Ah, Europe. Old world charm, prodigious pollution, gasoline near $5 a gallon, and roads routinely blocked by the rotting produce of protesting French farmers. What’s there not to like? Obviously, America would be better off if we were more like Europe. Or at least that’s what the American Left thinks.
It’s hard to say exactly when the American Left’s love affair with Europe began, but it certainly was in full bloom during the Clinton presidency. Liberal pundits often chided us right-wing types who were concerned with the Clintons’ various illegalities. The Europeans are laughing at us, they said. They have sex scandals over there all the time, and they’re mature enough to know that these things don’t matter. Why don’t we just grow up and be, well, more European in our view of things.
But European attitudes towards sex with interns is just one of the many examples we would do well to follow. Their media was nearly able to cause the downfall of a government allied with George W. Bush solely on the basis of allegations of “sexed up” intelligence by one openly anti-war BBC reporter. What a place. If only PBS had that kind of power.
All the current Democratic presidential contenders, save, perhaps, Joe Lieberman, preach that an American foreign policy that does not have the blessing of the French is, to use Dick Gephardt’s words, “a miserable failure.” Europeans share the American Left’s belief in internationalism. Except for the British and a handful of other holdouts, they don’t mind sacrificing their own sovereignty to greater organizations like the European Union and the United Nations. As the brilliant columnist, Mark Steyn, has noted, nations that have unimpressive track records creating successful and stable governments of their own (France, for instance) seem a lot more willing to put faith in multi-national government constructs. And it is only in international organizations like the U.N. that relatively insignificant world powers (France, for instance) have equal weight with the United States. And the American Left certainly recognizes the need to have a counterbalance to constrain America’s power.
Europe contains many enlightened nations sponsoring cradle-to-grave social welfare systems that are the envy of the American Left. Government mandated generous worker benefits, lots of “free” services, high taxes, high unemployment — (10.4% in Germany; 9.6% in France) — but with great unemployment benefits. Whole populations completely dependent on the beneficence of governments for their well-being — that’s the American Left’s dream.
As typified by recent pronouncements from the Democratic presidential aspirants, however, the American Left’s favorite way of reminding us how backward we are here in the States is to cite the example of European socialized medicine. In particular, Dr. Howard Dean is pushing the argument that if Europeans have universal health care, then so should Americans. Surely, if Europeans don’t mind waiting months for critical medical procedures, then why should we? And if you’re four times more likely to die as a result of major surgery in the UK than in the U.S., so what? If you’re so sick that you need major surgery, everyone would be better off if you died anyway so you don’t put a strain on the health care system.
As our history with Medicare and Medicaid has taught us, government provided “universal coverage” will result in “cost containment” measures imposed on suppliers, including the U.S. pharmaceutical industry that the world relies on for new and improved medicines. With the Euro-Dean program in effect in the United States, new drug discovery and development would plummet. But what is the use of better health care if government can’t afford to provide it to everyone? The goal under the Euro-Dean system, after all, is government “coverage,” not quality.
The most important fact that distinguishes America and Europe politically is that America was founded on the idea of personal liberty. European notions regarding the proper role of government evolved much differently. Howard Dean and his ideological friends in the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” are hoping that we no longer care about our heritage and that we are willing to sacrifice our liberties for the promise of more European-style paternalism.
Our heritage, as enshrined in our Constitution, is not something with which the American Left is comfortable. Therefore it has attempted, successfully in many ways, to erase the Constitutional restraints on the power of government that serve to protect to our personal liberty, aided by activist liberal Supreme Court Justices who see the Constitution as a “living” (that is, meaningless) document, or who think that world opinion is as important in determining Constitutional questions as is the Constitution. Senate Democrats are even willing to filibuster to prevent the federal judiciary from being cluttered with “out of the mainstream” Bush nominees who boldly think otherwise.
Liberals will fight for our rights over our own bodies, as long as we’re talking about abortion rather than tobacco. But, for the most part, the liberal political agenda of greater government power to “make our lives better” is at odds with the basis of our government — indeed, it is at odds with what for nearly 200 years was the basis of our national identity. Perhaps this next presidential election will serve to define who we are. Are we Americans, or are we Europeans?