The European Model

Life in the social democracies of Western Europe is nice…really nice. Beautifully neat, well-organized cities are connected via plentiful and inexpensive mass transit. Work-life balance is an obsessive cultural priority. European countries feature six weeks of paid vacation, maternity leave, ready access to high quality, tax-subsidized healthcare, very little crime and virtually no violence by US standards. They enjoy far higher levels of social mobility than the US alongside economic growth rates that rival any of the developed nations.

Those who have experienced it might describe the European Dream as the envy of the world. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination is drawing America’s attention to this social/political alternative. So, why shouldn’t the US import more of this approach to economics and politics?

There’s a simple answer. Europe’s economic model has a critical dependency that is often overlooked. La Dolce Vita has its price. The model depends heavily on America’s willingness to bear the burden of relentless creative destruction and a global security obligation. If the US adopted this model it would begin to suffocate under its own weight. Beyond this weakness lies a deeper question of values, a philosophical conflict which, though intangible, should not be ignored.

How does the European model work? For starters, don’t call it socialism. Western Europe began to dismantle state ownership of capital, forced unionization, and the other elements of socialist economics half a century ago and little remains of that model. For many Americans who have grown accustomed to the idea that any state spending is Communism, that concept may be a little challenging. Here’s a primer.

European social democracy today rests on a sort of loose state-capitalism subsidized by American military patronage. At the nation-state level, the system operates as a three-way deal. Capital is almost entirely in private hands, but workers enjoy high levels of job security and other protections. The state regulates private industry very heavily. On top of a dense network of market regulations the state also imposes deeply intrusive management rules, like mandating employee representation on boards of directors. In exchange, those enterprises enjoy tremendous levels of state sponsorship, subsidies and protection. The same rules that burden each firm also raises barriers to the entry of fresh new competition. European economics is a tight partnership between state, capital, and labor.

Critical to that deal is the American military juggernaut. If you paid taxes in the US last year, one fifth of that total went to your military. Consider veterans’ health care and that percentage rises to nearly a quarter. That’s more than the US spends on Medicare.

If you paid taxes in Germany last year, military spending accounted for less than 1/20th of your burden. Even if you contend that much of US military spending is unnecessary, Europe still enjoys a massive public windfall from its ability to disregard any concern for national defense and security.

That windfall is larger than it appears on paper, for if European countries were responsible for their own defense it is unlikely that the EU would even exist as a political and economic entity. International and sectarian tensions currently subsumed beneath the blanked of US military dominance would undermine regional economic collaboration. The EU is a happy consequence of the US military-industrial complex.

The model works for now, within certain bounds. For all the noise about Greece, European economies are relatively stable, chugging along at a fairly predictable rate compared to the volatile swings in America. The model produces higher unemployment levels and slightly slower growth than the US, but compensates with a more generous social safety net. Tax rates are relatively high, but not nearly as high as Americans tend to imagine, comparable to levels experienced in New York or California. Meanwhile government services are remarkably efficient, politics is relatively transparent and representative, tax codes are simple, civil liberties are broad, and citizens enjoy access to plentiful public capital.

For all its benefits, European social democracy experiences a built-in vulnerability. In a time of spectacular economic and political dynamism, it is intensely conservative. Here again, Europeans benefit from the relatively chaotic nature of the US economic model.

Containing the collateral impact of disruption through tightly managed social and political order has been a vital key to maintaining Europe’s quality of life. In effect, European democracies have outsourced dynamic capitalism to the US. They enjoy the benefits of a messy, turbulent, disruptive economic order in the form of a steady flow of technological innovation while insulating their state-corporate entities from the disruptive impact of that innovation.

You can see the effects of this model most starkly in the software industry. By conventional logic Europe should be a hotbed for software development. With a highly educated population and large sophisticated economies, you might expect a vibrant technology industry. It exists, but it looks very different than the US.

Europe’s only software giant, SAP, was built on software discarded by IBM in a merger forty years ago. Most of Europe’s other major software players emerged from large state industries or coops, like Dassault and DATEV. They are just as slow, old, bloated, and deeply tied to the old state-capital partnership model as any of the region’s steel companies. Europe embraces technology exports from the more vibrant US, but only very carefully and usually through state-supported channels like public telephone and health care companies.

There is a bubbling start-up culture in Europe, but it has yet to produce a massive, mature company. Europe’s most exciting tech ventures, like Spotify and Skype, achieve lasting success though American buy-outs. Software and other tech industries have not been allowed to exert the same cultural influence in Europe that they have achieved in America.

It is often mentioned that Europe is culturally less friendly to economic risk takers than the US, but seldom does anyone explain why. The era of information capitalism that is transforming American life is dangerous to European social democracy. Entrepreneurship is an inherently disruptive activity. Successful entrepreneurs change the landscape around them in ways that ripple out far beyond the presence of a new product or a new shop.

Allowing established firms with thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees to be rendered obsolete by a few punks in their garage could wreak havoc. There is no market for disruption in Europe. It is an anti-value. Innovation, like any other disruption, is tightly managed. European social democracy is an inherently conservative social order.

When Uber, for example, arrived in American cities there was resistance from politically entrenched business models, but that resistance is rapidly breaking down. Many current business models for taxis are disappearing into bankruptcy as they should. For the most part, the American public is pleased.

When Uber arrived in Paris there were riots and its executives were arrested. That’s European social democracy in a nutshell.

If the US adopted the European model of social democracy the entire enterprise would lose its oxygen supply. American dynamism is the unacknowledged keystone of the European social order.

Even if these weaknesses could somehow be resolved, there remains one more issue that renders the European model less appealing to Americans. Living in Europe surrounded by the ancient beauty of its castles, monuments, museums, and cathedrals, one nagging discomfort lingers. It feels as though everything important that was ever going to happen there is already in the past. Europe is boring, a living vacation-land where nothing of real consequence or meaningful human significance is going to happen. Europe is where the Western World went to retire.

We should not be too quick to abandon the vibrant chaos that defines American life. With that chaos comes opportunity. There is a vital spiritual value in the continuing uncertainty that Americans embrace and even cultivate. It feeds life, liveliness and vitality.

One can have too much security, too much comfort. There is something electric about living in the place where practically everything that really matters in human affairs is happening. We have much to learn from our cousins across the pond, but we must not admire their model to death.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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69 comments on “The European Model
  1. […] From the GOPLifer archive: On a related note, why Europe is not a healthy model for the US. […]

  2. Dean Magrath says:

    In this case, the graph shows that the countries in the Nordic and Anglosaxon model are the ones with the highest employment rate whereas the Continental and Mediterranean countries have not attained the Lisbon Strategy target.

