Forbes, Obama and Western Europe

Forbes Magazine, November 5, 2012,  Fact & Comment – Steve Forbes:

The contrast with Obama’s western European-style vision for the country is stark and depressing. He is taken with the socialist environment of western Europe, where dynamic markets are scorned and feared, where people are constantly calculating their future pensions and other benefits while striving to work fewer hours each week and to retire as early as possible, and where security and predictability are prized above risk-taking and innovation. Taxes go up, government spending goes up, rules and prohibitions proliferate, job mobility and flexibility are severely restricted, and dependence on government is encouraged. Passivity trumps enterprise. As George Gilder pointed out years ago, western Europe wants prosperity, but it doesn’t want people to get rich. Equality is more important than liberty and entrepreneurship.

For once, I actually agree with Steve Forbes, with some caveat.

I grew up in western Europe. The people are fat (though not as fat as Americans) and happy. Most people don’t get rich. The rich have always been rich. They have inherited their wealth from their ancestors, along with their titles of nobility, and today, as through the millennia, they consider themselves above the common man.  Few rich are self-made. The Europeans that really want to break out of their lot leave and come to Silicon Valley and New York. That has been going on for hundreds of years, and it’s still going on today.

The common man does strive to work fewer hours each week and get his pay raised as high as possible. He desires to retire as early as possible and get as many vacation days as possible. It’s not unusual for a German worker to get six or eight weeks of paid vacation, compared to two or three weeks in America. The whole country of Germany shuts down in August. People in their thirties calculate the amount of money they will receive when they retire at age 62, and they actually find themselves “waiting” for retirement. Security and predictability are prized above risk-taking and the possible rewards.

Those are all reasons why I am now an American. I did not want to wait my life away for a pension. America is built by immigrants from all over the world that have bigger dreams than retirement in the case of Europe, or poverty, in the case of Africa and many other places.

What I do not agree with Forbes is this:

He is taken with the socialist environment of western Europe…

I do not see where Obama is “taken” with socialism. He seems to truly care for the working man, the middle class, the poor (like Christian and Mormons claim they do) and our children and youth. He cares for the environment we have started to destroy. He cares about the future we leave to our children. Those are all values and ideas that I agree with, with my actions, my words, and my dreams.

Nobody said it would be easy to solve our problems.

We need to leave America intact. There is nothing wrong with risk, entrepreneurialism, innovation, competition. To foster those quests, we need education, responsibility, and incentive – very American ideals.

There is nothing wrong with Obama. I don’t understand how they can call him a socialist.

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