2012-07-09

Arthur Brooks Says We Are Already Europe

In this Wall Street Journal op-ed, Arthur Brooks makes his claim that America is not "becoming Europe," but rather that it already is.
In 1938—the year my organization, the American Enterprise Institute, was founded—total government spending at all levels was about 15% of GDP. By 2010 it was 36%. The political right can crow all it wants about how America is a "conservative country," unlike, say, Spain—a country governed by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party for most of the past 30 years. But at 36%, U.S. government spending relative to GDP is very close to Spain's. And our debt-to-GDP ratio is 103%; Spain's is 68%.
Mr. Brooks is also refreshingly realistic about the American psyche:
We're not literally moving west any more, but in the Tocquevillian tradition our lives are directed less by Washington politics and more by everyday jobs, church socials and soccer practices. As the leader of a think tank dedicated to public policy, I would love it if Americans were as obsessed with policy as I am. But let's be realistic: Most people don't have the time or inclination to contemplate the potential damage each government-spending predation—each tiny political sellout of our values—could cause.
This is the first policy pundit I've ever heard actually acknowledge what the so-called "independent" or "swing" voters really are: completely disinterested in politics and ill-inclined to become more so.

Like Mr. Brooks, I too believe that this apathy is "a charming part of the American DNA." I think our collective disdain for corrupt politicians makes us particularly able to handle their gross abuses of power. But - also like Mr. Brooks - I believe for that to happen, we have to actually invoke our disdain. At a certain point, we have to care about the millions of corrupt Washington D.C. Americans who are bleeding the rest of us dry.

Think it'll happen? I don't think it'll happen except by secession.