  3. Glandu says:

    Hi everyone, and somme comment from an interested country : France.
    (disclaimer )
    I’m 40, I’m french, I’m computer programmer(expert on automated tests), and I’m working for an US company that was a start-up long before the word would exist.

    (disclaimer : everything that follows is just my point of view, not “facts”)
    I think that the choice between more-or-less protection is just a political choice. The impact on the economy is far less important than you seem to think. Besides the level of change : when things improve quick in the USA, they improve slowly in France. But also the reverse : when a crisis strikes hard the USA, it strikes only moderately France.

    My rationale is that what brakes European start-ups is the fragmentation of the market. My brother-in-law is part of a 15-years old startup. They’ve made a breakthrough in innovation and efficiency, but they were limited to the french market(6 times smaller than the US market), and then had to pay a lot to adapt to other markets(european on not, I know they have a foothold in Japan). They’ve got tough times not to be in the red, though. Had they been american, scale economies would have kicked in, and for the same R&D expenses, they’d have a customer base 6 times bigger before beginning to pay to penetrate other markets.

    This fragmentation is both cultural & legal. The European Union has failed big in making the continental money without unifying business practices. Therefore, entering each new market is a legal ache. Add to this very different business practices, and you’ll get a situation where even a german start-up reaches national limits 4 times smaller than its american counterpart, before having to pay localization costs. that’s the reason why Startups can work only in the USA. They’ve got an unfair advantage, that is the fault of nobody.

    And even my US-based company has trouble with it. They thought that their wonderful new software would replace our old french crap, and would sweep the market in a few years. It didn’t happen. A few customers made the leap to the US-made shining software, but did experience a lot of cultural problems. it did not fit their needs. Real localization costs, for adaptation to both the legal & cultural practices of a country, are usually much bigger than expected. French-based customers mostly stick to the old french crap(with parts in VB5 that compile only under W98, experts should be scared), because it’s perfectly adapted to their needs. On the french market, neither us nor our opponents can claim being profitable. The niche is too small. In the USA, money is flooding – the scale economies are playing full here. Silicon Valley can exist only in the biggest integrated economy in the world. Europe’s economy is everything but integrated.

    The second point I’d like to point out is the military expenses. France has done a lot in terms of peacekeeping last years, and Germany did not. The intervention in Lybia was maybe not needed, but the mess in Mali had to be cleaned before an African Daesh would arise – full in our sphere of influence. It has a cost. Things are not well today in Mali & nearby countries, and this has a direct influence on stability in french mainland, yet it could have been much worse. Should have we gone to Syria? It’s no more our zone of influence since 1938, and our budget is in very bad shape. Both conservative’s stupid cuts and socialist’s stupid expenses have damaged ou state capability to finance important things.

    But it won’t protect us from Russia. What will is nukes. 120 warheads(iirc) is enough of a deterrent.

    The last point is about national differences. Look at Germany & France, for example. They are very different, with a very centralized culture in France, and a federal one in Germany, completely different demographic structures, very different dynamics(15 years ago, France was strong, Germany was weak). germany is currently the boss due to several factors. (1)The Harz IV law that made a competitive advantage against the rest of Europe, (2)a lower demography that spared a lot of educational costs(but that will kick them in the back in one decade or two), (3)a very strong industrial base thanks to an unrivaled network of middle-sized firms, and (4)the integration of eastern Europe that put them in the center of the game again.

    Points (3) & (4) are here to stay for long. Point (1), however, is pushing the poor to make even less children, and will make the end of point (2) even more painful. So they are going to need a massive import of skilled workers. That’s going to be a cultural shock. Despite real levels of racism, we French are used to see different people.

    Ah : one last thing : there is no “European model”. Each country has its own, and noone can fit any other country. There might be more socialism in the USA, but it will be(if it happens) at the USA sauce, not copied from any other country. I could not work.

    TL;DR : USA startups have better worldwide results because their bigger internal market allow them to grow faster with better economies of scale than if they were based in a smaller market. Social system differences may have an influence, but not of this caliber.

    (and pardon my “french” and possible language mistakes, I learned English only after my native french and german).

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Cogent post, Glandu.

      Thanks!

    • fiftyohm says:

      Glandu – Is it not true that regionalization of software, necessary to access the wider European market outside of France, is an exception, rather than a rule? Most products are not so tied to a particuliar language or culture, and should therefore be able to access immediately a very large market.

      On the defense issue, the western world, all of us, trades globally. We need security of global transportation systems and trade routes, and not just just within our national or regional borders. We cannot, for example, tolerate piracy on the high seas, or the restriction of critical route by random regional powers. Guaranteeing this is very expensive, and it is a burden shouldered pretty much by the US alone for the benefit of the whole. Nukes are no answer in this arena.

      France’s operations in North Africa have been noble, both politically and ethically. If the rest of Europe had the courage and resolve to contribute to security and order in their former colonies to the same extent, we might not be having this conversation. But they don’t. And they won’t.

      • Glandu says:

        fiftyohm – what I said is not true of all kind of software. On domains where localization costs are a joke, you’ll find the swedish Spotify, or the french Deezer(oh, surprise, they are on the same domain!!!).

        But many software companies are vowed to more industrial domains, where legal & cultural borders are much stronger. We make software for hospitals, for examples, and the french legislation is a nightmare. Even for us. Plus, the simple fact that our device for managing the temperature of the patient has been designed in Farenheit makes it uneasy to use in Celsius. That, and a thousand other little details.

        Sea lane protection is an important issue, I agree. And Germans are not willing to set up a proper army soon. They have a long military tradition they can be proud of, but there are those few years, in the early 1940s, that they still did not swallow. Being the big evil reference in the whole western world does not help them thinking beyond.

        British are more concerned with their own sphere of influence, which is more stable than the french one. But when things went hot in Sierra Leone, they did go.

        Others, well, simply lack the projection capacity to do whatever outside the continent. That’s why they should buy those 2 ships we built for the Russians. Alas, it shall go to Canada or India 😦

      • 1mime says:

        If the U.S. made a definitive stand on reducing its role as world protector, would other industrialized nations – out of personal necessity – assume greater responsibility in matters that directly impact their security or commerce? The only recent challenge has been President Obama’s refusal to engage in specific conflicts. What other incentive currently exists given America’s assumption and others “presumption” of that responsibility for all? Many are critical of the U.N., yet, this is the only international organization that currently exists that could facilitate global agreements on territorial responsibilities. Could this organization be given more authority and funding to coordinate agreement among world powers?

        Just this week, on NPR, there was discussion concerning Russia’s most recent bid to seek U.N. approval to extend its control over 460,000 square miles of the arctic and all minerals and energy below. China is embroiled in a similar claim for sovereignty in the South China Sea. If these offshore claims are agreed to, how will territorial responsibilities by respective these major powers be handled, and will they be globally consistent or defined by each country?

