"Like a reverse Alexis de Tocqueville, Steven Hill dauntlessly
explores a society largely unknown to his compatriots back
home. Sweeping away the ideological posturing, he shows us
exactly how the modern European Way works and the promise
it holds for an America which has slipped to become, in terms
of social, economic and energy policy, the Old World."—Hendrik
Hertzberg, senior editor, The New Yorker
Times: “Steven Hill is a lucid and engaging writer. He
makes you sit up and think. He is surely right in saying that
Europe’s prosperous, peaceful and democratic social market
economy looks attractive when contrasted with the unbalanced,
excessively deregulated US model or with China's politically
Affairs: “Timely and provocative...[Europe's Promise]
explains why in most areas, it is Europe's constitutional
forms, economic regulations, and social values, not those
of the United States, that are the most popular models for
new democracies. The oldest one should take note. "
Politik (Germany): "Europe's Promise by Steven Hill…Explosive
power, wherever you look...a dazzling Opus…”
Economist: “In a new book, Steven Hill extols the European
social contract for better government services. Life in Europe
is more secure, he argues, and therefore more agreeable.”
International: “Europe’s Promise marshals an impressive
army of facts and comparative statistics to show that the
United States is behind Europe in nearly every socio-economic
category that can be measured and that neither America’s trickle-down,
Wall Street-driven capitalism nor China’s state capitalism
hold the keys to the future.”
Promise should startle, inform, and galvanize Americans in
raising the ante in favor of a political economy where people
matter first."—Ralph Nader
Hill ends the transatlantic debate over which economic and
political system is superior: Europe wins. While America and
China fight for oil and minerals, Europe already achieves
more with less. Indeed, the path to the American Dream is
the European Way."—Parag Khanna, author of The Second
World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order
Hill is an extraordinarily gifted writer... Europe's Promise
is a substantial piece of work, with enormous footnoting,
about the future of Europe and its influence as a place of
extreme livability. Hill's intriguing book suggests that Europe
isn't the basketcase that some people want to believe it is,
and the quality of life and innovation there is quite high."
-- Llewellyn King, host of PBS' White House Chronicle
book is an elegant and counterintuitive manifesto for a new
politics of interdependence that could take the world through
the turmoil of the economic and global warming crises."—Mark
Leonard, Executive Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
The National Catholic Weekly: “Breezily written and well-documented
. . . Hill ably demolishes a series of common myths concerning
differences between Europe and the United States . . . To
anyone wondering whether by 2099 the current era will be viewed
as a second ‘American Century,’ Hill’s warnings are worth
considering. If the competitive advantages he ably enumerates
continue to evolve in Europe’s favor, the claim to the century
may well cross the Atlantic.”
Journal: “An engrossing book...Hill has a gift for capturing
cogent themes in a single image...he examines the evolving
trajectory since World War II of Europe's 'fulcrum institutions'
on which their societies pivot.”
Tribune: “An important new book...Steven Hill rebuffs
many of the distortions we've heard for years about Europe's
supposedly broken economic system. Europe has a vibrant, capitalistic
economy — but one with a heart AND a brain.”
the Public Interest: “Hill's thesis is that Western Europe
treats its people better in many ways than the United States
does its people. Read, wonder and galvanize!”
International: “U.S. militarism has long been a core
part of the American Way,” writes Steven Hill in a just-published
book, Europe’s Promise, that compares the United States and
Europe. Militarism does “triple duty as a formidable foreign
policy tool, a powerful stimulus to the economy, and a usurper
of tax dollars that could be spent on other budget priorities.”
"What can the United States
learn from Europe? If you believe what's said in Washington,
the answer is 'not much'. If you read Steven Hill's intelligent,
broad-ranging, and deeply researched book, you'll find the
correct answer is 'a great deal'—and now is the time to learn
it."— Prof. Jacob S. Hacker, Yale University, author
of The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Security and
the Decline of the American Dream
spirited new tour guide to the Europe beyond the tourist hotspots.
