The European Dream
The American Dream is becoming ever more elusive. Americans are increasingly overworked, underpaid, squeezed for time, and unsure about their prospects for a better life. One third of all Americans say they no longer even believe in the American Dream.
While the American Dream is languishing, says bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin, a new European Dream is capturing the attention and imagination of the world. Twenty-five nations, representing 455 million people, have joined together to create a United States of Europe.
The European Union’s GDP now rivals the United States’, making it the largest economy in the world. The EU is already the world’s leading exporter and largest internal trading market. Moreover, much of Europe enjoys a longer life span and greater literacy, and has less poverty and crime, less blight and sprawl, longer vacations, and shorter commutes to work than we do in the United States. When one considers what makes a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, observes Rifkin, Europe is beginning to surpass America.
More important, Europe has become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity’s future. In many respects, the European Dream is the mirror opposite of the American Dream. While the American Dream emphasizes unrestrained economic growth, personal wealth, and the pursuit of individual self-interest, the European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and the nurturing of community.
We Americans live (and die) by the work ethic and the dictates of efficiency. Europeans place more of a premium on leisure and even idleness. America has always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans, instead, prefer to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. We believe in maintaining an unrivaled military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasize cooperation and consensus over go-it-alone approaches to foreign policy.
All of this does not suggest that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. Its problems, Rifkin cautions, are complex and its weaknesses are glaringly transparent. And, of course, Europeans’ high-mindedness is often riddled with hypocrisy. The point, however, is not whether Europeans are living up to the dream they have for themselves. We have never fully lived up to the American Dream. Rather, what’s crucial, notes Rifkin, is that Europe is articulating a bold new vision for the future of humanity that differs in many of its most fundamental aspects from America’s.
Rifkin draws on more than twenty years of personal experience working in Europe, where he has advised heads of state and political parties, consulted with Europe’s leading companies, and helped spur grassroots environmental and social justice campaigns. The author delves into the history of Europe, from the medieval era to postmodernity, to capture the soul of the new European consciousness.
Two hundred years ago, America’s founders created a new dream for humanity that transformed the world. Today, suggests Rifkin, a new generation of Europeans is creating a radical new dream – one better suited to meet the challenges of a globalizing world in the 21st century.
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