        As the world becomes more complex and interconnected, it is necessary for all countries to do their part in protecting their own direct interests and contributing towards global peace enforcement. It’s not acceptable to give them a “pass” because that’s the way it has always been. There is a great focus on trade (Trans-Pacific Agreement) and climate, but are there attendant discussions on protection responsibilities? What about hostages seized by small terrorist groups (and larger countries as Iran and China, etc)? These events pose huge challenges to the countries charged with protecting its citizens wherever in the world they go. Isolated events such as these may not have as much of an economic impact as commercial shipping route issues, but they do embroil countries militarily and financially.

        World peace is hard. And, yes, it is expensive. And, yes, America is the world superpower. But America has financial and resource limits as well. All countries need to do their part and it shouldn’t be wishful thinking, it should be a diplomatic priority.

    • 1mime says:

      Very informative post, Glandu! Thank you for adding to our understanding of differences between the European and US business models. I wonder, is the income divide in France as great as it is in America? If so, what has changed your culture? (benefits, educational opportunity, health care, retirement, etc)

      • fiftyohm says:

        mime – You keep talking about the ‘income divide’. I haven’t made a nickle in the last year. Am I poor therefore? Ah nope. The issue is not income, but wealth.

        The *average* person in the US at retirement age has a nest egg, in present value terms, of north of $300,000 *in social security benefits alone*. Live longer, and that grows disproportionately. That’s what we refer to as wealth. What’s all this carping about? Put that in your GINI Coefficient pipe and smoke it! 😉

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty, I’m so sorry to learn you didn’t earn a “nickle” last year, but happy to hear that you are “wealthy”. Guess your income divide falls between ‘4’ cents and 20 cents? (At least that’s what 4450 Americans responded in a 2013 UBS interview on wealth. Turns out that 4 out of 5 Americans in the survey felt $4-5 million constituted “true wealth”.) Fifty, you’re in elite company! Have another stout beer with your poutine, my friend!

        http://business.time.com/2013/07/24/what-it-means-to-be-wealthy-in-america-today/

        I won’t bore you with my humble opinion on America’s income divide as most wealthy people are really tired of having this conversation. It is such an inconvenient truth. I would suggest this well-researched article on the topic from The Atlantic. Bear in mind also, that the average SS in the U.S. in 2015 is $1181/month, or $14,172/year (SSA). For many people, that is their sole income though they worked their entire lives. It was the best they could do with the skills, education and opportunities they had. I suspect you and I were much more fortunate in our family backgrounds, education, and career opportunities. Regardless, you and I retired with more financial security than the average blue collar working man or woman. I try not to forget that.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/17-things-we-learned-about-income-inequality-in-2014/383917/

      • fiftyohm says:

        Well, I’m sorry I never took typing. ;-(

        I never said I was “wealthy” – I said I wasn’t ‘poor’. Sorry, but survey results notwithstanding, I’ve never been a 1.5 sigma kind of guy. My point was only that the various indices people use to carry on about income and wealth distribution in the US are very flawed.

        But it is Friday evening, and a fine beer is in the offing. No poutine, but a spicy jambalaya for Mrs. Ohm and me is on the docket. Have a great weekend, and I hope Glandu hangs around.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi 1mime

        “If the U.S. made a definitive stand on reducing its role as world protector, would other industrialized nations – out of personal necessity – assume greater responsibility in matters that directly impact their security or commerce?”

        This is the part I have difficulty with
        In this the USA reminds me of the old joke about elephant powder

        An old guy is found throwing a grey powder out of the windows of a London double decker bus

        On being asked he says “Its elephant powder – keeps the elephants down”
        The policemans says “There are no elephants around here”
        Old Guy says “works doesn’t it”

        Europe is already a major military power – bigger than anybody except the USA
        Other “westernised” friendly countries also make up a large percentage of the world military
        (Japan, S Korea, Australia, Brazil, India……..)

        The only potential “enemy countries” are much smaller
        Russia, China, Iran….

        IMHO American military adventurism since the 1990’s has made the world more dangerous and not safer

    • fiftyohm says:

      And Glandu – One more thing: stick around!

    • 1mime says:

      Glandu, this article by Richard Cohen in the New York Times, “Incurable American Excess” speaks directly to the thrust of Lifer’s post.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/opinion/roger-cohen-incurable-american-excess.html

      “Individualism trumps all — and innovation, it is somehow believed, will save the country from individualism’s ravages.”

      Or, destroy it from within.

      • Glandu says:

        This is a good reason not to apply standard european methods to the USA : they would be rejected. The core of my answer was to say that “efficiency” of such or such approach was not as important as people believe. And not an argument as good as the original poster seems to think. Thanks for the link anyways.

        When I was a teenager, I found a comprehensive metastudy about french school restaurants. Nothing sexy, huh? But there was and still is() 3 ideologies fighting there :
        _the independent restaurant, directly managed by the school
        _the “centrale”, where the city cooks everyhing and delivers to all schools of the city
        _the private contractant, who cooks where he wants & delivers all its customers at once.

        The shocking truth, after pages & pages of analysis, was that there was absolutely NO difference between those 3 systems. Both would succeed and fail at the same rate, in each of the measures : food quality, financial management, health. The only relevant difference between 2 restaurants – besides maybe budget, and it was not even that big – was people.

        Wherever you had quality people, the job was done properly. Wherever you had untalented, unskilled, unmotivated people, the school restaurant was a place to avoid. With exactly the same proportion in school-based restaurants, “centrales”, or private-led restaurants.

        25+ years later, I still consider this text as a builder of my intellectual way of approaching topics. The newspaper(Que choisir, very serious and independant organ for consumer protection) was politically oriented, and obviously unsettled by its own findings. They clearly had hoped to find reasons to distrust the private way of doing things – and could not. They were honest enough, though, to stick to their mission, and give this excellent advice to their readers : don’t check the system, check the people.

        Our system is neither better nor worse than yours. It is different, and its only quality is that it fits better our(average) aspirations. It does not hinder creativity or wealth creation – other things are(number one being the insanely complex legislation – especially in France, when I’ll have more time, I’ll tell you the story of my sister when she became an independant dietetician. Summary : better have a good capital to cope with the huge amount of taxes the state will take you the 3rd year; after, it gets better…).

  4. Davis says:

    Oh please. What a bunch of nonsense. The EU is quite capable of defending it’s trade routes and it holds off way more terror threats (actual threats…not imagined ones) on a daily basis. The EU militaries don’t spend as much as the US does but then they also don’t invest in as many stupid useless toys for big boys to play with or nonsense money wasting operations that ultimately make protecting one’s borders far more difficult for every other country in the world.