. .Europe, Hill helps us understand, has much more to offer
than history and vistas. Europe has a model, an approach to
modernity that offers, by every measure that matters, the
finest quality of life in the world.”—Sam Pizzigati, editor,
Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality
two great strengths of Europe's Promise are its breadth and
its accessibility. The discussion is far ranging...Hill dispels
myths and caricatures. He manages to survey in one book an
extremely rich cross section of the policies and political
practices that make "The European Way" distinctive
-- from health care policies, to environmental policies, to
family and other social policies, to foreign policy. Hill's
book is also very well written, in an engaging journalistic
style. The book makes a great contribution to European studies
-- communicating in one compelling volume so much of what
is distinctive and appealing about "The European Way."
He argues that Europe has become a global leader, with a model
of sustainable development and social capitalism that offers
the most hopeful path forward for the 21st Century."—Prof.
Dan Kelemen, Rutgers University, Director, Center for European
"As Steven Hill compellingly
argues in his excellent Europe's Promise: Why the European
Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age, Europe has become
a dynamic, transformational force in the world and stands
as a clear model of success on so many fronts that we must
push reset in our assessment of Europe's course. Americans
today should learn a bit about how Europe has quietly and
incrementally added to its size and global weight and maintained
an innovative approach to broad public challenges like renewable
energy, capital punishment, social welfare, and even corporate
dynamism."—Steve Clemons, publisher and editor of the
political blog, The Washington Note
"Europe's Promise is a provocative and illuminating book
that should lead Americans to think hard about our own assumptions
and priorities. By closely examining Europe's economic and
political practices, Hill reveals a new Europe that has become
the world's leader during this century challenged by global
economic crisis, climate crisis, and new geopolitical tensions.
In these times of hope and fear, read this captivating book
to discover new and creative models for building a better
future."—Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher
of The Nation
From The Guardian, February
US economists and Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph
Stiglitz appear sanguine about Europe, with Krugman arguing
recently in the New York Times that the European welfare state
and social market economy have survived the financial crisis
well and represent a more successful and enviable model than
America's. Steven Hill, a director at the Washington-based
New America Foundation, has just published a book, Europe's
Promise, which argues that "the European way is the best
hope in an insecure age".
He dismissed talk of the EU being "marginalised"
in a G2 world. On the contrary, he emphasised that the Obama
White House was under pressure from the EU on climate change
and financial regulation. "This, of course, is the exact
opposite of the view that 'Europe is irrelevant'. Europe is
actually hyper-relevant," he said. "Obama knows
that Europe is leading in these ways, and he would like to
follow to some extent, but he is having a hard time delivering."
From the Financial
Times, February 8, 2010
Review of Europe's Promise: Why the European Way is the Best
Hope in an Insecure Age by Steven Hill
Review by Tony Barber
Steven Hill, director of the political reform programme at
the New America Foundation think-tank, has two purposes in
writing this book. One is to set out the case that Europe's
methods of economic management, cradle-to-grave social support
systems, democratic structures, ecological consciousness and
temperate foreign policy are the way forward for the world.
The global order is being remade, he says, and what will emerge
on the other side will be a new world based on the European
model. Europe is a beacon for humanity's future, no less,
and it holds the greatest potential for the planet.
Hill's second goal is to show that the US, far from being
an example for the world, is nowadays no model at all. Compared
with Europe, he says, the United States is behind in nearly
every socioeconomic category. Its economy is an obsolete,
hyper-militarised model”and, even under Barack Obama, is mired
in an antiquated free market ideology.
US democratic institutions are “unrepresentative, divisive
and disenfranchising”, characterised by de facto one-party
fiefdoms and 70m unregistered voters almost one-third of those
eligible. The nation wastes colossal quantities of energy
and fails to provide decent healthcare for millions of uninsured
citizens. US foreign policy is trapped in a Vietnam-era mentality
of using military muscle and even invading nations as a way
of dealing with unsavoury elements”.
