I have always wondered how people could describe European countries as more egalitarian than the US. Yeah, I know the income distribution tends to be flatter, but that is almost entirely because the rich are richer in the US rather than the poor being poorer. But pure income distribution has always seemed like a terrible way to make comparisons. My perception has always been that class lines in Europe are much harder than they are in the US. The elites in Europe have made a sort of arrangement in which they pay off the masses with an income floor and low work expectations in turn for making sure that none of the masses can in turn challenge their elite status or join their ranks. The government protects large corporations form competition, foreign or domestic. The government protects existing laborers against new entrants into the labor market. The government makes it virtually impossible for the average guy to start a business. The result is a lower and middle class who won't or can't aspire to breaking out of their class. Elites are protected, and no one seems to care very much when political elites enrich themselves through public office and then entrench themselves and their families in the power system. This, presumably, is why the American political class thinks so much of the European model.
In the U.S., we have low gas taxes, low car taxes, few tolls, strict zoning that leads developers to provide lots of free parking, low speed limits, lots of traffic enforcement, and lots of congestion.
In Europe (France and Germany specifically), they have high gas
taxes, high car taxes, lots of tolls, almost no free parking, high
speed limits (often none at all), little traffic enforcement, and very
little congestion. (The only real traffic jam I endured in Europe was
trying to get into Paris during rush hour. I was delayed about 30
If you had to pick one of these two systems, which would you prefer?
Or to make the question a little cleaner, if there were two otherwise
identical countries, but one had the U.S. system and the other had the
Euro system, where would you decide to live?
Much as it pains me to admit, I would choose to live in the country
with the Euro system. If you're at least upper-middle class, the
convenience is worth the price. Yes, this is another secret way that
Europe is better for the rich, and the U.S. for everyone else.