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Cube Jockey
There is a fascinating article over on Salon.com today called - Welcome to the New Cold War. The article starts out with the shocking line:
QUOTE
It's Chirac vs. Cheney, SUVs vs. minicars, and pommes frites vs. freedom fries in the new transatlantic culture war. But here's what you don't know: In the global conflict for moral and economic supremacy, Europe is winning.


The article makes the point that while the US might be the only remaining military superpower, the EU seems to be surpassing the US in every other respect:
QUOTE
Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family [...]

European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?

Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.

The new EU constitution, currently being considered by the member states, is an unwieldy, jargon-laden document that runs to 265 pages in English (and even more in Spanish and French). It should also serve as an inspiration to progressives around the world. It bars capital punishment in all 25 nations and defines such things as universal healthcare, child care, paid annual leave, parental leave, housing for the poor, and equal treatment for gays and lesbians as fundamental human rights. Most of these are still hotly contested questions in the United States; as Rifkin says, this document all by itself makes the European Union the world leader in the human rights debate. It is the first governing document that aspires to universality, "with rights and responsibilities that encompass the totality of human existence on Earth."


Questions for debate:
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?
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moif
Interesting perspective, and dare I admit it?, quite flattering as well. Yes indeed, I quite liked that article, almost as much as I like the notion of an EU superpower! (Do we have a smug smiley here?)

cool.gif

I'm not altogether sure on all the conclusions put forward by O'Hehir, but he's certainly echoing my sentiments with regards to most aspects of the trans Atlantic relationship.

1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

Yes. I believe so, at least socially. I'm not sure about the economic aspect and I don't feel qualified to speak on economics at all.

I do however feel that Europeans live much better, if much more expensive, lives than Americans though. Its true we don't have as much 'stuff' as the average Americans have (or are portrayed as having) but at the same time, we have more than enough to entertain us. We don't lack for any of the essentials, at least not in western Europe. We have an excellent quality of life and a social system designed to catch us when we fall... and its always 'when', not 'if'.


2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

I don't think so. There is no such thing as the 'United States of Europe'. The EU is not an equivalent of the USA.

I think the American people will continue along their own path and will continue develop their own methods of doing things.


3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I am not aware of any vision... unless it is co-operation instead of confrontation... as it is, the EU is still much divided by culture and national politics. Although there is a fundamental European mind set, it is not so easy to define as can be used to describe the citizens of the EU as having a 'vision'.

My idea of the EU is probably very different from Juliens and Ptarmigans for example.
Julian
An interesting article and a good thread subject CJ.

Another paragraph I liked was
QUOTE(Article)
Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)


To some extent, I don't imagine many left leaning Europeans here like myself or moif would be remotely surprised by any of this thinking - it's kind of what we've been saying here all along - the American model has flaws, and some of those flaws have been cured or avoided in Europe. Nobody here that I know of has ever claimed Europe has nothing to learn from America, but there are some here who claim America has nothing to learn from Europe (or elsewhere).

Essentially I'd say this should only come as a surprise to Americans in general because of the insularity of the American news media, and to Americans here (who don't represent the population as a whole, being more news-hungry, and generally more aware) only if they have stuck resolutely to an America-centric view of what ideas are important.

What I mean by this last point is that it's very easy to write off European socio-economic problems like Germany's chronic unemployment problems with "well that's why socialist-inspired heavy regulation and over-generous welfare doesn't work", forgetting that they are other factors at play. In this example, forgetting that the Germans are only 10 or 15 years into the full integration of the old East and West Germanies. The relative wealth and population sizes would have a similar impact if, tomorrow, America and Mexico were to merge completely, adopting all the rules, standards, and benefits of America. How long would it take the newly merged America to regain its economic stability?

And while there are certainly different visions of what the enlarged EU could and should become, I think this isn't evidence that it won't amount to anything - just that it's a relatively new political experiment and nobody yet knows how it will turn out. In much the same way that America herself was (and in many ways remains, to the good I might add) a grand experiment that may, in time, fail. The thing about experiments is that you learn from them no matter what happens.