No question, Hill makes you sit up and think. Unlike intellectually
lazier writers, he does not buy the argument that the 21st
century belongs inevitably to China. He is surely right in
saying that Europe’s prosperous, peaceful and democratic social
market economy looks attractive when contrasted with the unbalanced,
excessively deregulated US model or with China's politically
repressive capitalism, Russia's petrodollar authoritarianism,
Japan's corporate cronyism or conservative Islam. He makes
a perceptive point, too, when he says that American conservatives
play up Europe's difficulties as a way of suppressing discussion
of radical change in the US…Europe, with its affordable universal
healthcare, unemployment benefits, paid holidays and sick
leave, childcare, time off for parents after a birth and inexpensive
university fees, has certainly built an enviable form of social
Hill is a lucid and engaging writer, and he recognises that
not everything in Europe smells of roses. For example, Europe
faces formidable problems in its declining birth rates and
its reluctance, or inability, to integrate the millions of
immigrants needed to sustain its prosperity in coming decades.
Hill is right: the US model requires modernisation. But when
it comes to welcoming the world's huddled masses, Europeans
could learn from their American cousins.
by Andrew Moravcsik
In this timely
and provocative book, Hill, known primarily as an analyst
of U.S. state and local reform, argues that the "social
capitalist" policies of European countries represent
best practices in handling most of the challenges modern democracies
face today. By contrast, the United States is often dysfunctional.
When indirect fees, private out-of-pocket costs, and taxes
are all included, Americans pay as much as Europeans for public
services but end up with much less. Europe's health care,
social welfare, environmental policies, labor rights, "smart
power" projection, and multiparty parliamentary governments
are consistently more efficient, more just, and less fractious
than the United States' libertarian, militaristic, two-party,
money-driven, separation-of-powers alternatives. Hill can
be breathlessly wordy, and, like some other Europhiles, he
occasionally indulges in armchair social psychology -- but
the overall argument rests on solid data. It explains why
in most areas, it is Europe's constitutional forms, economic
regulations, and social values, not those of the United States,
that are the most popular models for new democracies. The
oldest one should take note.
Review of Europe’s
wins in U.S. vs Europe contest?”
Feb 12, 2010
By Bernd Debusmann
In these days of renewed gloom about the future of Europe,
a quick test is in order. Who has the world’s biggest economy?
A) The United States B) China/Asia C) Europe? Who has the
most Fortune 500 companies? A) The United States B) China
C) Europe. Who attracts most U.S. investment? A) Europe B)
China C) Asia.
The correct answer in each case is Europe, short for the 27-member
European Union (EU), a region with 500 million citizens. They
produce an economy almost as large as the United States and
China combined but have, so far, largely failed to make much
of a dent in American perceptions that theirs is a collection
of cradle-to-grave nanny states doomed to be left behind in
a 21st century that will belong to China.
That China will rise to be a superpower in this century, overtaking
the United States in terms of gross domestic product by 2035,
is becoming conventional wisdom. But those who subscribe to
that theory might do well to remember the fate of similar
long-range forecasts in the past. At the turn of the 20th
century, for example, eminent strategists predicted that Argentina
would be a world power within 20 years. In the late 1980s,
Japan was seen as the next global leader.
The latest pessimistic utterances about Europe were sparked
by a debt crisis in Greece which raised concern over the health
of the euro, the common currency of 16 EU members. Plus U.S.
President Barack Obama’s decision to stay away from a U.S.-EU
summit scheduled for May in Madrid, with a new EU leadership
structure that should have made it easier to answer then U.S.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s famous question: “Who
do I call when I want to talk to Europe?”
There are still several numbers to call in the complex set-up,
giving fresh reasons to fret to those crystal-gazers who see
the future dominated by the United States and China, the so-called
Pundits who see the European way of doing things as a model
for the United States (and others) to follow are few and far
between, not least, says one of them, Steven Hill, because
most Americans are blissfully unaware of European achievements
and, as he puts it, “reluctant to look elsewhere because ‘we
are the best.’”
As foreigners traveling through the United States occasionally
note, the phrases “we are the best” and “America is No.1″
are often uttered with deep conviction by citizens who have
never set foot outside their country and therefore lack a
direct way of comparison. (They are in the majority: only
one in five Americans has a passport).
Hill, who heads the political reform program at the New American
Foundation, a liberal Washington think tank, has just published
a book whose title alone is enough to irk conservative Americans:
Europe’s Promise. Why the European Way Is the Best Hope in
an Insecure Future.