    I’ve heard this claim about innovation starting in the US and migrating to Europe so many times and yet have only been shown (or able to find) the flimsiest evidence of it. There is little meaningful difference between innovation between most western countries…the difference is some countries tend to show (somewhat) more innovation in certain industries they’ve invested a lot of money it. Limit your studies to certain industries and of course you can make it seems like one place houses the pioneers of industrial entrepreneurship. Please.

    I have heard so many reasons why European Style socialism won’t work in the US. By the way … the term “European Style Socialism” is such a deceptive term. There is not such thing. Most European countries have a mixed system that is no different to Canada, Japan, Australia, Chile, South Korea etc. etc. etc. Just about every single Western country has this system except the U.S. … so just on this alone … comparing the U.S. with only EU countries does little to support your overall claim. Good luck backing up most of your arguments any ways. A lot of tired claims that cannot possibly be backed up.

    Global style socialism won’t work in the US because most people in the US don’t want it to work. If they did…it would happen virtually overnight. There is nothing special about European countries, nor Canada nor New Zealand nor Barbados. They simply want their citizens to have a minimal threshold of poverty and suffering, income inequality and their citizens have an incredible distaste of fellow citizens starving or losing their house to keep their grandparents from dying from cancer at home. If Americans had enough of a distaste for it … then it would end. But they don’t. So horrid rates of poverty, hunger and inequality remain in a perpetual game of sadness that any visiting Canadian or European or Korean watches in horror as they take a taxi through the inner-cities of New York, Philadelphia or Detroit.

  5. Rob Ambrose says:

    Ruh roh……

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805?page=5

    Knowing the far right wing block, I’m sure the increase in global catastrophes will be chalked up to SCOTUS gay marriage decision.

    And millions of otherwise sane and reasonable people will actually believe thats a sensible opinion. It’s insanity.

  6. Rob Ambrose says:

    Good post. Very similar to the thesis of the book The Accidental Superpower.

    A very well researched book and very persuasive in its arguments. I quibble a bit based on how American biased it seems to be, but for anyone who wants to feel really really good about the future of America (and bad about pretty much anywhere else) it’s a great book.

    Basic thesis is the original Bretton-Woods conference established a deal between America and the rest of the world: America would patrol the seas using its naval might (the only navy left standing after WWII) AND open its markets up (the only major consumer market left standing). They asked for almost nothing in return other than open markets (which woukd not pay much dividends immediately as Europe had no markets). In the book it’s presented that the European powers could hardly believe the generosity of the American people. And indeed, it’s presented as a mostly altruistic offer by an American government that was done primarily for no oher reason then truly the greater good.

    Of course America benefits from it. But the main motivation was a desire for a better world.

    The other part of thw thesis is that this agree nt is becoming less and less necessary (for America, now that the cold war is over) and less and less possible.

    He suggests America will soon become more insular and less inclined to patrol shipping and trade routes for the rest of the world.

    It’s a great read.

    • duncancairncross says:

      I’m pretty sure that after the end of WW2 the US navy was smaller than the RN – definitely NOT the “only one left standing”

      • fiftyohm says:

        Duncan – The size if the US Navy exceeded that of all other combatants combined as early as 1943, and it grew quickly and vastly from there. The RN was a virtual flyspeck even then.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi
        Well I was fairly sure that the RN was still a major force in 1945
        So I looked it up

        Ships in commission in 1945
        USA RN
        Carriers 91 65
        Battleships 23 20
        Cruisers 72 101
        Subs 288 238
        Destroyers 377 461

        It looks like the US navy was larger than the RN in 1945 – but the RN was hardly a flyspeck!
        The US carriers were all unarmoured – unlike the RN so the force levels are closer than they appear

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        No, def not. All.the other navies were destroyed, and crucially all the European powers had lost much o their industrial capacity to rebuild quickly. Whereas even though American ships were sunk as well, the unscathed properties of their industrial base allowed them to spit them out just as quick.

        All the European countries were in shambles after the war.

        If you’ve got an hour, here is the coles notes version of The Accidental Superpower presentation given by Peter Zeihan (the guy who wrote the book).

        Very informative, very watchable and very encouraging for America’s future.

        I don’t think I agree with everything (he seems a little TOO optimistic about America’s future, based mainly in demographics) but he makes excellent arguments and supports his points very well.

        Definitely worth a watch if you’ve got an hour to spare.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Excellent, RobA. Thanks for this.

  7. vikinghou says:

    I lived in France during the late 80s and early 90s. It was a fascinating time because the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gulf War I and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty took place while I was there. While I was there I really felt like I was a citizen of the world. Most Americans live in an insulated cocoon, oblivious to many important events taking place around the world. In Europe one is exposed to news stories from everywhere and learns that America is not really the center of the universe.

    I agree that Europe is benefitting economically and socially from the US military protection. I’ve long thought Europe should shoulder more of the burden.

    Taxes in France were very high: 60% for me, on top of being subject to US taxation. The US is the only country that taxes its citizens on income earned abroad. In most years, however, I paid enough French tax to have a deduction sufficiently large to avoid paying Uncle Sam. Even so, I think I got a bigger bang for my franc in terms of seeing the benefit of paying taxes: a top notch infrastructure, excellent health care, superior education system (my American colleagues’ kids tested two grades ahead of their peers when they returned stateside), etc. I’m even going to receive a French pension when I’m 65! It will be modest, but hey it’s better than nothing.

    If the US is going to continue to shoulder the “world police” burden, I think we have to generate sufficient tax revenue to also rebuild our infrastructure. For me, the decay I see is also a national security threat. I still travel abroad a lot, and returning to the US is depressing when I see how far we have fallen behind. If things continue as they are, we will have a strong military outer shell protecting a rotten core. In my opinion this is one the fundamental questions facing the US in the 21st century. How does the country continue to be a superpower and maintain a competitive infrastructure at the same time?

    • 1mime says:

      Exactly, Viking. Not to mention the millions of Americans who lack health coverage. As I stated earlier, America leaves too many people behind. Talented, well educated people generally succeed. The rest – not so well.

  8. johngalt says:

    Chris’s post seriously understates just how bad European economies are at fostering and growing start-up companies. Of the 500 largest public companies founded since 1975, more have been started in Mountain View, California (population 70,000) than in continental Europe (population 350 million).

    • 1mime says:

      John, is your thinking that European economies/countries will not be unable to survive due to their inability to grow start-up companies? How have these countries managed to survive all these centuries? I’m not trying to be simplistic nor am I an economist. I am genuinely curious if you think Europe is failing economically due to its different business and cultural structure. If the concern is that Europe is not pulling its weight in world conflicts because it lacks resources, could that be a wrong assumption? Could it be that the people of Europe do not want to engage militarily? I think of the small South American country of Costa Rica, which made a calculated decision to give up its army and focus its revenue on infrastructure, expansion of sustainable energy, and health care and educational improvement. Maybe it’s as simple as people wanting peace more than than they want military conflict. Isn’t that a valid model as well?