1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?
Socially I believe the answer depends on where you stand. Taking the founding goals of America as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and those of modern Europe as, if anything, the continuation of the old French revolutionary "liberté, egalité, fraternité", I'd say that both are broadly acheiving what they set out to do.
I would also say that I think adding the bolded "brotherhood" idea into the mix, as the French did in 1785, is the crucial difference in focus between the individualist American ideal and the collectivist (not communist or socialist) ideal that seems common throughout the wider Europe. Being left-leaning myself, I'd say that it was an advance on the earlier, American ideal, but I'm not an unbiased observer.
Economically, the US is ahead on the measures in most common use, and (I'd say) neck and neck or even behind on what Americans might think of as "softer" isses such as holistic living standards (rather than material ones, where he US is ahead).
But even on the hard measures, I think it would be a mistake to think Europe is a basket case. Let's not forget that, while the Franco-German core economies are languishing now, and the the US and Britain are booming, one only has to turn the clock back ten years or more to see spiralling unemployment and sky-high interest rates in the Anglo-Saxon economies, while the French and Germans were happily chugging upwards. Of course, they weren't in the spotlight, because American economic paranoia was at the time focused on the "theat" from Japan, who (if you listened to the doomsayers) hads lost the war but won the peace, were going to buy up all of America and force people to sing company songs in the mornings, and were generally speaking going to drown America in a sea of Sonys, Panasonics and Toyotas.
If there's one thing America should learn from this, I'd say learn two things blink.gif
- Nationally, America has to purge itself of it's allergy to nuance. America alwways makes oversimplifications in foreign affairs ("Japan will beat us" despite their economy being built on sand, "We beat the Soviets by our own actions alone" despite their whole state apparatus rotting away form the inside, "Europe is a basket case" despite tangible advantages in many areas, the impending "Europe will beat us" paranoia if this article catches hold despite Europe instrinsic disadvantages in some areas, "you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists" despite... oh that's another thread) and, so far,

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?
The quotation marks are important here, because it's very unlikely that any such name will ever come into being. As I've said, the EU is a new construct, so it isn't useful using historical constructs or other models to explain it, except as a very basic primer. The United States might be the only other reference point for such a transnational union, but it would be foolish to assume that the EU will work the same way in very many areas at all. To learn Spanish, one doesn't have to understand French, though their roots are the same.

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?
As I've hinted, I think the European vision is the continuation on a broader scale of "liberté, egalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality and brotherhood, for non-Francophones). And the American vision has never really strayed far from "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
These two slightly different foundations have led, and will continue to lead, to distinctive interpretations. But ultimately, I think the foundations reflect something in the character of each, er, "nation" (though that's the wrong word).

I'm not even sure that they need to be competing visions - both America and Europe agree on many things that we never discuss, much less argue about. there's no need. It's obvious to us that democracy is essential; and we find it very alien when we come across other cultures that see no such need for it. It's obvious to (most of) us that secular governments are preferable to theological ones. (We may argue about precisely how secular they should be, of course)
moif
Julien

I can't but help wonder though, just how much even we Europeans are aware of what is happening in Europe. I get the distinct impression that the EU shuns media attention like vampyres shun daylight.

As you know, Denmark is distinctly Eurosceptic. As a consequence we have a lot of documentaries regarding EU corruption and the huge problems that Denmark has with the common agricultural policy.

Danish farmers are now so heavily subsidized that if the EU were to suddenly stop its payments to Denmarks farmers, this country's agricultural system would collapse and every single farmer in Denmark would go bankrupt overnight.

The other day, I watched a documentary about a Danish farmer who's family has grown suger beet for the last three generations. He explained that he is locked into suger beet production now and produces a surplus of produce that he could not sell on a fair market, but which is bought regardless by the EU and dumped on to the third world at prices that they cannot compete with. This is the sort of corruption that the European Union was meant to do away with, and yet it seems to me that the EU is essentially no different from the national interests it is meant to gradually replace except in scale.

Take the current conflict in the Ivory Coast for example. In 1999 the EU decided to allow British and Irish chocolate manufacturers to market their version of chocolate* as chocolate. This in turn led to protests from the Ivory Coast and Ghana since it would mean a further reduction in the amount of money their crops were worth. They tried to lobby the EU to no effect and finally turned to putting added taxes onto EU products in return.
Half a year later, the Ivory Coast went from one of the most stable nations in Africa to being a military led dictatorship, and today French and UN troops control the nations stability.

Coincidence?

Ghana has benefitted from the Ivory Coast's misfortunes and now has all the demand for cocoa it could desire, so they're not complaining any more.