It marshals an impressive army of facts and comparative statistics
to show that the United States is behind Europe in nearly
every socio-economic category that can be measured and that
neither America’s trickle-down, Wall Street-driven capitalism
nor China’s state capitalism hold the keys to the future.
While China’s growth has been impressive, says Hill, the country
remains, in essence, a sub-contractor to the West and is racked
by internal contradictions.
“When I talk to American audiences,” Hill said in an interview,
“many find the figures I cite hard to believe. They haven’t
heard them before. U.S. businesses making more profits in
Europe than anywhere else, 20 times more than in China? 179
of the world’s top companies are European compared with 140
American? That does not fit the preconceptions.”
Such preconceptions exist, in part, because U.S. media have
portrayed Europe as a region in perpetual crisis, its economies
sclerotic, its taxes a disincentive to personal initiative,
its standards of living lower than America’s, its universal
health care, guaranteed pensions, long vacations and considerably
shorter working hours a recipe for low growth and stagnation.
“In the transmission of news across the Atlantic, myth has
been substituted for reality,” says Hill.
He is in good, though numerically small, company with such
views. The economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, both
Nobel prize winners, also have positive outlooks for Europe.
In a recent column in the New York Times, Krugman said that
Europe is often held up as evidence that higher taxes for
the rich and benefits for the less well-off kill economic
progress. Not so, he argued. The European experience demonstrates
the opposite: social justice and progress can go hand in hand.
The relative rankings of countries tend to be defined by gross
domestic product per capita but Hill points out that this
might not be the best yardstick because it does not differentiate
between transactions that add to the well-being of a country
and those that diminish it. A dollar spent on sending a teenager
to prison adds as much to GDP as a dollar spent on sending
him to college.
On a long list of quality-of-life indexes that measure things
beyond the GDP yardstick — from income inequality and access
to health care to life expectancy, infant mortality and poverty
levels — the United States does not rank near the top.
So where is the best place to live? For the past 30 years,
a U.S.-based magazine, International Living, has compiled
a quality-of-life index based on cost of living, culture and
leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure,
safety and climate. France tops the list for the fifth year
running. The United States comes in 7th.
How Europe can help America recover -- and then help the whole
By Jan Techau
Internationale Politik (Germany)
May/June 2010 (German language original)
of Europe's Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope
in an Insecure Age (www.EuropesPromise.org), by Steven Hill,
University of California Press, January 2010
is a research advisor at the NATO Defense College in Rome
a political dwarf with a weak economy and leisure-addicted
workers? Wrong, says political scientist Steven Hill. To his
stunned readers he presents the old continent in contrast
to the prevailing US doctrine as a veritable role model for
America and the rest of the world.
There are books on international politics which should not
be rectangular, with a cover made of cardboard and many, many
pages of paper, but they should look like cartridges for an
assault rifle: sharp pointed projectiles with steel jackets
and a heavy charge of powder in the case. "Europe's Promise"
by Steven Hill, program director at the Washington-based New
America Foundation, is one such book. Explosive power, wherever
Europeans will find a mountain of ammunition for their own
integration debate and to prevent unjustified blanket accusations
against the sick man of Europe. The American left will find
bullets for the domestic political battles for the reorientation
of America after the era of George W. Bush, and the American
right can also powerfully recharge for the duel with Obama
and “naïve” liberals.
The book is in the great tradition of American analysis-manifesto
hybrids, that is the combination of a fundamental discourse
of provocative writings with a mixture of facts and opinion,
a genre that barely exists in Germany, and so we market the
Anglo-Saxon (and also the French) endeavours that we envy.
Steven Hill presents "Europe's Promise,” his fourth book
since 2001, and despite the title he is also here concerned
particularly with the United States which in his view is badly
in need of repairs. What’s new here is that he chose Europe
as a contrasting foil for his tireless mission, which he visited
several times since 1999 to make his analysis. In contrast
to the mainstream of published US opinion and what is taught
at colleges and universities, he does not consider Europe
as a political dwarf with a weak economy and half-day leisure
addicts, but as a veritable model for America and the world.