      • johngalt says:

        For this particular comment, the military aspect is really not at play. The fact that Europe seems culturally incapable of bringing the next big thing to market merely reduces their economic growth rate and their productivity and these are problems for a set of countries with serious demographic issues. It will make it increasingly hard to maintain their standard of living, as the southern European countries (in which these problems are most acute) have started to see.

  9. johnofgaunt75 says:

    Good post and you raise some excellent points. I agree with much of what you said. My main criticism is that you seem to make the mistake many make when examining Europe; they assume the entire continent is relatively similar in economic and political structure.

    There are of course similarities across countries but Portugal is VERY different from Germany and even more so from Sweden. Britain is very different from Italy and Italy is very different from Poland. Each has its pluses and minuses of course but I think you will find that the “European Model” works relatively well in a place like Sweden but less so in a place like Spain. Why? Because there are perhaps subtle (some not so subtle) differences that are very, very important. For example, both generally have very generous social welfare benefits (at least compared to the United States) but in Spain it is extremely difficult to fire an employee while in Sweden it is relatively easy. This is part of the reason why unemployment in Spain is over 22% but in Sweden it’s about 7%.

    There are of course other important differences. Sweden, for example, has a private education system that most Republicans would dream for. Since education reforms in the 1990’s, there has been a gradual but significant shift toward private, for-profit independent schools or friskolor in Swedish. We would call them charter schools. There are several independent school “chains” in the country that operate on a for-profit model. I’ve always yearned to see a Republican candidate for President say “We need to be more like Sweden.” Hah hah.

    • duncancairncross says:

      Hi John
      Yes Sweden experimented with “Charter Schools” in the 90’s
      They are now frantically trying to reverse the change mainly because it resulted in Sweden slipping down the table of educational achievements (I think it was about 10 places)

      Why do all sorts of countries keep trying to go this route when the universal experience is that it does not work unless you inject a lot more money into the system?
      (and if the same amount of money was injected into the old state schools they would do even better)
      It is another example of some people knowing the “Right Way” and totally ignoring the evidence

  10. Chris D. says:

    Interesting points. Although I think the EU has some historical precedent dating back to Napoleon’s Continental System whereby France tried to co-opt all of mainland Europe to its economic interests. The EU is more balanced with France (the breadbasket) and Germany (the industrial heartland) co-opting all of mainland Europe to their joint interests. But, US hegemony certainly expedited things for our own well-considered security interests. I’d rather have France and Germany bossing Europe around and presenting a united from against eastern threats than fighting each other. All those Germanic tribes in Western Europe were going to have to figure out how to get along eventually, and we needed it to happen before any of them got “the bomb.” Without US leadership, Russia would have invaded Ukraine all the way to the Dnieper.

  11. Doug says:

    “It is insane that the U.S. Defense Budget commands 51% of the entire federal budget leaving insufficient revenue for other critical domestic needs.”

    While I would like to see a smaller military, it is nowhere near 51% of the federal budget. Perhaps you’re thinking 51% of discretionary spending? That’s pretty close (54% for 2015). But total discretionary spending is less than 1/3 of the budget. So-called “mandatory” spending (social security, medicare, medicaid, etc.) makes up about 2/3 of the budget.

    • Doug says:

      oops….this was supposed to be down the page.

      • Turtles Run says:

        I think he meant that Defense spending is 50% of discretionary spending. It is still larger than the amount we spend on Medicare. Even if we cut defense 50% we would still outspend Chins and Russia combined.

    • 1mime says:

      You are correct, Doug, that military spending accounts for almost 54% of discretionary spending – and, being “discretionary” means Congress can adjust the amount. Social security, Unemployment, Labor account for 48.56% of mandatory spending. (OMB, National Priorities Project). That may displease you but I feel is not only appropriate for a democracy, but important to its people. “Mandatory” becomes “discretionary” when Congress elects to make permanent changes which may be necessary for long term sustainability of the programs.

      IMHO, the US spends too much on defense. I disagree with Lifer as to the inevitability and necessity of America as the world peace guarantor when our nation is unable to meet the basic needs of our country and its people. There simply isn’t enough revenue to do it all. I would cut the defense budget in favor of a smaller force trained for limited engagement and homeland protection. What incentive is there for Europeans and those in the Middle East to manage their own territorial problems if the U.S. is always the default defender?

      I agree with Brian’s analysis. There will always be insurrections – one can look no further than our own country for confirmation – but if you think back to the last few engagements in the Middle East, the U.S. had a much tougher sell in getting help from our allies. The people in these countries do not want this involvement, and I don’t blame them.

  12. briandrush says:

    It seems to me that you made two arguments here.

    1) Europe would not be able to afford social democracy if not for the U.S. defense budget, which allows Europe to keep its own military spending low.

    2) Europe’s social institutions are intensely conservative and depend on innovations made in the United States, which would be too disruptive to tolerate at home.

    Do I have that right? If so, both of these arguments are quite easily rebutted.

    1) Historically, Europe’s greatest enemies have always been European. Europe did not spend high sums on the military in order to defend against foes outside Europe, but in order to go to war with one another. It’s not the U.S. overspending on the military that allows Europe to cut these costs so much as the fact that, for whatever reason, Europe no longer seems as blood-soaked as it used to be. Perhaps the two World Wars were a grim object lesson, or perhaps European culture has simply matured. But whatever the reason, Europeans, who were once the most warlike and slaughter-mad people in the world, have embraced peace for the most part. If the United States were to come to our collective senses (ahem) and cut our own military expenditures to something consistent with a national defense mission, Europe would have no reason to increase its own expenditures to compensate. France, say, would need to do so only if faced with a war against Britain or Germany, which is who they’ve mostly fought in the past.

    In fact, though, European traditions of social welfare started back in the 19th century, while Europeans were still massacring one another with sanguine relish, so clearly the costs didn’t prevent that expense.

    2) New technologies are just as disruptive when imported from elsewhere as they are when developed at home. The only way to protect fragile social institutions and maintain an “intensely conservative” economy would be to shut out new technologies altogether, and if Europe were to do that, we would see the dire effects of that behavior reflected in a stagnant and backwards economy. What you are saying about Europe is not consistent with the economic vibrancy that we actually observe.

    (I’m going to disagree with your contention that this isn’t socialism. In fact, you seem to be relying on an inaccurate and/or obsolete definition of that term that requires state ownership of the economy. Socialism can also take the form of worker-owned industries, to cite just one example.)

