It was great to read how others are learning something from Steven Hill's book, Europe´s Promise, which I'm now reading .... although for over 30 years this American from Maine has resided in Europe living Hill's concise observations (and has been long writing about them on Robert Reich's blog, until closed for responses, and your great blog, John) of Europe's unique, sensibly prudent and human balance between government and market mechanisms to achieve a fair, decent quality of life experience for ALL . Of course there are problem countries here, but the community of nations comprising the EU will not let them fall through the cracks. It all comes down to, as I 've said so often, the basic European philosophy, "We are all in this life together."
Gosh, even you, John, would be stunned to see how the Dutch now are seriously discussing hard pro-active policies and related budgeting measures -- and implementing them starting NOW. This to greatly avoid/mitigate the sharply excessive revenue/cost growth expected shortfall of +-€29 billion (very significant but peanuts by US comparisons) over the coming10 years ... mostly in the pension and health care areas due to vastly increasing numbers of those above 65 living longer and using more expensive medical technologies/services over the next 20 years. And the Dutch have a sophisticated regulated competition health care system for ALL citizens that already is 35/40% of the cost of America´s corrupt system. But as explained in earlier writings, I've watched the Dutch pragmatically adjust their social/economic system constantly over the last 40 years to meet new real world/internal realities as they emerge. And they always manage to do this without compromising their basic priority of insuring a broad, equitable sharing of their society's progress in good and bad times.
The Dutch are now at a formative stage of reaching agreement on a pragmatic, fair, step-by-step phasing in of a 20% reduction in government costs over the next 10 years. And the general population will be well-informed and represented by mulitiple party coalitions in constructive, extensive debates/discussions of the budget realities, required tradeoffs and added pain necessary. I have no doubt the cost reduction decisions and sacrifices will be agreed to in a timely way, achieved and shared broadly. For the general population definitely does NOT want to burden future generations with exhorbitant national Debt and the related annual principle and interest payments.
You talk about enlightened conservatism merged with a human consciousness in confronting global changes and internal weaknesses HEAD ON.This is where it happens ... and I´m a progressive conservative whose career has been predominantly one of entrepreneurship. Of course, the key problem why America can't get its unified head together here is not only the mind-numbing IDEOLOGICAL blindness and a bought-out-to-Special-Interests political system -- paralyzing our governing process to a divisive, do nothing, witless, marginal compromise state -- but also the incredibly unaffordable Defense spending at 5-6% of GDP (±$800 billion including anti-terrorist budgets). Europe and Asia don't have this financial military burden which is simply bankrupting and hamstringing the States in so many ways by limiting its ability to invest more profitably internally in its own people and social-infrastructure.
Steven Hill´s book is must reading for all media pundits, politicians and Americans at large who are interested in learning how much they participate in lies, are lied to, and know so little about the relatively stable, progressive, capitalistic Social/Economic models at play in the more advanced countries of Europe! As an example, Holland now has a ±4% unemployment and a trade surplus ... not bad in a time of severe crisis. Are there problems? Of course, but they are being addressed forthrightly and honestly with a huge measure of SOLARIDITY ... a value we Americans have long ago junked!
Instead, we prefer the path of polarization where failure to de-finanancialize and industrialize our economy in a way all citizens share equitably will exclude more and more people from what what was once proudly called a middle class life.
For those Americans taken in with the politically indoctrinating Gingriches-Becks-Limbaughs with their garbage of “loss of freedom/liberty and “socialism” fear mongering, opening the mind to new thinking and how the world really works and self-corrects rather well elsewhere is obviously too threatening where pre-conceived dogma destroys any patience for creative, objective analysis, and reasoning. Little wonder we’ve descended to a complete “ME”system, an extreme individualistic culture that is clearly on the verge of becoming a parasitic cancer … satisfied with no decent health care for ALL!
What a shame! Because failure to open the brain’s more self-critical, engaging and self-learning channels will continue to carry us down the road to a socially and financially selfish, every-one-for-himself , unstable divided oligarchical democracy … on the constant edge of chaos. If this happens, we will get what we deserve and will have only ourselves to blame.