My politicians are crazier than yours.
It started with a post on Aardvarchaeology which was then linked by Pharyngula and responded to with a post on Uncertain Principles. Martin Rundkvist, of Aardvarchaeology, declares that US Politics Have No Left Wing which was quickly responded to by Chad Orzel, of Uncertain Prinicples, who retorted that it could just as easily said that European Politics Have No Right Wing. I agree with their base statements: Europe is left of America which is right of Europe, Europeans and Americans both got where they are through trial and error, and that many American politicians are very right-wing, but…To argue that higher taxes are fundamentally better than lower ones, and that certain political positions are better than others, and that religious politicians — regardless of how they publicly use their religion — are inherently inferior to their counterparts is a little too broad for my tastes.
Martin says that mentioning ones religious beliefs in public are part of the evidence for American politician’s extremist views, but I disagree. The way a politician follows their religion is extremely important, and before making any decisions, it is better to know for sure that a politician is going to follow all 10 commandments and most of Leviticus than have them ignore the issue whilst they campaign, and eventually force their secret beliefs on their constituents who didn’t have the chance to hear them. European politicians are more private in their beliefs, but all of one’s beliefs — either in the open or in private — affect their decisions. He mentions the Christian Democrat party in Sweden as evidence of private beliefs, but their beliefs are literally the banner under which they run; they may not mention them, but they are there, and they do affect the decision-making process.
Beyond this point, the issue devolves into Socialism vs. Liberalism vs. Conservatism — for simplicity I’ll define liberalism as the half-way mark between socialism and conservatism even though, as Martin notes, it isn’t. The American and European countries have always had one humongous difference: the European countries have a lineage and a population who is often part of the same country for generations, America doesn’t. America is quote unquote a “melting pot” where diverse groups come together to work and play, but often keep to themselves. There is an overreaching American culture through which people are united, but on a deeper more social level, many Americans couldn’t care less about the rest of America: more people vote for American Idol than the next president, and relatively few people vote in local elections. It can often seem that the way America is run only matters for a few short weeks and it is back to focusing on one’s own life with a few “bursts” of charity and caring, so one feels good about themselves. It seems that Americans tend to not have a good reason to care about all the other Americans, so in the American mindset there is no reason to take from oneself to ensure everyone is happy.
However, the issue is deeper than perceptions of a people. American politics are heavily based on Equality of Opportunity while European politics are based on Equality of Outcome. In America, the individual overrules the group, but in Europe, the group overrules the individual. America favours the hard-luck cases where someone drags themselves out from a lowly start into positions of wealth and influence — before tearing them down for daring to overreach the rest — because this is the ideal on which America was founded. So, yes, America has lower taxes, and Europeans have free health care or all, but it is the philosophical foundations of a society that dictates how it is run, not any egotistical desire or innate “betterness.” It is only time that can say which one is preferable.