Here in Europe, many have been very quick to point the finger at the so called Bush Oil War, but are we any better? Are we conducting a chocolate war?! blink.gif

I don't know.
The situation in the Ivory Coast puzzles me. It would be easy to simply shrug and say, 'what the hey' thats Africa for you... but is it?

One thing is for certain. The EU shuns attention. It thrives in the darkness of America's shadow and seems to benefit greatly from the frenzy of media attention that is lavished on all that America does.

I for one would like to see some serious media attention, from both sides of the Atlantic, on the EU and what exactly does it do with all the billions and billions of Euro's the tax payers of Europe give it?

For example, why are we subsidizing farmers for crops we can't use? hmmm.gif


* British and Irish style chocolate traditionally makes milk chocolate with a high fat and low cocoa content which has always been considered inferior on the European mainland. In the past it was even banned as not being real chocolate by several European nations.
Ptarmigan
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

Yikes.....economically depends on the metrics. Material wealth is lower in Europe, but productivity is very similar once you take into account the longer amount of leisure time that Europeans have. If leisure time was treated as an economic good in the same way that (say) cars or dvd players were, then Europe looks a lot better. Growth is still very low in Germany (but very high in the rest of the EU).

Really it depends on how you value material wealth versus leisure time and equality in society. In terms of income or material wealth, then Europe is far more egalitarian than the US -the gap between rich and poor is much smaller. Is this good or bad? Being a European - (British attitudes are not typical of Europe - although nowhere is really 'typical' of Europe - but they are probably very 'European' when compared to Americans) - I would say 'yes', but this is more because of European history than anything else.

And I like not being at work and having fun and catching up with friends. So I also value my leisure time. I would hate to work American hours - not because I am lazy or workshy, but because no-one ever lay on their deathbed and said 'I really wish I had spent more time in the office'.

Socially is a matter of perspective. We aint religious (a few inquisitions and wars cures you of that), we don't like the death penalty and we like giving all our hard earned cash to governments that then make sure that everyone has good access to healthcare etc. Very left leaning, but then, so what. I would say that socially we are more libertarian - (now if I can just persuade the governments to adopt more libertarian approach to the economy and I'll be happy).

That may ultimately be more stable - in that in a permissive society it becomes difficult for the majority to impose its collective will on the minority socially (which JS Mill (if I remember correctly) always argued was the worst kind of tyranny. An unjust law can plainly be seen to be unjust, whereas social mores permeate and obscure everything), so issues such as gay marriage don't really arise. (Not that Europe doesn't have problems with intolerance of course, merely that our ideals are more permissive).

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

No, because the EU and US are fundamentally different. The EU will, at least for the forseeable future, retain a lot of powers at the individual nation level, powers that the individual states long ago gave to the federal government. National identity within Europe is still very very strong.

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I wouldn't say Europe has a vision for the future, it has many different ones depending on who you are. Broadly though it is moving towards unifying, much to the dismay of my compatriots (but personally I think it's a good thing)....but thats about it. I don't really think countries can have a vision for the future - individuals might - and if they get elected then they may have some power over directing their country toward that goal, but then again, someone with an entirely different vision may get elected next time around...




I do feel that America excel at allowing everyone to fulfil their potential however, which Europe does not necessarily do. There are many racial minorities that face a lot of barriers which are relatively easier to overcome in America.
Julian
Come on Statesiders - this is your board. us.gif

Don't let us Euroweenies hijack this thread - it's about America as much as it is about the EU. ('Course the time difference means many of you are still in bed, so maybe I should check back tomorrow mrsparkle.gif )

Apart from anything else I've got loads more to say but I want to see some US perspectives first.
crashfourit
QUOTE
2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

The thirteen original states of the U.S. were, in fact, free and independent sovereign states.
QUOTE(The Declaration of Independence)
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

(source)
QUOTE(The Paris Peace Treaty of 1783)
Article 1: His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

(source)

One of the major flaws of the Articles of Confederation (the U.S.' first constitution) was that:
  1. It outlined a unicameral/legislature only government,
  2. no unified currency,
  3. each state was able to still have treaties with other nations (I.E. no effectively unified governmental face internationally)
The U.S. Constitution remedies the flaws (although it my have flaws its self; topic for another debate) by:
  1. outlining a Legislature (Article 1), Executive (Article 2), and Judicial branches (Article 3).
  2. unified currency (Article 1, Section 8, clause 5; and Article 1, Section 10, clause 1),
  3. no state may enter in a treaty with foreign nations (Article 1, Section 10, clause 1).
(These lists are by no means exhaustive.)

