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Thread: "Thank God America Isn't Like Europe - Yet"

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    Senior Member Kriemhild's Avatar
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    "Thank God America Isn't Like Europe - Yet"

    Do we want the United States to be like Europe?

    The European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted whenever I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. There's a lot to like -- a lot to love -- about day-to-day life in Europe. But I argue that the answer to this question is "no." Not for economic reasons. I want to focus on another problem with the European model: namely, that it drains too much of the life from life.

    The stuff of life -- the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships -- occurs within just four institutions: family, community, vocation and faith. Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. The European model doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

    Drive through rural Sweden, as I did a few years ago. In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. The nations of Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their "child-friendly" policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. They are countries where jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And with only a few exceptions, they are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.

    Call it the Europe Syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. Afterward, a few of the 20-something members of the audience came up and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and they saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

    It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality that goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

    If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

    I stand in awe of Europe's past. Which makes Europe's present all the more dispiriting. And should make it something that concentrates our minds wonderfully, for every element of the Europe Syndrome is infiltrating American life as well. The European model provides the intellectual framework for the social policies of the Democratic Party, and it faces no credible opposition from Republican politicians.

    Yet not only is the European model inimical to human flourishing, I predict that 21st-century science is going to explain why. A tidal change in our scientific understanding of what makes humans tick is coming, and it will spill over into every crevice of political and cultural life. As Harvard's Edward O. Wilson argues in his book "Consilience," the social sciences are increasingly going to be shaped by the findings of science. It's already happening. Whether it's psychologists discovering how fetal testosterone affects sex differences in children's behavior or geneticists using haplotypes to differentiate the Dutch from the Italians, the hard sciences are encroaching on questions of race, class and gender that have been at the center of modern social science. And the tendency of the findings lets us predict with some confidence the broad outlines of what the future will bring.

    Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what I label "the equality premise" and "the New Man premise." The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people -- men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays -- will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life -- the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and who become CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes that this is true.

    I'm confident that within a decade, the weight of the new scientific findings will force the left to abandon the equality premise. But if social policy cannot be built on the premise that group differences must be eliminated, what can it be built upon? It can be built upon the premise that used to be part of the warp and woof of American idealism: People must be treated as individuals. The success of social policy is to be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.

    The second tendency of the new findings of biology will be to show that the New Man premise -- which says that human beings are malleable through the right government interventions -- is nonsense. Human nature tightly constrains what is politically or culturally possible. More than that, the new findings will confirm that human beings are pretty much the way that wise observers have thought for thousands of years.

    The effects on the policy debate will be sweeping. Let me give you a specific example. For many years, I have been among those who argue that the growth in births to unmarried women has been a social catastrophe -- the single most important force behind the growth of the underclass. But while other scholars and I have been able to prove that other family structures have not worked as well as the traditional family, I cannot prove that alternatives could not work as well, and so the social democrats keep coming up with the next new program that will compensate for the absence of fathers.

    Over the next few decades, advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding, and I predict that they will lead to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons why boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence unsocialized to norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and hold jobs. We will still be able to acknowledge that many single women do a wonderful job of raising their children. But social democrats will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth.

    For some years a metaphor has been stuck in my mind: The 20th century was the adolescence of Homo sapiens. Nineteenth-century science, from Darwin to Freud, offered a series of body blows to ways of thinking about human life that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization. Humans, just like adolescents, were deprived of some of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. And 20th-century intellectuals reacted precisely the way adolescents react when they think they have discovered that Mom and Dad are hopelessly out of date. It was as if they thought that if Darwin was right about evolution, then Aquinas was no longer worth reading; that if Freud was right about the unconscious mind, then the Nicomachean Ethics had nothing to teach us.

    The nice thing about adolescence is that it is temporary, and when it passes, people discover that their parents were smarter than they thought. I think that may be happening with the advent of the new century. All of us who deal in social policy will be thinking less like adolescents, entranced with the most titillating new idea, and more like grown-ups. But that will not stop America's slide toward the European model. For that, there must be a kind of political Great Awakening among America's elites. They will have to ask themselves how much they value what has made America exceptional, and what they are willing to do to preserve it.

    The trouble is that American elites of all political stripes have increasingly withdrawn to gated communities -- literally or figuratively -- where they never interact at an intimate level with people not of their own socioeconomic class. Over the last half-century, the new generation of elites have increasingly spent their entire lives in the upper-middle-class bubble, never having seen a factory floor, let alone worked on one, never having gone to a grocery store and bought the cheap ketchup instead of the expensive ketchup to meet a budget, and never having had a close friend who hadn't gotten at least 600 on her verbal SAT.

    America's elites must once again fall in love with what makes America different. The drift toward the European model can be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.
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    Senior Member CordeliaforLear's Avatar
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    Unfortunately Europhobia is a staple of the republican party. It goes back to the cowboy myth of rugged individualism that doesn't seem to match up well with a nation of obese mexican welfare recipients and other 'octomom' animalia.

    I really don't see an end in sight when we stop defining Europe as 'the other.'

    Besides Europe is the last politically correct continent to bash.

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    Schimmelreiter
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    America's elites must once again fall in love with what makes America different. The drift toward the European model can be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.
    The "European model" is an incomplete adaptation of the American model that has replaced our historical social structures and ended their further development. Why the surprise at the devastating results this yields?