    As a final note, while the United States has never had a full-scale European model of social welfare of social democracy, we came a lot closer to it between the end of World War II and the Reagan administration than we do today. Not only did our economy not suffer, but those decades are, by most measures, the best we’ve ever had it.

    • goplifer says:

      1) Europe’s greatest enemies are still European. Send an email to a friend in Greece or Croatia and ask them about it. Remove the blanket of US military dominance and watch them spring back up. Until the 90’s, Europe was an extremely tense and consistently dangerous place. Leave off the Balkans for a moment. A trip to Belfast or Athens or Northern Spain was adventure travel. Home grown terrorist groups operated in Italy, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Germany.

      2) You can’t shut out new technologies without serious consequences, but you can manage them. Look closely at the places where Europe really excels in terms of technology delivery. You will find big state-run or formerly state-run enterprises through which that technology flows. They don’t block technology, they block the emergence of new competition. Elon Musk would be fully welcome to develop his search engine technology in Germany. He’d just have to license it to a state telecom in order to make any money or conduct really serious development. No state telecom is going to build Google, no matter how much money or technology they possess.

      • briandrush says:

        Seriously? Greece or Croatia? The last time Greek militarism was a threat to regional peace was the Peloponnesian War. In modern history (going back to about the 1500s), the European countries that mattered militarily were France, Britain, Spain, Sweden, and in later periods Germany. Three of those are still sufficient economic powerhouses to pose a military threat if they chose to. (Two of them are nuclear powers.) In the 19th century, France went on a conquering rampage and plunged the continent into war. In the 20th century, Germany did the same (twice). Today, it’s unimaginable that either country would do that, or want to. Europe’s economy is so interconnected that it would pointless and fruitless. And as for the U.S. military, I don’t think any treaty obligations require us to defend one NATO ally against another.

        This argument had some plausibility during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union existed as an external threat. No more.

        Terrorism is irrelevant here. It’s a constant, and doesn’t require vast armies to fight against. A neighbor with a vast army of its own is what requires that.

        Regarding the economy, are you suggesting that no (or few) inventions are coming out of Europe today? Or are you merely objecting to the fact that all big monster companies are state-run or state-owned? You said yourself that Europe has a vibrant start-up economy, but that none of the start-ups are poised to become Google (or Microsoft or Amazon). But isn’t an economy of many smaller players better than one dominated by a single near-monopoly? Don’t the benefits of a market economy depend on exactly that kind of multiple-actor decision-making, a kind of organic wisdom that no single person or company can manifest because it’s beyond the capacity of a single human brain? Isn’t that the kind of thing that Adam Smith presented as the ideal?

      • 1mime says:

        Well said, Brian. American exceptionalism expands our “big brother role” rather than encouraging other modern industrialized nations to step up. I, for one, share Fifty’s view that it is time to step back and let others handle their own problems. Take Israel, for example. It is ironic that P.M. Netanyahu has wishes to dictate American foreign policy while gladly accepting America’s financial support. Kudos to President Obama for his military restraint amid great pressure from defense hawks.

        My first trip to Europe was in 1980 and I recall their highly efficient, extensive rail system – which our country lacks, some 35 years later. We can’t even repair our roads and bridges for lack of political will much less build mass transit. Capitalism has rewarded entrepreneurship in the U.S. but America’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few. Why is a model that leaves so many behind considered better? America would do well to adopt the cultural benefits of European lifestyle into its financial model. There are other measures of quality of life than financial success or military prowess.

      • Peter says:

        Good morning Chris.
        The GOP must have a category-of-one to peg you in;)
        Further to your 2 comments concerning enemies and technology flows:

        1) send an email to a Texan friend and he is ready to declare independence from the U.S., an idea endorsed by a current presidential candidate.
        The current Gov has mobilized the Texan National Guard to monitor a U.S. Special Forces exercise, apparently because We the People are the real enemy to be feared.
        The South in general is ready to rise over, of all issues, the desecration of the Rebel Flag.
        We’re talking wat is happening just the last few months.
        A trip to Baltimore, Chicago, LA, Washington IS considered adventure travel right now.
        My 82 year old mother and friends are enjoying pleasant vacations in Turkey and my extended family just had a great time on the islands of Greece. Spain right now is teeming with tourist from Northern European countries, soaking up the sun.
        Walking around any City in Europe at 02.00 AM does not worry me much, something I would not do in most U.S. Cities.
        Every year about 30,000 people die by the gun in this country, multiples to be wounded by the same. Those are numbers we would not tolerate any longer in any war we would be fighting.
        Concerning terrorism: McVeigh is too easy, but how else to classify every mass shooting other than our own home grown terrorism, something European’s are now also importing and imitating?
        You think I feel relaxed, enjoying my latte, as some Open-carry fan walks into my coffee shop with a Luger strapped (always) low to the thy and an AR 15 slung over his shoulder?
        New meaning to Duck-and-cover..
        I guess if not for the blanket of US military dominance, Lord knows what would happen to this country.

        2) technology flow: the U.S. uses about 23-24% of the worlds recourses for 5% of the worlds population. We spent twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation on the globe, with results that are not impressive on life expectancy and infant mortality.
        Fracking gave us world energy dominance but in energy sources of the past. Europe is way ahead on new energy developments and especially on energy effiency, something we are just too spoiled to seriously tackle: case in point, car sales. We’re back on buying gas guzzling SUV’s and PU’s.
        By those measures we are the spoiled, easy living, recourse gobbling, money wasting folks.
        Not so much the calcified, 6 weeks of vacation enjoying Euro’s.

        Just a thought.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Lifer,

        Not all companies in Europe are large and dominated by the state. You are forgetting the role of technology and innovation in, for example, mid-sized German manufacturers or the Mittelstand. They account for about 50% of German GDP. These companies are normally privately owned, focus on a narrow market and are massive exporters. They are famous for manufacturing very specialized products with cutting edge technology. They focus on quality rather than quantity and this has allowed them to succeed despite the emergence of China and India. They do not block technology, they develop it. it just goes under the radar because most of them are smaller companies who operate in the B2B area of the market. American manufacturers could learn a lot from these companies.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Peter wrote: “Every year about 30,000 people die by the gun in this country”

        Enough of this nonsense! this is a blog peopled (mostly) by the thoughtful. I going to assume you had no intent to grossly inflate your statistics to make a rhetorical point.

        Listen: 60% of “gun deaths” in the US are suicides. The western world has about the same rates of suicide on a country-by-country basis. Canada, our closest geographical and cultural neighbor has a rate about the same as ours. Of course, some countries are much higher – like Japan. Firearms in Japan are virtually unknown. The specious suggestion implicit in the 30,000 per year statistic is that 60% of those deaths could be prevented by restricting firearms. Well, the US has *by far* the fewest restrictions on firearm ownership of the western world, but our suicide rate is about in the middle. Does anyone really think that our rate would plummet to some small fraction of the rest of our cultural cousins were firearms to be severely restricted? I didn’t think so.