From what I have gathered from the E.U. is that the unified currency is addressed (partially?), and that the unicameral legislature only government is addressed, but the member countries may still enter into treaties with countries outside the E.U. (correct me if I'm wrong). From this, the E.U. is governmentally between the U.S. with the Articles and U.S. with the Constitution.

I could see the E.U. adopting a more of a U.S. system in the coming years, but there would still be some differences. A few motives that could drive the E.U. into such a system are wanting to become a more intergraded union and a counter balance to the U.S. economical and militarily.

Another difference is between the U.S. Constiution and the proposed E.U. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution is not as verbose (approximately 9 pages of English text, excluding amendments) as the E.U. constitution (265 pages of English text *). This Allows the U.S. Congress to fill in some, if not most, of the gaps legislatively; thereby, allowing flexibility. Also, it alows the common man to read it in a shorter time than the proposed E.U. Constitution.

Because of the proposal of the new E.U. Constitution, the EU. 'vision' is comming more into focus. But the U.S. is having a bit of double 'vision' (2000 and 2004 elections come to mind). IMHO, the U.S. should strive for a United North America, but that is a topic for another debate. hmmm.gif mrsparkle.gif

Although I would like the European nations join the U.S., though that shows obvious bias (maybe because I'm an American?). One advantage for the Eropean naitons is that they get to have a say in the U.S. elections, but that is another topic for another debate. hmmm.gif mrsparkle.gif
bucket
QUOTE
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?


I would say yes and no. Some things are better in Europe and some are not..take the reports coming out of Spain this week regarding the England/Spain football match ..I would have to say..racial tolerance..which is a social issue... is not better in Europe. I believe this issue will only get worse and cause Europe a lot of pain.

The event in Netherlands with the Van Gogh film director...has really thrown some of Europe in a new direction I think too. Not to mention it further illustrates Europe's social problems.

Economically..well must admit I am surprised the article is asserting this..and had a good laugh at much of what the author claimed as evidence. The Euro..trading so high? I would like for anyone to find anybody at the ECB who finds this to be an advantage!

Germany is suffering over 10% unemployment and I don't think any of the other EU nations are all that far behind that number...is that better than the US?

The German manufacturers are starting to make threats...either adopt more employer friendly labor agreements(like in the US) or we will leave DE. There have been all kinds of union concessions occurring in DE lately. The expansion of the EU is portrayed in this article as only bringing positive changes..well I suppose that all depends on your view..because the lure of Eastern Europe to Western Europe nations is huge right now. The new addition of these markets is putting massive pressure on the western nation's economies to change..and we are seeing plenty of examples that they will change because of it.

He also goes on to make note of the additional population the EU expansion brought..I think it was increased by 20% but wealth only increased by 5%.

Several EU nations, and Germany is amongst them, are still over the set limit for budget deficit allowance of the EU..which might I add is in and around the same % of America's own deficit.
Not to mention I read that the prospects for Germany in 2005 are currently slowed growth. It is already pretty darn slow! as it is in most EU nations.
I know I focused mostly on Germany but it is the one continental EU nation I actually follow and have an interest in (Switzerland does not count)...not to mention it happens to be the EU's largest economy.

Oh and that 35 hour work week in France...which apparently seems to be the heart of this man's argument..the French Govt. admitted recently that it was 'a disaster'

Also the article used really odd examples as proof of a growing superior economy....the insurance industry...well duh! My sister works for Lloyd's of London...which has been around for well over 300 yrs. So I felt the author's portrayal that this is something that Europe has surpassed the US in..as in it is a new occurence or what I don't know...false. When did the US supersede Europe in this field?
I bet they make a lot more coo-coo clocks over there also..probably surpass the US market in that industry too.

And all the stuff about I am shocked Europe is still so European! I just don't understand why the author finds this so surprising..and noted it as an American failure. Some how our inability to force Europe into complete assimilation is a failure?
Most European nations have been around hundreds of years why on earth does this man think Big Macs and Yankee caps will have such a massive effect on their culture? Well if anything it shows why the author chose to use the word war to sum up US/EU relations...he seems to be just a wee bit dramatic.

