Europe vs. America – Policy and Persona

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The left does more often, but many suggest looking to Europe for inspiration regarding some big issues these days. Concerns like healthcare, education, the corrections process – they’re all looked at differently in Europe. Most of the time the right just calls it all socialism or communism. I’m not looking to get into a huge breakdown of every aspect of those isms. Nor do I plan on delving into the full breadth of political history in Europe. I just always feel the need to point out that mirroring European systems is easier said than done.

Europe & America

For the purpose of this article we’ll look at a few specific topics.

Healthcare

EuropeSo the healthcare system over there is a lot more socialist. They have, you guessed it, socialized medicine. In short, in most cases they don’t have to pay through the nose every time they, say, break their nose. Americans get gouged by sharp objects then by the insurance company after going to the hospital. I’m no expert on the healthcare system, but you don’t have to be to see there’s a problem. I’ve written before about Obamacare, twice actually. Around the time it became a thing I weighed in, and I still feel the same. It’s a step in the right direction, but there’s more work to be done.

Education

In Europe many nations offer free university. In Slovenia a lot of people come from other countries (including the US) to get a college education. Here in the states we have private schools and universities that can charge whatever they want. Students are bogged down with so much debt that some resort to binge drinking and drug use to deal with the stress. (Now of course, I’m not saying this is 100% of the time, or that college kids don’t party in Europe.) Primary schooling is a lot different in Europe too. They actually serve healthy, balanced meals in schools and in Finland they give out no homework. Educators in Europe believe kids should have time to spend with their friends and families. Finland, by the way, ascended from one of the worst to one of the best nations in the world for education by making these changes.

Corrections

Even stranger is how some European nations treat their prisoners. In Norway, for instance, there is a well-known maximum-security prison that essentially runs like a resort. Violent criminals are treated like civilized human beings and are allowed to live in comfortable conditions in a controlled environment. They still have structure and aren’t allowed to leave the island, but they cook for themselves and get to interact with each other as they please. Now this does sound odd, and is one of the ideas that I don’t think would work in America, but their recidivism rate is drastically lower than ours. Another issue with the American prison system is that it’s largely for-profit. We lock people up at record numbers for non-violent offenses to the benefit of the companies that own the prisons. Does that sound like the best country in the world to you?

In Closing

So what’s my point? I do think we should take a page or two out of Europe’s book. But, some of the major differences we have are due to our differing histories and national personas. America is still very young compared to the rest of the world. We ascended the global food chain so quickly that some of the power has gone to our heads. Though, if you ask a European, a lot of the ideas of freedom and liberty that are a part of their “strange” systems are inspired by us. The founding fathers were all European, after all. They took inspiration from enlightened thinkers who were concerned about the well being of people. We can’t lose sight of that.

The main factor that makes some of these differences possible is that in Europe people pay more in taxes. That idea frightens and angers a lot of Americans. But, wages are higher in many nations there and the extra taxes they pay aren’t really as high as people tend to think. At the end of the day, is it even fair to put a price on America being the best country in the world? It’s tough to be the best when corporate greed and misguided special interests keep our people unhealthy, uneducated, and incarcerated.