February 17, 2005


I just noticed this comment by PAC tonight and I wanted to address it. It's a very normal point of view for a European to have, the same point of view I've found in most of my European friends. It is, I believe, the biggest dividing factor between Americans and Europeans and the source of our value differences.

It's also related to Bill Whittle's social vs. individual responsibility.

When I was a senior in high school, I was trying to decide whether I should go to a public or private school. I really wanted to attend this small private school I had chosen, so my dad decided it was time for a lesson in economics. He knew I wanted to be a teacher, so he made me figure out how much of an average teacher salary would go towards paying off $50,000 in student loans. He asked me if it would be worth going to this school to pay perhaps half of my monthly income towards loans. I agreed that it would not and decided to go to the public school. Only once I had started school did my father say that if I had believed that it would have been worth $50,000 of my own money, he would've helped me go to the private school. But since it wasn't worth my own money, it must not have been that important to me.

That's an awesome lesson that my father taught me, one that I personally think applies to my American worldview. You spend your own money far more frugally than you do your father's, and certainly far more frugally than you do the government's. People are simply more responsible when they have more responsibility to take care of themselves. We saw that with today's link about sharing: you end up with more Hershey Kisses if you're in charge of your own.

The biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is responsibility. In the US you're individually responsible for far more (and not nearly enough, in my opinion) than you are in Europe. I was responsible for paying for my own college, so I chose wisely and finished quickly. In many European countries, you can take as long as you want to get your degree; it's someone else's Hershey Kisses. I wish we were in charge of our own Social Security in the US, because I could do a much better job of managing it than the government can, to where I could pay for both medicine and travel. Me, myself, paying for it, not the government.

When my husband and I met with a financial advisor, he asked us how much money we wanted to set aside for our children's college funds. We slowly looked at each other, looked back at the advisor, and sheepishly asked if "nothing" was an acceptable answer. We both paid for our own college educations -- he through ROTC, I through academic scholarships -- and we expect our children to do the same. I don't plan to pay for my own child's college; there's no way I would want to pay taxes to make it free for everyone. I don't even like thinking about the tax dollars that fund the Pell grant.

PAC's opinion is completely understandable, given his background, but completely incomprehensible given mine. I can respect that he feels that way, but I certainly don't want my government emulating Europe in that manner.


Response to good to go above.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:46 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 581 words, total size 3 kb.

1 I saved money for my kids' college from the time they were born. Ended up with more than enough for a public college, and enough that most private colleges were within reach, if wanted badly enough. Both initially wanted private (or expensive, out-of-state public) - but I forced them to make a financial value judgement. By making the money 'theirs' I hoped to make them spend it as if it was 'theirs' One chose private, but with big scholarship, and maintained the grades to keep the scholarship and graduated on time - so there was money left over for the first year of law school. The other (your 'double') is in in-state public, so there will be money left over for other opportunities. One such is a summer school program in Innsbruck this year - I'll tell her if she gets in trouble she should pretend she is you.

Posted by: Glenmore at February 17, 2005 10:50 PM (+IHgL)

2 The funny thing Sara is that you claim the mantle of personal responsibilty while living off taxpayer money. Both you and your husband will never have earned an honest nickel until you go out into the real world and get a job and pay the taxes that supports teachers and soldiers. You are not really in a position to criticize others for asking for health insurance from their government when you depend upon it for everything.

Posted by: good to go at February 18, 2005 03:03 AM (fLlQ8)

3 Soldiers may depend on the government for 'everything', but the government (and we) likewise depend on the soldiers for everything. It is a contract willingly entered by both parties. I believe, given the costs paid these days by our soldiers, that we the people are getting quite a bargain in this contract.

Posted by: Glenmore at February 18, 2005 08:30 AM (loaB2)

4 Excuse me? My husband and I most certainly do pay taxes (except during deployment), so you can hardly say we don't contribute. And anyone else who wants to join the military is more than able to make the same money and benefits my husband and I do. How dare you say we've never earned an honest nickel? Screw you.

