“We’re becoming like Europe” captures many Americans’ sense that something has changed in American economic life since the Great Recession’s onset in 2008. An economy once characterized by commitments to economic liberty, rule of law, limited government, and personal responsibility appears to be drifting in a distinctly “European” direction.
Across the Atlantic, Americans see European economies faltering under enormous debt; overburdened welfare states; high taxation; heavily regulated labor markets; aging populations; large numbers of public-sector workers; and governments controlling close to fifty percent of the economy. They also observe a European political class seemingly unable—and, in some cases, unwilling—to implement economic reform.
In Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg examines economic culture—the values and institutions that inform our economic priorities—to explain how European economic life has drifted in the direction of what Alexis de Tocqueville called “soft despotism.” He reflects on the ways in which similar trends are manifesting themselves in the United States but argues that America is not yet Europe and economic decline need not be its future. The path to recovery lies in the distinctiveness of American economic culture. Yet there are ominous signs that some of the cultural foundations of America’s historically unparalleled economic success are being corroded in ways that are not easily reversible.