ON-Lion Letter
"We're becoming like Europe."  This expression captures many Americans' sense that something has changed in American economic life since the Great Recession's onset in 2008:  that an economy once characterized by commitments to economic liberty, rule of law, limited government, and personal responsibility has drifted in a distinctly "European" direction.

Across the Atlantic, as Samuel Gregg describes in Encounter Books' new Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future, Americans see European economies faltering under enormous debt, overburdened welfare states, governments controlling close to 50% of the economy, high taxation, heavily regulated labor markets, aging populations, and large numbers of public-sector workers.  They also see a European political class seemingly unable -- and, in some cases, unwilling –- to implement economic reform, and seemingly more concerned with preserving its own privileges.  Looking, however, at their own society, Americans are increasingly asking themselves, "Is this our future?"

Gregg is director of research at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich.

In Becoming Europe, Gregg uses the idea of 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" and the ways in which similar trends are manifesting themselves in the United States.

America, he argues, is not yet Europe.  Economic decline need not be its future.  The good news is that the path to recovery lies deep in the distinctiveness of American economic culture.  But there are ominous signs that some of the cultural foundations of America's historically unparalleled economic success are corroding in ways that are not easily reversible and for which the European experience should serve as the proverbial canary in the mine shaft.

Encounter Books is an activity of Encounter for Culture and Education, a nonprofit group that is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.  Bradley also substantially supports the Acton Institute.
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