In the four main parts of his book, densely argued, Hill draws
the picture of Europe as an economic and foreign policy superpower
that gave capitalism a human face, without sacrificing wealth
and living standards. A superpower that better organizes democratic
participation, burdens the environment less, preserves a pluralistic
media landscape, operates more efficient health care systems,
better promotes families and has a foreign policy based on
development and compromise.
A superpower, finally, that produces a higher social value
than the much more dominant U.S. presence in the world. All
of this via implementation of a multilateral, multinational
integration project which values inclusion and consensus-building,
which relies on smart power instead of hard power, and thus
has developed precisely those skills needed by the world,
which has been battered by so much.
It places the American reality side by side with each identified
plus of Europe. This is often quite convincingly made and
European readers rub their eyes, because Europeans see their
own continent, which has been estimated as at best mediocre,
with a fresher view. Occasionally with Hill his romanticism
goes to increased heights over an alleged European quality
of life and he produces unintentionally amusing Eurokitsch,
as we know it all too well from American fans of the old continent.
Hill rightly complains that in the United States usually either
complete ignorance or massive misperceptions about Europe
dominate. Instead of understanding the miracle of postwar
Europe and incorporating elements of this clearly superior
system, as emissaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America
on their European journeys do, instead what prevails in America
is an arrogant self satisfaction and the certainty that Europe
was a hopelessly backward continent. Yet the “European Way”
has produced comparable wealth for lower costs and lower social
conflicts, while at the same time produced a substantially
underestimated but successful foreign policy that has sucked
80 other countries into the direct sphere of influence of
the European Union (the "Eurosphere") by means of
EU accession policy, development assistance and trade.
Hill sees a world order arise where several regional groupings
largely modeled on the European Union will replace the current
multipolar world. Unlike other pro-European manifestos such
as Mark Leonard’s “Why Europe will run the 21st century "(2005)
or Charles Kupchan’s “The European Challenge" (2003),
he foresees not necessarily a future leading role for the
EU (he thoroughly analyzes the menacing problems of Europe
in two separate chapters), but views the mechanisms of conflict
resolution and increased prosperity developed by Europe to
be exemplary. Europe itself is not the promise mentioned in
the title, but Europe's way.
In thinking about the “old world,” Hill views the settlement
of America as one that betrayed its own ideals, and how those
from the 17th century have been stuck onto the governance
problems of the 21st century. This becomes clear when the
author provides a historical review of ideas and philosophy,
which alone is worth the reading of the book for the elaborate,
weighty arguments behind it.
the title "The Concept of 'Europe' (Chapter 15 in the
book), he tries to arrive at the deeper reasons for American
failure and European success on this track. He sees the principal
reason being the pure selfishness of a perverted American
individualist ideal as the main reason for America's descent.
This contrasts with the European principle of bonding individual
success to the common good or public interest, embodied in
the ideal type of a social market economy of the Freiburg
School, which has become established in one or another variation
Hill digs his scalpel deeply into the heart of American identity
when he calls upon American political saints like Jefferson,
Adams and Hamilton as his witnesses, whose idea of free citizens
determining their own destiny was replaced by an ideology
of the "ownership society" (George W. Bush), which
ultimately means nothing other than: everybody is on his own.
to make of this dazzling Opus? The analysis offers some fresh
perspective on the European and American systems, although
it also contains some inaccuracies and bias. The book sketches
Europe as the successor of America and already has encountered
embittered resistance in the United States. It offers some
idealistic exuberance and it is American in a fascinating
and sometimes touching way. The book fills gaps in information
about Europe and at the same time act as a manifesto for a
fundamentally different America.
that is a bit too much at one time, because for those Americans
whom Hill most would like to move to rethink these matters,
the book will trigger the heaviest cognitive dissonance. Even
Europeans might be skeptical because they are not so used
to getting away looking so good. But even a hint of good humor,
with which Hill is taken, may be an antidote for the insidious,
self-pitying and curmudgeonly Euroscepticism that Europeans
currently find so chic. Only a strong dose of this will allow
Europe to show the promise that Steven Hill recognizes in
is a research advisor at the NATO Defense College in Rome.
of Steven Hill's "Europe's Promise: Why the European
Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age." Berkeley: University
of California Press, 2010.
