By: Dina Usanovic
Many people are impressed with the social systems in European countries, specifically those found in Sweden and Germany. These embracing, inclusive systems allow for a high standard of living nation-wide. This is in stark contrast to America’s social system, in which poor people and minorities are subjected to a much lower standard of living than the rest of the nation. Why is it possible for European countries to create a system that allows for all citizens to live a decent life, while America can’t? It may come down to citizens’ attitudes.
America seems to be one of the few countries in the world that have selfish values. The emphasis on the individual- which began at the country’s inception- has created citizens that think of themselves before the nation. While this is not inherently bad, it creates issues for social policies.
For example, the student debt crisis. Many citizens have issues with the idea of helping to ease the crisis through increased taxes. Their thought process is: they did not sign the loan, so why would they help pay it? Instead of considering that easing students of their debts will allow them to buy more (including houses and cars), therefore providing a boost to the economy, benefitting the entire nation, they consider what is in it for them immediately. A similar instance is that of increasing taxes for the wealthy. Instead of imagining it as buying into a wealthier nation, the wealthy see it as a threat to their immediate wealth.
This issue goes even deeper than monetary issues. Immigration is becoming increasingly sensitive in America. Again, American’s see immigrants as a threat to their comfortability and success. Immigrants are perceived as job stealers and space fillers, rather than innovators or benefits to society. In fact, immigrants are most often attempting to live out the “American Dream” that the United States has spent hundreds of years trying to create. However, Americans do not view any personal gains from immigrants, therefore they do not accept them.
Individualism is not a poor value. In fact, with a nation as diverse as America, it is almost necessary. However, fostering individualism in personal lives does not have to translate to the nation’s policies. Rather than focusing on an immediate gain, Americans should look at improvements for the nation that will lead to a more long-term, nation-wide gain.