I’ve looked at the social system as practiced in Germany for about 30 years now and I see no reason for America to imitate it.
Europe has advantages, but it also has disadvantages, foremost of which is an intellectual and creative lethargy inspired by the state taking over too much responsibility for the individual, and the race-based, hermetically sealed nationalism is a close second.
Americans have suffered form a cultural inferiority complex vis a vis Europe since our founding – back then, we were backward and culturally inferior, but that has changed. Today we still lead the world in all the things Europe once had – innovation, pragmatic political thinking and social liberalism – we just think we don’t.
The fact is, America takes in less taxes than European countries, but we spend more or our budget on social services than many European countries (USA in 2013 65%, Germany: 55%), our high school education is inferior to Europe’s, but Germany don’t send their working-class children to the same high school as upper-class children – they are sent to learn woodworking while upper-class children are sent to the superior “Gymnasium” where they are prepared for college. We are often behind because we force upper and lower class children to go to school together until they are 18.
Germany is proud that they have not caused any wars for the last 60 years and don’t have cops that shoot blacks. for no reason. But they do depend on us for their security and for battling rogue states like ISIS, and since the refugee crisis started last year, there have been over 500 attacks on immigrants.
Germany has a good social net but in practical reality it’s not much better than America’s and Germany’s rich are propped up by the state: If you look at the top German companies, you will see mostly the same companies that were on the top of the list 100 years ago. IN america, that list changes every generation – the reason is that the economy in Germany is far mosre entwined with politics than it is in America and German established companies can count on certain laws and attitudes to keep them powerful and keep out smaller competition. Why did the emissions scandal not happen in Germany? Because the German state owns 20% of VW shares.
There will never be a German Google, Facebook, probably not even a German self-driving car, and the lack of innovation extends to the cultural arena as well: There will never be a German Breaking Bad or a German Spielberg or even a German Philip Glass or a German Jonathan Franzen.
America has a lot of serious problems, but there is no reason to think that the entire system is broken or that being more like Europe will solve any of them. That is based on a major misunderstanding of what America is – and of what Europe is.
Eric T. Hansen is American, author, journalist and satirist, lives in Germany and today in Berlin for over 20 years. His books: Planet Germany. Planet Germany. Eine Expedition in die Heimat des Hawaii-Toasts or Anxious superpower: Die ängstliche Supermacht: Warum Deutschland endlich erwachsen werden muss, Eric T. Hansen The Hula Ink Blog.