By Professor Dan Kelemen
Director, Center for European Studies
We've all heard
of the 'American Way', but is there a 'European Way'? In Europe's
Promise, Steven Hill explores European approaches to a range
of contemporary policy challenges - from economic policy,
to social policy, to health care, to climate change, to foreign
policy - and argues that there is a distinctive 'European
Way'. He asks readers to discard outmoded caricatures of the
'Old Continent' that are regularly reinforced in American
media coverage of Europe - namely that European economies
are inefficient, overtaxed and uncompetitive, and that Europe
is deeply divided politically.
Instead, he demonstrates that the economically advanced democracies
of Europe have developed a model of social capitalism and
a wide range of public policies that may serve as models for
American reformers and for other nations around the world.
In short, he argues that Europe has become a global leader,
with a model of sustainable development and social capitalism
that offers the most hopeful path forward for the 21st Century.
Part one of the
book describes what he calls Europe's "social capitalism".
The discussion is far ranging, as Hill takes us from the post-War
roots of labor-management relations policies in Germany to
European reactions to the
2008-09 financial crisis. Throughout this section, Hill makes
it clear that European countries have established a distinctive
approach to capitalism that combines the pursuit of economic
growth with a far greater commitment to social cohesion than
America's "Wall Street Capitalism" allows. Along
the way, he highlights the economic advantages of institutions
and policies such as 'co-determination' and 'flexicurity'.
He also argues that European social policies and childcare
policies support European families and reflect real 'family
values', whereas conservative advocates of 'family values'
in the US in practice do little to address the needs of working
families. Of course, generous social policies have to be paid
for, and many Europeans pay higher taxes than Americans to
support their social systems. However, in one of the most
compelling arguments in the book, Hill attacks the 'myth of
the overtaxed European'. First, he shows that when all forms
of taxes are considered, differences in tax rates for most
Europeans and Americans are much more modest than is commonly
assumed. Second, he rightly points out that many Americans
are forced to pay out of pocket for many services - from health,
to education, to elderly care - that are financed by tax revenues
Europe's social capitalism in general terms, Hill turns to
an in depth discussion of health care. Again, he dispels myths
and caricatures. While many Americans equate 'socialized medicine'
with the British National Health Service, Hill shows that
France, Germany and other European countries have achieved
universal, quality healthcare without a 'government takeover'
of the health care system - while spending much less overall
on health care than does the US.
Next Hill explores
'Sustainable Europe', focusing on energy and transport policies.
For those who recall America's role as a leader on environmental
issues in the 1970s, these chapters may make for depressing
reading. As Hill illustrates with a wealth of examples, Europe
has become a global leader in renewable energy and fuel efficient
transport while the US has lagged behind.
a range of domestic policies, Hill looks at the emerging role
of the European Union on the world stage. He shows that the
increasing integration of Europe has given the member states
of the EU a new kind of influence on the world stage. In an
argument that will be very familiar to EU scholars, he suggests
that while the EU lacks the military might of the US, it wields
'smart power' or civilian power and has enormous influence
across a range of issues from global trade talks, to development
aid, to democracy promotion.
the book by looking at a number of the major challenges to
the 'European Way'. Two demographic challenges stand out.
Substantial increases in immigration to western Europe have
created strains, as countries wrestle with questions of how
to integrate new immigrants groups.
This is particularly true with regard to Muslim immigrant
communities, as evidenced by 'veil controversies' in France,
the UK and elsewhere and by the recent wave of anti-burqa
legislation emerging across Europe. And while there is much
political and social resistance to increased immigration,
Europe actually needs more people. Indeed, immigration has
been one of the few trends counteracting the population decline
in Europe. In a chapter subtitled, "Where are all the
children?", Hill reviews data on the unprecedentedly
low fertility rates in many European countries and the population
declines and potential threat to the European social model
that they portend. He then discusses the policy options that
may increase fertility rates and reverse this demographic
great strengths of Europe's Promise are its breadth and its
accessibility. Steven Hill manages to survey in one book an
extremely rich cross section of the policies and political
practices that make "The European Way" distinctive
- from health care policies, to environmental policies, to
family and other social policies, to foreign policy. Hill's
book is also very well written - in an engaging journalistic
style - that will draw in undergraduates and seasoned academics
alike. The book's weaknesses are the flip side of its strengths.