        We don’t talk about ‘death by bridges”, or ‘death by razor blade’, or ‘death by tall building’, do we? No, we call that suicide, and the method used is completely irrelevant. Dead is dead. So let’s just cut the crap with this 30,000 number. Yes, the remainder is still too large. But an error of more than a factor of two is not acceptable here. Maybe Beitbart, or Fox, or MSNBC, or USA Today, but please, not here.

      • johngalt says:

        The nearest neighbors to the U.S. in a list of the rate of intentional homicide (per 100,000 population), are Niger, Latvia and Yemen. Our rate (4.7) is three times that of Canada, four times that of Australia, and just shy of five times that of the U.K. Guns and idiotic drug laws are a large part of this difference.

      • fiftyohm says:

        ” …rate of intentional homicide (per 100,000 population)” -JG

        Now *that* is a valid statistic. And similarly valid is the comment, ” …idiotic drug laws are a large part of this difference”. Unfortunately, I have seen no data removing drug/gang crime, (usually gang-on-gang), from the mix of total intentional homicides. It would be very interesting.

  13. BigWilly says:

    The next segment shall be entitled; “That’s my Ayatollah.” I like the sound of it, and I think a good comedy could come from it. We love our Ayatollah, like I told you so.

    In spite of all of this horrific rhetoric, some on my side, the country seems to be working quite nicely. Obviously the private sector, and the states, have to move ahead of the federal gov. Jeffersonian, but not Draconian.

  14. Griffin says:

    The question is whether or not we “need” a massive military or simply a sizeable but very nimble one. Just as our welfare system is flawed in that it is intended for a mid-twentieth century industrialized nation you could argue the same could be said for the military. We should be specializing our military and while it could still be comparably large to other nations do we need still need so many tanks on stand-by to end conflicts against largely underdeveloped nations with poorly trained armies? It took 20,000 troops to help end the Bosnian war so do we need over a million active troops to show our influence? Our long-term occupations were awful methods of combatting dictators, we should contain them and allow them to either reform or collapse internally.

    Forget Russia, even if they tried to attack us or our allies out of the blue we would have so many volunteers within a week of an attack they wouldn’t stand a chance, not to mention the collapse of their economy. We shouldn’t be treating the modern world like it’s still a Cold War era between behemoths, this seems like a time for quick military strikes not wastefully oversized militaries that are largely unused.

    • Griffin says:

      PS: Thank you for actually writing a relevant critique of trying to import European social democracy exactly as it is in Europe to the United States. Every conservative website I’ve come across that talks about Bernie Sanders essentially says “THIS FREAKIN COMMIE AMIRITE” and few sites (such as the National Review Online) have called him a Nazi (yes, they called an old Jewish guy a nazi, I wish that was a joke). While I still think Sanders offers more than the other candidates I think that if social democracy comes to America it would have to be, well, “Americanized”, and these ideas should be taken into consideration.

  15. 1mime says:

    There is much to be said about American opportunity just as there is much to be envied about a more relaxed European lifestyle. The time I’ve spent in Europe and other countries suggests that both continents could borrow from one another and benefit. I emphatically agree that America should pull back its military support and financial investment in other areas of the world. It is insane that the U.S. Defense Budget commands 51% of the entire federal budget leaving insufficient revenue for other critical domestic needs.

    I’d be happy if America had a boringly efficient government along side its vibrant, creative private sector. A little less chaos and more cooperative governance is more to my liking.

    I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to describe Europe as old and boring, nor do I think it’s accurate to describe America as a land of opportunity for all. We are a young nation and can learn much from our friends across the pond.

    • fiftyohm says:

      It’s interesting how we see them as ‘boring’, whilst they’ve been about killing each other for most of the last century – and more. Much more.

      • 1mime says:

        Europeans…..”killing each other and more for the last century…”

        I’d posit that America has picked up that mantle quite readily, Fifty….and we certainly are way ahead of European countries on the problem of gun violence, sadly.

      • fiftyohm says:

        We’re I mistaken, I could conclude you just compared gun violence in America to WWI and WWII. Tell me we’re both completely wrong. Please.

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty, I’m assuming your comment was directed to me re: comparing WWI/II to contemporary gun violence in America. Your original comment was not clear about Europeans killing one another in war or otherwise. I understood you to be speaking of contemporary events. Obviously, the scale and loss of the World Wars towers over domestic gun violence in the U.S. However, as a civilized society, the fact that there are so many recurring incidents of gun violence in America directed at innocent victims – is appalling. There are/have been terrorism acts in Europe but, unless I am misinformed, no where near the frequency of those in the U.S.

      • BigWilly says:

        This is America, we’re barely civilized. At the same time we seem to be preoccupied with efforts to de-civilize. Take away all your isms and you’ll have nothing. Without all of the terrible rid-able isms we would not be here, at this point, now.

        The Euros are dealing with large scale immigration issues, just as we are. The wise choice would be to expel and prohibit, and to conserve the culture (isms and all) that has made us what we are.

      • johngalt says:

        While the U.S. has had its problems of all sorts over the last few decades, we have not played host to a genocide that claimed millions of deaths during the lifetime of some of those reading this. European “civilization” has always been a somewhat fraught affair.

  16. Hi Chris
    Military
    The USA spends $580B
    The EU spends $200B
    But who are the enemies?
    Russia – $70B ??
    China – $130B ??
    Saudi Arabia – $80B ??

    The USA has the only military that could defeat the EU – anybody else would be mincemeat

    So why would the EU need to spend more?

    Why would Europe need a stronger military?
    If the USA disappeared the EU would be the strongest force on the planet with an actual capability that is much more than it looks as it would not take very long for Europe to tool up a much larger military
    Would you want to fight the RAF and the Luftwaffe?

    Russia could destroy Europe with it’s Nukes – but there is no defense against that and the return hit would destroy Russia

    Military spending is “wasted” money – you need enough to be safe but any more is simply a waste of resources

    Start-ups
    You seem to be fixated on software stuff
    (And that is where a ton of money is made)
    But that is not the area where developments improve the nation,
    On every other type of development Europe holds it’s own
    IMHO developments in manufacturing are much more important than things like FaceBook

    • fiftyohm says:

      The flaw in this analysis is the percentage of budget dedicated to projection of power via naval, air force, and amphibious operations. Global security is not maintained by protecting one’s own back yard.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi Fifty
        The totals are the important things – the reserve as you will
        The truth is that other than the USA nobody is as powerful as the EU

        As far as “Global Security” is concerned we would need to count all of the other countries that are on “the same page”
        Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Brazil
        Already I’m up to another $200B in military and there are 76 democracies in the world

        The EU is much more than powerful enough to look after it’s neighbourhood
        When you add the other “Friendly Nations”
        There is more than enough to cover “Global Security”

        The USA is like the American police
        You seem to need enough weapons to fight a small war to do the same job as a British bobby with a truncheon

      • goplifer says:

        Also, let’s clarify something. There is no “EU military.” Nothing even remotely like that exists anyone outside of planning tables. That’s a really, really important detail.

