When the arguments got down to the nitty-gritty on the health care bill, the liberals I know were prone to admit that what they really most cared about was completing the European-style welfare state. Lacking a health insurance safety net simply offended their sense of how things should be. It didn’t matter to my liberal friends that the poor actually could get treatment. They wanted systematized, state-organized entitlement.
Interestingly, my liberal friends felt sure that the costs would not be significant.
Jonah Goldberg offers the argument, which I think we are going to see repeated and elaborated, that the cost of socializing the United States is liable to go far beyond high domestic taxes and less US economic growth, and the full cost may seriously impact Europe, too.
[L]iberals insist conservatives are wrong to think that Europeanizing America will necessarily come at any significant cost. New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman says that in exchange for only a tiny bit less growth, Europeans buy a whole lot of security and comfort. …
I think the debate misses something. We can’t become Europe unless someone else is willing to become America.
Look at it this way. My 7 year-old daughter has a great lifestyle. She has all of her clothes and food bought for her. She goes on great vacations. She has plenty of leisure time. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t look at her and feel envious at how good she’s got it compared to me. But here’s the problem: If I decide to live like her, who’s going to take my place?
Europe is a free-rider. It can only afford to be Europe because we can afford to be America.
The most obvious and most cited illustration of this fact is national defense. Europe’s defense budgets have been miniscule because Europeans can count on Uncle Sam to protect them. Britain, which has the most credible military in NATO after ours, has funded its butter account with its gun account. As Mark Steyn recently noted in National Review, from 1951 to 1997 the share of British government expenditure on defense fell from 24 percent to 7 percent, while the share on health and welfare increased from 22 percent to 53 percent. And that was before New Labor started rolling back Thatcherism. If America Europeanizes, who’s going to protect Europe? Who’s going to keep the sea lanes open? Who’s going to contain Iran? China? OK, maybe. But then who’s going to contain China?
But that’s not the only way in which Europeans are free-riders. America invents a lot of stuff. When was the last time you used a Portuguese electronic device? How often does Europe come out with a breakthrough drug? Not often, and when they do, it’s usually because companies like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline increasingly conduct their research here. Indeed, the top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single country combined. We nearly monopolize the Nobel Prize in medicine, and we create stuff at a rate Europe hasn’t seen since da Vinci was in his workshop.
If America truly Europeanized, where would the innovations come from?