Republicans and the European Welfare-State Peril

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Some thoughts on the charge that Obama wants to turn the US into an entitlement society.

Mitt Romney likes to contrast the U.S. economic system with Europe's welfare state. You can have a merit society, he says, or an entitlement society, but not both -- and an entitlement society is where the U.S. is heading if Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way.

It's a favorite Republican theme, and you can see why. For one thing, there's some truth to it. Contrasting the American model of capitalism with the European alternative isn't absurd. The gap is narrower than it used to be, but they're still different.

Also, Obama and the Democrats do want to move the U.S. in a European direction. Best of all, from the Republican point of view, they are generally embarrassed to admit it. American voters still see their country as a model for the rest of the world, not the other way round. Nobody will ever be elected president of the U.S. on a pledge to make the country more like France.

Democrats therefore find themselves having to deny the obvious. Obama wants to make the country more like Europe? Ridiculous. A straw man.

But it isn't ridiculous. What's ridiculous is the idea that Republicans take for granted and squirming Democrats tacitly endorse -- that making the U.S. more like Europe would be a disaster.

Read on: If Europe Can Learn From U.S., Why Not Vice Versa?

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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