To me articles like this are just silly to me to begin with...Europe will go nowhere without America and America will go nowhere without Europe. We are all interconnected now and the global economy depends on all of us. We watch the same movies, television, we drive the same cars, we eat many of the same brands of foods, we wear the same clothes, we have the same furniture in our homes, listen to the same music, and have little discussions like this with each other all the time now. We are not at war Mr. Andrew O'Hehir...Americans are just finally realizing that Europeans are not inferior and that the world and it's opinions matter too...that is most certainly a good thing.

I think it is more of a realization then it is a war.
Hobbes
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

Falling behind economically? I highly doubt it...and none of the statistics listed change my opinion. In fact, the article seems to be twisting the definition of economics in order to reach its desired outcome.
QUOTE
Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze.


What do any of the things he listed have to do with productivity? Nothing. Spending, yes, productivity, no. In order to gain a little credibility I would suggest Rifkin revisit the definition of productivity before making any comments on the pros or cons of any educational system.

Socially, though? That's harder to answer. I think you will find aspects of each that one could point to as being advantageous. Most of the statistics Rifkin cites assume that a liberal society is socially advantageous. That may be true, but it is a very large (and biased, I might add) assumption to make. Again, he adjusts the definition to reach his desired outcome...downplaying aspects that American society seems to thrive on. Consumerism, for example. Our economy (and, therefore to a large degree, our society) is built on consumerism. Rifkin therefore simply dismisses material gain as a measure. That might be good for his paper, but falls short of any standard of objectivity.

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

Hmmm, who is 'we' in this? America, or Europe? Assuming Europe, then, yes, it is. Anything short of that is simply a loose conglomeration of states only participating in the whole when it is to their advantage. The 'United States' simply means just that...a group of states united to achieve the greater good. Anything less would the 'Loose Conglomeration of States Which Sometimes Cooperate'...not exactly the ideal model, I think.

Not sure how much of this smacks of American hubris...but I do think our model is simply one which suits itself for aligning different states into a workable union. Different unions will certainly enact the principles differently (as CrashFourIt eloquently points out), but I think the concept is fairly universal. If the United Nations were ever to achieve its desired purpose, it too would follow a similar model, I think.

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I'm not sure how clear it is for Europe....or America. Who gets to define the 'vision'? Julian put forth an interesting hypotheses:

QUOTE
As I've hinted, I think the European vision is the continuation on a broader scale of "liberté, egalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality and brotherhood, for non-Francophones). And the American vision has never really strayed far from "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".


Interesting...I think it points out the differences quite well. Equality and brotherhood, vs. the pursuit of happiness. Or, more broadly, social issues vs. capitalism? Hmmmmm.....
Julian
QUOTE(Hobbes @ Nov 19 2004, 04:13 AM)
3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I'm not sure how clear it is for Europe....or America.  Who gets to define the 'vision'?  Julian put forth an interesting hypotheses:

QUOTE
As I've hinted, I think the European vision is the continuation on a broader scale of "liberté, egalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality and brotherhood, for non-Francophones). And the American vision has never really strayed far from "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".


Interesting...I think it points out the differences quite well. Equality and brotherhood, vs. the pursuit of happiness. Or, more broadly, social issues vs. capitalism? Hmmmmm.....
*



That's not quite what I was getting at - Europe is, in it's own way, as committed to market capitalism as the USA. I think that the real point of difference in the broadest sense is more that Europe favours societal solutions to issues, where America favours individualist ones. This has, I think, always been the case - the Framers of both the US and French declarations were more capturing and defining the character of the people in words, rather than creating it.

I was also interested in the early history of the formation of the USA described here by several people. Certainly, the hoped-for integration of Europe does mirror the emergence of the USA as a federation of nation states more than I had thought. However, the USA has evolved into a single nation today (begging the pardon of the various Native nations, which are very much a minority), and I can't see Europe evolving in the same way.
Google
Veb
QUOTE
I was also interested in the early history of the formation of the USA described here by several people. Certainly, the hoped-for integration of Europe does mirror the emergence of the USA as a federation of nation states more than I had thought. However, the USA has evolved into a single nation today (begging the pardon of the various Native nations, which are very much a minority), and I can't see Europe evolving in the same way.


