[Pophealth] "Europower" - The European Experiment on KUOW
ajbryant at u.washington.edu
Mon Jun 13 20:35:07 PDT 2005
This show on the "European experiment" is playing right now on 94.9 (KUOW)
and it is pretty interesting. They cover some population health themes,
among other issues, such as politics. There is a lot of comparison between
the US values and European values.
Here is the link to the show online, with a description -
'Europower: Inside Out'
In Europower: Inside Out, senior correspondent Michael Goldfarb examines
the claims Europhiles are making for this unique experiment in history, an
experiment in which nations pool sovereignty. Goldfarb looks at how the
European nations have created capitalist societies that try to smooth out
the inevitable social inequalities created by free market economies. He
documents Europe's stumbling attempts to set up a single foreign and
defense policy for its members and closely examines its problems dealing
The idea of Europe was born in the ashes of World War II. Winston
Churchill, who had been voted out of office by the British public,
traveled to Zurich to give a speech outlining his vision of the
continent's future. He called for the development of a "United States of
Europe" led by France and Germany. The two nations were the main martial
protagonists of Western Europe. Churchill called for them to build this
new entity and to draw in the smaller countries of the continent that had
been trampled in their armies' wakes.
Europe today is many things, but it is not Churchill's vision of a "United
States of Europe" even though it has its own anthem -- the "Ode to Joy"
from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But slowly but surely, Europe is
integrating into a unique entity. "An experiment in which nation's share
sovereignty," according to Anthony Barnett of London's Open Democracy
think tank. The laboratory for this experiment is the European Union,
which, according to the London School of Economics Fred Halliday, has
brought together Europe, "for the first time in millennia, since the Roman
Empire in a common political project."
The history of the nations of Europe is one that combines alternating eras
of bellicosity and human progress. The almost half-century since the E.U.
was founded has been an era of prosperity, and in this time a progressive
idea of nationalism has been defined. "Civil nationalism" as opposed to
the more traditional "bellicose nationalism" is the order of the day. It
has allowed a small country like Ireland, to use its E.U. membership to
step out from the long historical shadow of its former colonial master
Great Britain. Ireland is an equal in the councils and committees of the
Union and is no longer dictated to in economic terms by Britain .
Ireland has been able to modernize. All E.U. countries pay annual dues to
this supranational body -- currently 1.27 percent of their gross domestic
product -- and receive back development funds according to need. For
decades Ireland got back more than it put in, and with that money rebuilt
its road and manufacturing infrastructure and created the foundation for
its phenomenal expansion in the 1990's, when the phrase "Celtic Tiger"
economy was coined.
Map of the European Union.
Now, with the E.U. itself having expanded to 25 countries -- most of the
nations of Eastern Europe have joined or are about to join -- a
constitution for Europe has been written for the Union and over the next
eighteen months is in the process of being ratified, country by country.
The Constitution for Europe is short on poetic expression, but long on
"United in diversity, Europe offers the best chance of pursuing, with due
regard for the rights of each individual and in awareness of their
responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth, the great
venture which makes of it a special area of human hope."
The Constitution redefines the Union's procedures -- in other words the
club's rules: what authority do the members give to the Union; what do
they reserve for themselves; how do their representatives determine
policy. The Constitution also states the basic principles and rights of
citizens inside the E.U. These rights reflect a European view of what an
ideal society should be. A view that is in many ways different from that
of contemporary America:
"It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination and shall promote
social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity
between generations and protection of the rights of the child."
An explicit commitment to gender equality and children's rights is not
something you will find in the U.S. Constitution. Europe is really very
different from the United States. For example, there is a very strong
socialist tradition in Europe, according to historian Peter Moss of the
University of London. And on the right there is a strong Christian
Democratic tradition, which also sees a role for the state in smoothing
out the inequalities that inevitably arise in a free-market economy.
The role of the state in family life, particularly families with very
young children is profound. That is the Europe-wide consensus. It is E.U.
law that women be given paid maternity leave on the birth of their
children. The Union sets a minimum standard for this leave but most
countries exceed it. "Maternity leave is a health and welfare measure,"
Beyond constitutional language, there are legal entitlements designed to
help parents and aid children, explains Moss.
State help with early childcare is just one strand of the social safety
net that citizens of European countries have come to expect. They pay for
these social benefits through high taxes. Again, there is a consensus
around paying high tax to achieve social solidarity and social cohesion.
The average E.U. country has a tax rate of around 40 percent of GDP
compared to America's tax rate of 25 percent of GDP. These taxes level the
gaps between the richest and poorest, and, not coincidentally, the prison
population of Europe is much smaller than that of the U.S.
Even in Britain, the European nation whose economy and society are most
like America's, taxes are 35 percent of GDP. Britain has always been the
most reluctant European nation -- the last of the big nations to join the
Common Market and still not a member of the single currency, the Euro.
This is for reasons of history and ideology.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher viewed ideas like social cohesion
with disdain. Her view was simply stated in an interview with a women's
magazine in 1987 when she told a reporter, "There is no such thing as
But Thatcher's view reflects an era as distant as the Cold War. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair has won two massive election victories because
of his willingness to rebuild the infrastructure of Britain's welfare
state. He put a particular emphasis on families with young children. Just
recently, in an interview on the BBC, he announced his intention to expand
paid maternity leave to nine months, hinted that he was looking at
establishing paid paternity leave, and has committed his government to
establishing 2,500 early childhood centers in all neighborhoods around the
country. This will ultimately cost the government $4.5 billion a year.
Private philanthropy remains the American model for a whole range of
services from smoothing out social inequality to funding orchestras and
museums, but in Europe the state plays that role, and Europeans,
regardless of their politics, accept that they will pay high taxes to have
these services. It is a profound difference between the two sides and it
is necessary to understand in order to comprehend the idea of "Europower."
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