It irritates me time and again that Europeans appear unable to grasp how substantial the difference is between their attitudes and those of the Americans. European commentators keep shaking their heads in disbelief of American rejections of what Europeans regard as self-evident truths.
Of course, this reflects the leftist bias of European media – they have been ridiculing Republican US presidents for the past 50 years: Ford was an idiot, Reagan was a moron, Bush Sr. & Jun. were war mongers and Trump all of the above – presented as facts. No wonder that there is a widespread feeling among Europeans that Americans are not very smart.
Let me try to explain:
Europe is the product of two and half millennia of hierarchic societies – from the Romans through to the Sun King. Patricians and plebeians, nobility and peasants, lords and serfs, educated upper class and ignorant proletarians have been the rule all the time. Change to this has happened only during the last two centuries.
However, those relatively recent changes have been only partial. After substantial revolutions, the proletarian societies that grew up in their wake failed one by one, to be replaced by basically authoritarian social structures: central governments and regulated societies requiring permits and licenses for everything. To Europeans, respect for authorities is in the blood.
Canada and Australia are products of the British empire, their actual independence is less than 50 years old, and their ways of thought are inherited. Middle- and South America are products of Spain and Portugal: populated and governed by them for 300 years until they themselves failed, leaving a bunch of states unusually prone to dictatorships and one-party rule.
North America was populated by European immigrants through 200 years, displacing a sparse indigenous population, before they threw off British rule and created the Unites States. The next 100 years of unchecked immigration from Europe expanded the US through a bloody civil war and subsequent rigid federal regulations, creating a strong society with very non-authoritarian attitudes.
The United States is the product of people leaving Europe for a new start – the one single society in the Western World with unbroken development of non-authoritarian, classless independence and democratic rule and the same basic constitution through the last 230 years.
This process developed, in a majority of the US population, basic attitudes and thinking profoundly different from those of European populations. The resulting differences in ideals and standards are not well known among Europeans.
The major difference between thinking in the US and in Europe is best illustrated by their different economic systems:
- The National Budgets of each European state is roughly two thirds of its Gross National Product (GNP) – meaning that two thirds of Europe’s economy is routed through and controlled by Governments. Laws are nationwide.
- In the USA, the combined Federal and State budgets total about one third of the US GNP, leaving two thirds outside Government control, generated and run by private enterprise. Only Federal laws are nationwide, and there is no nationwide census registry.
Europeans talk a lot about individual freedom – in reality they see social democratic principles as safer. A good example is their attitude to health services: Europeans generally believe that health care should the public, available to everyone, run and financed by the State.
Therefore, it appears to Europeans as lunacy when large numbers of Americans oppose “Obamacare” (of 2010) over Medicare (limited to people 62 or over) and preferring general health care to be a private choice, run by private enterprise and financed through insurance policies.
As opposed to all European states, in the USA, citizens can move freely around without registering anywhere (except for voting rights) and no permission or registration in needed to change work, domicile own property.