This is something I found interesting as well, and I can't say have put much thought into it. I was wondering why you "can't see Europe evolving in the same way"? From what I understand this is something that you would not be in favor of. Is that correct?

It seems difficult to vision a Europe not going in that direction. The new constitution, the unified monetary system, the open borders and the increasing need to be a strong unified voice/opposition to the US "empire". It is rather remarkable that Germany and France are uniting in a front against the US.
I know that each country has its own tradition and culture, far different from how it was back in 1776 in the US, and especially between states today. But it seems to me that it is inevitable that Europe will move towards a stronger union rather than be able to sustain the current situation. Much will be lost if this indeed do happen, but what do you think will prevent this from happening? Especially if you think long term.

I just wanted to dig a little deeper and understand your thoughts on this subject.
Horyok
Here is my take :

1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

I honestly can't answer that, especially after reading all the different (and well documented) posts in this thread.

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

There are no United States of Europe. We're leaning towards a federal government, yet we are all to remain "nation states" at the same time. We look a bit like the US, but in fact we are fundamentally different.

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I agree with Moif's idea that we are sharing a mindset more than an actual vision here in Europe. It will be years still before we can actually come out with a clear vision... maybe when it is obvious we think of ourselves as Europeans BEFORE French or Danish or English, etc. We have a long way to go, but if we make it, I'm sure our system will be better than America. Because we shall be all TOGETHER, bringing in the best every country has.

Since I joined the board, I must say that AD has actually helped me realize I was not the only one having "ideas" and feelings about my own continent. I see the current realization of the European Constitution as a great chance for Europeans and inspiration and example for the rest of the world, America included.
moif
Horyok

QUOTE
Since I joined the board, I must say that AD has actually helped me realize I was not the only one having "ideas" and feelings about my own continent. I see the current realization of the European Constitution as a great chance for Europeans and inspiration and example for the rest of the world, America included.
laugh.gif

Thats the irony of all this. In order to get some handle on what is happening between our nations, here in Europe, we have to meet on an American debate forum.

Bucket may be correct. We are all interconnected now, and with every passing day, our language barriers are gradually being eroded.
CruisingRam
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

I travel alot, and I would have to say "yes"- I think it is evident from the evidence I see in emerging markets. In Russia for instance, Germany and France have about every market you can imagine sewed up. DaimlerChrysler was basically formed so Daimler could aquire the Jeep Gran Cherokee that was making the biggest dent in the car market in former Eastern Bloc countries (and is still the "it" vehicle to have over there)

Socially, well, this is the case where my own country has me shaking my head. The biggest weakness of Americans is our unwillingness to accept that someone may be doing something better than us, and either assimilate it or modify it to our needs- and the social issues of Europe is the most glaring.

2. Is the "United States of Europe" the future and the model we will begin to adopt in the coming years?

I think this may be the way things are evolving, and as a frequent traveller with an outsiders view, it sure seems the way Europe is going- while America is rushing headlong into the past it seems.

3. It is clear the Europeans have a "vision" for the future, what would you say is America's "vision", or do we even have one?

I think vision is a horribly over used word. Social and economic systems just adapt, with the very rare cases influenced by one political problem or another (such as WW2) - I don't think Europe has a "vision" at all- but are just pragmatically moving into the reality of the future. Whereas the with the US, we are looking at the "good old days" and hoping to reclaim them, instead of looking forward to the realities of the future.
Horyok
QUOTE
Moif

Thats the irony of all this. In order to get some handle on what is happening between our nations, here in Europe, we have to meet on an American debate forum.


That's right, I savor that irony too! Perhaps it's time we start a website like "Europe's Debate"!!! biggrin.gif


QUOTE
Veb

It seems difficult to vision a Europe not going in that direction. The new constitution, the unified monetary system, the open borders and the increasing need to be a strong unified voice/opposition to the US "empire". It is rather remarkable that Germany and France are uniting in a front against the US.


You would be surprised to know how far our unity goes, Veb. It's way beyond the US actually.

There are current and very serious talks between our two governments to inquire about the merging of our two countries. We would keep our languages, but we would all have the same passport for example.

