Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute explains in the Wall Street Journal that Americans protest to restrain government while European riot to expand the burden of the state. But this American spirit of self reliance may not last if government seduces more and more people into dependency – and I think fighting against this grim possibility is the chief motivating force of the tea party movement.
Many Europeans also expect others to work so they can live. The International Social Survey Programme asked Americans and Europeans whether they believe “It is the responsibility of the government to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes.” In virtually all of Western Europe more than 50% agree, and in many countries it is much higher—77% in Spain, whose redistributive economy is in shambles. Meanwhile, only 33% of Americans agree with income redistribution. Simply put, Europeans have a much stronger taste for other people’s money than we do. This is vividly illustrated by the recent protests in the U.S. and Greece. Why are citizens rioting and striking in Greece? Despite the worst economic crisis in decades, labor unions and state functionaries demand that others pay for the early retirements, lifetime benefits and state pensions to which they feel entitled. In America, however, the tea partiers demonstrate not to get more from others, but rather against government growth, public debt, bailouts and a budget-busting government overhaul of the health-care industry. In other words, the tea partiers are protesting against exactly what the Greeks are demanding. It is an example of American exceptionalism if there ever was one.