        I think I stand on pretty solid ground asserting that the German, Romanian, and Greek armed forces could not be counted on to collaborate toward common interests without the smothering force of an unchallengeable external power. Take away American hegemony and any notion of European nations cooperating militarily in a peaceful, effective way would blow away like smoke.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Duncan – Sadly, there is no power capable of keeping the global trade corridors open other than the US. Were Iran, for example, to attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz, Europe would be completely powerless. Were China to decide that the South China Sea belonged to them, no one could challenge them – other than the US.

        Frankly, I don’t want to pay for this. I’m sick and tired of it. It’s no privilege. It’s a pain in the ass. This is what I think Chris was speaking of.

        BTW – I love NZ and her people. It’s about as close to paradise as I’ve ever been.

    • goplifer says:

      You raise some great points. And to be clear, I love Europe. I just love it with my eyes open.

      First, military. Here’s a listing of countries by per capita military spending, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditure_per_capita. It is a short list, which is unfortunate. More unfortunate though is the fact that it fails to track that spending across time, because I think that’s where the US hegemony bonus would most starkly appear.

      US military spending for 2015 will come in a little under $700bn. With veterans health care it’s just short of $850bn. I’m using spending partly as a proxy for the wider umbrella of security that the alliance delivers.

      It is unfashionable to point this out, but Europe is traditionally a violent powder keg. It is marginally less so than it was in the past, but just marginally. Let’s remember that the war in the Balkans only ended just over a decade ago, and it was a doozy. Without a smother blanket of US security, what do you think the Basque country or Northern Ireland would look like right now?

      If America sank into a coma tomorrow afternoon, it is safe to expect that a wide variety of violent sectarian conflicts would flame up by next winter. Absent a hegemonic political force to tamp them down, they would spread. Worse, can you imagine what eastern Turkey would look like by then if no one were looking over their shoulder toward Washington anymore? Can you imagine what would happen to the Baltic Republics?

      You get my drift.

      Hegemony has a price tag. American taxpayers pay that price tag. I am glad that we do. It is in everyone’s best interests. Frankly, it is probably cheaper all around. That said, Europeans, particularly along the Atlantic rim and the Baltic, benefit most from this situation. It is perhaps unfair, but that’s life.

      Let’s just acknowledge it.

      Regarding software, I use it as an example because it’s relatively easy to relate. Europe does generate a lot of innovative technology. It’s a place filled with well-educated people living in peaceful societies with lots of access to global markets. Without the US, it would take a hell of a lot longer for those innovations to translate into lifestyle improvements.

      There would be no Internet without the combination of US military spending and US tolerance for disruptive capitalism. We would not be using cell phones. We would experience very limited access to computer power.

      Europeans are smart enough and innovative enough to create any of the technology required for these innovations, but their economic model would not have allowed them to emerge in this dynamic, disruptive form. It would have taken decades if not centuries for Europe to build a Google or a Microsoft. The demise of Nokia cost Finland a sizable chunk of its GDP.

      Ironically, Europeans actually get better access to some of this technology due to their state capitalist model. They have better cell coverage, higher, cheaper internet speeds, more wifi coverage, and so on. Yes, it makes me a little bitter. However, without us, those technologies would probably not be generally available to consumers at all.

      Just my perspective on a complex subject. That’s the benefit that I think the US with its wild version of capitalism and slightly daft military obsession brings to the world, especially to Europe. And that’s why I think we don’t really have an option to adopt Europe’s model.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Two separate points

        (1) – Unified EU forces
        I almost agree you won’t get the several nations military uniting for small operations
        But
        Like Dr Johnson said
        “When a man knows he is to be hanged…it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
        Any threat too big for the number 6(UK), 7(France) or 10(Germany) to cope with will result in a remarkable amount of cooperation

        (2) – Europe exploding into internal warfare
        This has been the default for Europe for the last thousand years
        Now ,
        I don’t think so
        I find it very hard to think of anything that could split the core members apart in an acrimonious way
        Czechoslovakia split in a peaceful way
        Yugoslavia didn’t,
        There was a lot of bad luck with the later split up reinforced by the fact that it had been held together as a unit by force of arms
        There is nowhere else that is being gripped by a “strong man”
        Some European countries could (and will) split up,
        We nearly saw Scotland secede from the Union
        But it’s difficult to imagine and serious violence

      • 1mime says:

        Lifer, being the world’s policeman costs too much in terms of lives and revenue. If all America’s inventions and productivity resulted in a financial base that could finance our role as global peace-enforcer AND fund other critical needs in the U.S. – health care, infrastructure, education – that would make it more palatable. It doesn’t and it can’t. There simply isn’t enough money to do it all, so, what is cut?

      • goplifer says:

        Believe me, NOT being the global policeman will also cost money and lives. It’s just a matter of picking the time, price, and venue. Obama has done a reasonably solid job of avoiding the dumber overseas adventures, but a world without a major military power is a world consistently at war.

      • ANON says:

        I don’t know shit about cell phones, but the reason the US has worse internet is a combination of being huge with sparse population, and of shit government granted monopolies which we don”t have in France.

  17. fiftyohm says:

    One of the best yet, my friend.

    Imagine peace and security without having to pay for it. Utopia!

  18. Stephen says:

    Just like earlier settlers to the new world the more adventuresome still come here. I am a open source enthusiast. Linus Torvalds lives and works in the USA. And I work with Engineers , Technicians and Scientist from all over the world in the power industry. They are here because opportunity is here to rise to their potential. And there are as many from develop countries as undeveloped ones. We are not Europeans and their model will not work for us. We do have to improve our safety net because our country is so dynamic and people need help at times to adjust. And we do have a issue with income inequality being too extreme. High stability and guaranteed outcomes come at the price of freedom and not being able to rise to ones full potential. As a people we are too restless to be happy living as the Europeans do. We hate limits and being controlled by others. Americans are naturally mistrustful of authority , a little bit ornery and rebellious. Just reading through this forum shows how diverse we are and non-conforming we naturally are. One size does not fit all. Fortunately for us this country is so large and diverse you can find a place to fit in. Often in the same county or city. We have a good system but it has some problems. Let’s fix those and not throw out the good with the bad.

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