Regarding the business of each country, several meetings have been held this year with both the French and German governments together. In simpler terms, France deals with German affairs and Germany does the same to France. Last but not least, Chirac and Schröder have spoken on behalf of each other several times this year. When you are at the head of a country, this has a very strong impact on your own people.
Mrs. Pigpen
1. Is the United States falling behind the EU economically and socially as suggested in the article? Why or why not?

Regarding economics: I don't think so. The figures I’m familiar with indicate that overall, Europe continues to have higher unemployment rates, and lower job growth rates than we do. I think it’s inaccurate to take a very small picture of the Euro economy, as the writer seems to (one or two countries, or one market in particular), and form a conclusion about the whole of Europe. That's a bit like forming a conclusion of America based on Connecticut, or the Vermont cheese industry. Perhaps Europe has cornered the markets in Russia, as CR indicates (I’m not knowledgeable enough to know if this is accurate), but we could say the same about India and much of Asia. huh.gif

Frankly, I dislike that “us against them” undertone of the article (“us” being the Eurocentric Americans versus the “traditional” Americans). I like being able to find baby formula and diapers at midnight, frankly. I like American convenience and considerate customer servicepeople (even if they are only considerate to make a buck). That doesn’t mean, as the article would indicate, that I don’t value Europe as well and understand that they do some things better. I miss living there, but I like living here too. Most Americans do value their free time, and aren’t obsessed with “dying rich” rolleyes.gif….and I frankly prefer holidays to be spaced out instead of the entire country taking a month off, so I don’t have to make hotel reservations a year ahead of time and fight the masses in the streets.

Travel is wonderful, but it offers a brief, skewed perspective of a country. The way to truly understand the benefits versus drawbacks to a place is to live there (Disclaimer: I’ll use ONLY northern Italy as an example, since that’s where I am familiar). Actually have to set up a phone line, wait in line to get 50 forms signed by numerous government officials and then wait two months for the paperwork to finish, ect. We have actual locksmiths, so that you won't have to be locked outside your house in the snow with your two year old until you can find some gypsy to help you break into your own house. laugh.gif ermm.gif We don’t (usually) have to live without heat or hot water in winter for five days while the ice forms in a glass on the counter because plumbers only work four days a week and there are so very few of them. We’ll never go to the store for a fan in the middle of summer because there is no airconditioning (and the inside of your house is 98 degrees), but there are no fans within 30 miles because they only buy a certain number every year. Maybe next year you’ll be able to purchase a fan….though the fish are dying in the water (and your baby has a heat rash all over his body) because it’s so hot. When we go to a store at normal hours, it’s usually open… not closed for some special holiday, afternoon riposo, or simply because it’s a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday after three….Those are all times you wish for the American economy.

As Bucket mentioned, the rising value of the Euro dollar might actually be making matters worse for Europe as a whole. In Italy, my aunt’s pension buys about half what it used to. I’ve also heard from French (Horyok, is it true?) and German families who have told me the same thing. A friend’s (retired) German parents used to dine out nearly every night, but do so only once a week or less now, because they cannot afford it. It doesn’t take an economics major to realize this must impact the businesses as well. Of course, it works well for Europeans living or traveling in America, with the exchange rate. My mother’s pension has certainly increased.

Then, there’s the aging vulnerability index . The UK has its house in order (by comparison to the US), but most of the rest of Europe is going to have problems with its generous public pension systems and aging demographics. France, Italy and Spain are in particularly serious trouble, due to the resistance to reforms.

Per employee protections and benefits, they are wonderful if you are employed. But, strict government regulations and employment protections do have a large impact on businesses and their hiring practices (or ability to afford to stay in business, for that matter). Months of paid maternity leave sounds great...unless you consider that the employer will still need a worker for that position during the time of absence. In Italy, the woman receives five months paid leave, but her job must be reserved for her for up to two years if she decides to return to work. When it comes to hiring, Italian employers are often hesitant to hire the woman of child-bearing age. My uncle owns an auto shop. The only way he can make ends meet due to the heavy government restrictions and labor laws is to work illegally, off-the-books, after hours of business. THis is absolutely standard practice for small businesses there...the large ones bribe government officials and obtain waivers.