Posted by: Sarah at February 18, 2005 08:54 AM (qdVAy)

5 So, good to go doesn't know what he's talking about. A soldier and his family do pay taxes. As an officer, the exact same percentage of my pay went to the IRS as my pay does now in civilian life. I have lived on both sides of the military/civilian divide. And the difference is ----- in the military you wear a cheaper suit, you work longer for less pay than the civilian, and you get little thanks until the shooting starts. The upside is that the military folks aren't afraid to make a decision which could cost them their job. In my commercial life, my bosses frequently abdicate responsibility for decisions to lower levels and then fire those people when their judgment proves to be wrong. Lots more freedom and time as a civilian. If they paid me time and a half for the hours I was at work in the Navy, they would be paying me until I was 90. The service my shipmates and fellow soldiers provide has few parallels anywhere in the world. We prevent butchers from cutting our people's heads off with impunity. Find that service in the civilian world and see how much it costs you. Then tell me who earns the more honest nickel. As for health insurance, those who want to live forever on the cheapest health premiums will get the life they deserve, --- a long life of miserable existence because everything they earned is going towards their life support. I have helped my mother take care of several really old and senile relatives. It is more expensive than living and working a job till you die. My advice to "good to go" is to live well, die young and leave a good looking corpse. Subsunk

Posted by: Subsunk at February 18, 2005 02:24 PM (YMrHN)

6 GRrrrrr.... Good to go is really off the mark. How long have you lived under the gun so to speak? How many jobs do you hold? How ridiculous. I wonder if he/she would say that in person. Judging from some of the stuff you have had to hear in person, they probably would. But would they do it in a roomful of your friends? and defenders? I think not. Good to go indeed. Good to stay away please.

Posted by: Ruth H at February 18, 2005 08:15 PM (h08Dy)

7 good to go is an ass-wipe. ive had the not so pleasent opportunaty to meet several here in my home state. ive heard people actually say that they "hope the soldiers in iraq get what they deserve". shit like that revolts me. i hear france is accepting applications for village idiots. good to go seems to have it in the bag.

Posted by: liz at February 18, 2005 08:58 PM (iq+aH)

8 Yes Sarah, I understand that social democracy vs individual selfishness (or, to be more kind, "individual responsibility") is a big divide between Europeans and Americans (or at least the 51% of Americans who vote GOP). And I understand that you are more responsible with your own money than other people's money. But it's sad that in a country which says is superior to Europe, people have to risk their lifes (i.e., enroll at ROTC) just to pay for their education. It is sad that hard labor workers (McDonalds, construction, etc) have to die if they get sick. Do they die or live in poverty and abject conditions forever because they are not responsible or because they are not middle class and don't have a loving father explaining them the economics of university tuition? Do you really believe the US system is about personal responsibility for the poor? It seems to me more about screwing those who born poor and never (or rarely) giving then any opportunity to raise up. I am not saying give them all "the Hershey's Kisses" in the world... but at least give them some so that they can survive and move on to better things. If they are preocupied with surviving they will never have time do discuss economics, meet with financial advisors, contribute to a better America... it's okay to disagree with Europeans like me just don't forget that in our own country 49% agree with European social democracy.

Posted by: PAC at February 19, 2005 06:03 PM (2HGdB)

9 PAC, I'm 42, a former Navy Nuke Submarine Officer educated through ROTC, been civilian for 13 years, have a daughter soon to be in college. My wife worked at McDonalds as a kid, I didn't work for anyplace quite so classy. Is it hard work - NO! Anyone from 15-90 can work at McDonalds, sorry. In a free market economy we reward people based on the level of skill the job requires. McDonalds – 1 day of training. ROTC gave me the chance to get the college education from the start that my father got through years of night school. ROTC is far from a tragedy, unless you believe the military useless. The military is underpaid for what it does, that is why it is called the “Service” Wish I could refer you to the exact date, but in a NEWSWEEK article about 6 years ago a woman wrote in to say her Doctoral Thesis was going to be on how Welfare helps lift people out of poverty and should be expanded. It helped her after her husband left. Instead, what she found is that people with "Middle class" values who wound up on welfare worked hard to get off as quick as possible, but there was a definite core, the majority in fact, that don't want more than what welfare provides and are content to sit and collect. This bears out the experience of a couple of family members who worked in offices handing out government money. Before my daughter started high school they got all the parents together and talked about how one of the things they wanted to teach the students was good decision making. My father taught me that what I made of my life was my decision. However, my brother-in-law has passed his don’t graduate high-school do drugs mentality to his son. He also has no savings, cheats on his disabled wife who he leaves alone, etc. Frankly, I don’t like my taxes taking care of dirt bags who DECIDED to be dirt bags. I heard a psychiatrist once say that you can’t always change how you feel, but you can CHOOSE how you act. People are sinners, not saints. If we were saints, sharing would work. We’re not, so it’s personal responsibility. Does is suck, yes it does sometimes. That’s life, deal with it. PS, if I haven’t convinced you and we should share more, please send your share of my daughter’s college tuition. I’ll place it in her college account.

Posted by: Xopher at February 20, 2005 06:38 PM (doKQq)

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