In its pursuit of breadth and accessibility, it sometimes
sacrifices depth. Likewise, in an effort to generalize about
The European Way the book downplays the differences across
European countries in many areas of public policy. Nevertheless,
the book makes a great contribution to European studies -
communicating in one compelling volume so much of what is
distinctive and appealing about "The European Way".
The book will make ideal reading for undergraduate survey
courses on European politics or comparative (US/EU) public
Old Europe, a New Roadmap
By Sam Pizzigati
July 19, 2010
Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality
review of Steven Hill, Europe’s Promise: Why the European
Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age. University
of California Press, 2010. 473 pp.
edits Too Much, the online newsletter on excess and
inequality published by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute
for Policy Studies.
modernity require inequality? Or can we build totally modern
societies that respect solidarity and community?
of Americans know Europe. Or at least think they do. These
Americans have climbed up the Eiffel Tower in Paris and ambled
around the Coliseum in Rome. They’ve hiked the Alps and maybe
even quaffed a stein or two in a German beer garden.
But these Americans,
argues Steven Hill in this spirited new tour guide to the
Europe beyond the tourist hotspots, have missed the Europe
most worth seeing — and appreciating.
Europe, Hill helps
us understand, has much more to offer than history and vistas.
Europe has a model, an approach to modernity that offers,
by every measure that matters, the finest quality of life
in the world.
notes Hill, do not “live in fear of being financially wiped
out by illness, economic decline, or stock market crashes.”
If they lose a job, they get job retraining. If they get good
grades, they get a free university education. If they have
a child, they get paid leave to parent — and a special stipend
to offset the costs of parenthood. They enjoy, in short, security
Author Steven Hill
spent ten years researching this book. He spoke to lawmakers
and business executives, social activists and academic experts.
But he also spoke to everyday Europeans, and plenty of them.
In one particularly
memorable encounter, at a town square in Salzburg, a local
was describing the benefits that all Austrians, be they taxi
drivers or poets, take for granted: the universal health care,
the guaranteed vacations, the quality day care, the paid sick
leave, and on and on.
“In America, you
are so rich,” the Austrian noted. “Why don’t you have these
things for your people?”
We don’t have these
things, Hill’s Europe’s Promise makes plain, because we have
let America’s riches concentrate in the hands of a few. Europe
has shared the wealth. We haven’t.
CEOs in the United
States routinely take home hundreds of times more pay than
their workers. The standard CEO-worker pay gap in Europe:
a couple dozen times. In the United States, the most affluent
10 percent owns 70 percent of the wealth. The top 10 percent
share in Germany? Just 44 percent.
This greater European
equality, author Hill emphasizes, just didn’t happen. Europeans
have fashioned it, through a wide variety of what he calls
“fulcrum” institutions, economic and political arrangements
that promote, in the comings and goings of daily life, the
core values of fairness, equality, and solidarity.
workplaces, for instance, operate under the principle of “co-determination.”
Worker representatives, writes Hill, “sit side by side with
stockholder representatives on corporate boards of directors,”
and, on the shop floor, “works councils” give workers input
— and sometimes even a veto — on everything from daily schedules
institutions act, says Hill, a former program director at
the New American Foundation, “as a barrier against CEOs playing
board of directors having anywhere from a third to a half
of its directors elected directly by its workers,” he asks.
“ It’s hard to even conceive of such a notion from the American
standpoint, yet most European nations employ some version
of this as standard operating procedure.”
Europe, Hill acknowledges,
hardly qualifies as “some utopian paradise,” and the pages
of his Europe’s Promise candidly and thoroughly walk us through
Europe’s many problems, straight through the 2008 global financial
crash and beyond.
But even after
that crash, Hill shows, “the pro-family European democracies
still provide a level of security and comfort that far outshine
anything available in the United States.” We continue to concentrate
“most economic gains among just a handful of winners.” Europe
has made wealth’s “fair and more equal distribution” a “hallmark
of its raison d’etre.”
As tourists, we
never see that reality. As citizens in an increasingly insecure
age, we need to learn from it.