    The answer is in the paragraph quoted above. The failure of the American model to sustain life is reinterpreted as a success, because other people, who were forced into it, are doing even worse with it. The "different way for people to live together" means that there will never be an American people as an ethnic group, whether Germanic or not, that has life in the political structure it creates for itself.

    To the contrary, the political structure and the hollow ideas it is founded on will continue to define the American people and under this definition, the decline of Germanics in America (less than 50% currently) will be inevitable and it will not even be perceived as a problem by those who still believe in the absurd addiction to folkish suicide that is "American exceptionalism".

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    "Europhobia"

    Europhobia isn't anything new nor is it exclusively Republican. Amrica has always distrtusted Europe. "If Europe is so great, why do Europeans keep emigrating to the US ?" was the attitude in my youth about 70+ years ago and the attitude was about as old as the republic even then.

    BTW, Cordelia, you haven't answered anything in the article which Kriemhild posted.

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    Schimmelreiter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorm the Old View Post
    "If Europe is so great, why do Europeans keep emigrating to the US ?"
    Europe was densely populated, had an abundance of second born sons and further expansion was always met with a high degree of resistance. Beginning with the conquistadores, who brought down empires with a number of men so small that they would have instantly been wiped out by other Europeans or the Muslim enemy, the Americas were an easy way out for Europeans. The rapid expansion of the US after its foundation would not have been possible in Europe, and we know that because it has been tried several times. Add to that the largely unexploited natural resources and you get a population of Americans with smug confidence in their inherent superiority, and sometimes they base this on something called "American exceptionalism".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hauke Haien View Post
    Europe was densely populated, had an abundance of second born sons and further expansion was always met with a high degree of resistance. Beginning with the conquistadores, who brought down empires with a number of men so small that they would have instantly been wiped out by other Europeans or the Muslim enemy, the Americas were an easy way out for Europeans. The rapid expansion of the US after its foundation would not have been possible in Europe, and we know that because it has been tried several times. Add to that the largely unexploited natural resources and you get a population of Americans with smug confidence in their inherent superiority, and sometimes they base this on something called "American exceptionalism".
    Although I agree with you on the fact that America was made great by Europeans, not Europeans made great by America.

    Do you disagree with the problems facing Europe and the rest of the West that the above article lists?

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    Schimmelreiter
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    Î do not, but I disagree with the notion that the American model is fundamentally different from the "European model" as imagined by Americans and it has a much longer tradition in America than it has in "Europe", whatever that is. For this reason, I think a struggle for independence is the most promising way to get out of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hauke Haien View Post
    Î do not, but I disagree with the notion that the American model is fundamentally different from the "European model" as imagined by Americans and it has a much longer tradition in America than it has in "Europe", whatever that is. For this reason, I think a struggle for independence is the most promising way to get out of it.
    I agree that they both have it, but I believe many countries in Europe have gone further down the road in such things as abortion, fertility rates, gun control.
    But as far as immigration and politically correct mind police the U.S government led the way with Europe following their lead reducing them to the chronic problems the United States have with a heterogeneous population in culture and race.

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    Schimmelreiter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ormus View Post
    I agree that they both have it, but I belive many countries in Europe have gone further down the road in such things as abortion, fertility rates, gun control.
    I believe these are not really issues at all. What is fundamentally lacking is a spiritual connection between ethnic group and nation that expresses itself in the political structure. In Germany, they have been attacking remnants of this connection with a crowbar for decades while it was never even allowed to get established in the US. If the idea that your people must live on and thrive beyond the individual's well-being (the folkish tradition) is eliminated and only the present sum of individuals within national territory are considered (i.e. democratic pluralism), wrong choices for the future of the people as an entity are bound to result. Political power structures have very real effects on how people subjected to it behave. There is no "freedom" in politics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ormus View Post
    But as far as immigration and politically correct mind police the U.S government led the way with Europe following their lead reducing them to the chronic problems the United States have with a heterogeneous population in culture and race.
    The various symptoms are individually of unequal strength in Western countries, but the underlying problem is the same and so is the ultimate result.

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    Account Inactive PendaMercia's Avatar
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    There are so many good posts in this thread. I will have to wait until later to post a competent reply.

    A quick comment would be that there is a disconnect between European Germanicism and American Germanicism that needs to be resolved. Germanic Americans see Europe as having gotten away from its Germanic origins, and America (of 200 years ago anyways) as a return to those origins via a new Paradigm. Europe like an old oak whose seeds spread first in a circle around it to create a grove. The seeds from each tree in this grove again spreading out in circles. Each new 'circle', or grove, being less like the original oak. Degenerate tendencies set in and soon we have a rotting forest. Even the original oak having mostly rotten away. Someone had the idea of taking one of the last healthy seeds from the original oak, and plating it far away from the forest. This new oak being the America of the late 1700's.

    Europeans seem to see America as just another rotten forest expanded so much now that both woods are intertwined.

    Neither view is that far from the truth. But the original oak is rotten. The 'new' oak is rotten.

    Our task, as I see it, is to find what seeds from each are still healthy and strong, and start again.

    I don't see this as a depressing task. It is the heros journey. Any among us up to the challenge, to run through the dark wood as the wolves we are? Or do we hide like squirrels in the little holes we have burrowed in the last vestiges of good wood?

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