Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Evils of Europe

During this election, there seemed to be a lot of talk about the danger that Barack Obama was going to turn America into Europe. I recall hearing similar things said about Democratic candidates in previous elections, but I don't think it was nearly as common. That doesn't sound like such a terrible fate to me, but I'm not a typical voter. What do most people think about life in Western Europe? There haven't been many questions on the subject, but back in 1990 a survey sponsored by Parents Magazine asked which scored the highest in various areas of life, the United States, Japan, or "major Western European countries such as Britain, France, Germany, or Italy." The results, arranged by size of America's lead on Europe (questions slightly abbreviated):

                                                                USA Japan Europe DK
Overall quality of life         87%   5     5     4 
Giving each person the 
     opportunity to succeed     83%  12     3     2 
Popular culture                 84%   3     8     6 
International leadership        80%   8     5     7 
Political system and 
               institutions     82%   3     9     6 
Producing high quality 
    goods & services            46%  44     6     4 
Moral fiber of its citizens     49%  29     9    13 
Scientific and technological 
    achievements                38%  52     7     3 
Educating its citizens          30%  52    13     5 
Providing quality medical care  45%   8    36    11 
Serious literary and artistic 
                    endeavors   41%   6    41    12 

They fall into three groups, one in which the United States was overwhelmingly seen as the leader, one in which the United States and Japan were pretty close, and one in which the United States and Europe were close. The same survey asked people which would rank first in 20 years (that is, in 2010). There was a general pattern of regression to the mean--for example, 76% thought the United States would lead in quality of life (down from 87% in 1990) and 44% thought it would lead in scientific and technological achievements (up from 38%). There two areas that stood out for optimism: 58% saw the United States as moving to first in "providing quality medical care for all its citizens" and 51% saw it as moving to first in education.

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