Socially:
I’d say that they are ahead (again, I can only use Italy as a reference). The lifestyle itself (when it wasn’t too hot or cold, or the water wasn’t running) was unbeatable. Towns are set-up for walking and biking everywhere, and the environment is congenial and family-friendly. But I don’t think that’s a government-connected phenomenon of the more socialized economy. It’s the result of distinct cultural differences (such as closer family ties), lower population mobility (few Europeans move every couple of years for their jobs, and though that is starting to change it isn’t anywhere near as common as in the US), and the setup of much older towns, which existed for functionality before automobiles.

Many of the "social" quality of life aspects that are linked to economy (which we take for granted, like having access to baby formula at midnight), are better here. And, of course, the odds of obtaining gainful employment are better here, so that goes into the overall quality of life as well I think.

I'll stop here with the first question....my response is longwinded enough.
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CruisingRam
Mrs P also makes a good point in Italy- it is very much the analogy of the difference of North vs South in the US- there was a joke in Italy (perhaps you heard it Mrs P) prior to 2000 that "the safest place in the world for Y2K was in Italy, because, if all the computers crashed, and the goverment came to a halt, no one would notice" LOL-

Each European country has it's own quirks, this is true. But overall, I found less poor and bitterly impoverished and a higher standard of living and less gross materialism than in America.

I do believe our biggest weakness is our fondness for the "almighty dollar".
Veb
QUOTE
There are current and very serious talks between our two governments to inquire about the merging of our two countries. We would keep our languages, but we would all have the same passport for example.


QUOTE
There are no United States of Europe. We're leaning towards a federal government, yet we are all to remain "nation states" at the same time. We look a bit like the US, but in fact we are fundamentally different.


These two statements sound a little contradictory.

The evolution in the US has been a gradual loss of independence for each state, despite the protection offered by the constiution. With time, why do you think the EU will be any different?

The idea of a united Germany/France is a concept that would take some time to digest. Culturally they are very different, so if there is a chance that this will actually happen, what would prevent the entire EU to evolve into one nation such as the US?
Horyok
QUOTE
These two statements sound a little contradictory.

The evolution in the US has been a gradual loss of independence for each state, despite the protection offered by the constiution. With time, why do you think the EU will be any different?

The idea of a united Germany/France is a concept that would take some time to digest. Culturally they are very different, so if there is a chance that this will actually happen, what would prevent the entire EU to evolve into one nation such as the US?
*



There is no contradiction, but I must clear out my point so there is no confusion about my opinion.

I believe the constitution will create a merging effect which, in turn, could result in the disappearance of the independence of each country whithin the EU. I believe this would bring good to all of us, and an undeniable sense of belonging to an actual "Union".

Now, as you said yourself, we are culturally very different. Moif and Julian are Europeans like me, yet their cultures and traditions are different from mine. This is what I meant when I was talking about fundamental differences with the US.

Your country was created by a few free men, liberated from the tyranny of Europe, and most of them were of Protestant English descent. In other words, a very uniform background for the young America. And the various waves of migrants that came from all over the world throughout the centuries haven't changed the basics of your constitution.

With us, in Europe, things are different. We don't speak the same languages, we don't have the same money, we don't express and feel the same. Also, we have all been at war with each other at some point in history. All European countries think that their opinion is good when they voice their differences over the EU.

More important, unlike Americans, we haven't run away from tyranny to create a new country; we WERE the tyrants. From the early Greek kingdoms to the destruction of Yugoslavia, Europe has been the set of wars for 2.500 years. Until now. That alone is a big difference.

You see Veb, in my opinion it is our History that make us fundamentally different. That's why we will not be the mirror image of the USA.

QUOTE
Mrs. PigPen

As Bucket mentioned, the rising value of the Euro dollar might actually be making matters worse for Europe as a whole. In Italy, my aunt’s pension buys about half what it used to. I’ve also heard from French (Horyok, is it true?) and German families who have told me the same thing. A friend’s (retired) German parents used to dine out nearly every night, but do so only once a week or less now, because they cannot afford it.


Well, Mrs P., we have witnessed here a steady rise in prices for the last two years in almost everything. I'd say it's about 7.5 to 10%. I do not know if it is because of the appreciation of the €uro versus the US$, but the whole thing is quite alarming.

As an example, my wife just came back from the store telling me a fresh, scrawny salad costs about 1.30€, and bagged salad is worth 2.50€!! (that's about US$1.70 and US$3.25 respectively). Yikes!!! blink.gif

Not only retirees suffer here, but more generally everyone does. sad.gif
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