can drive individuals and institutions to act contrary to their own interests. Is it a human thing or an American thing?