So I suppose it's all a trade-off. We had a house guest this weekend, Janine from Germany, and we discussed current events as well as some of the differences between the old US of A and the European model. Basic differences are that the people in those countries pay more taxes but get everything taken care of for them including medical care, higher education, and a whole range of other social services. Germans for example, pay 40% in taxes, but they don't have to dish out any of their take home pay for insurance or college tuition costs (well it does cost a little, but it's nothing compared to what we pay). Not to mention 4-6 weeks of vacation is standard...so jealous.
But going deeper, I also believe that Europeans have a fundamentally different way of looking at things. My take on it is that they value the good of the whole over the individual. Or to be more specific, they think that what is good for the whole is also good for the individual. Whereas Americans function in a model where individuality is the priority. The resulting impact of the European model is a culture in which the goal is true equality. Most people make around the same range of money and you don't have the extreme class differences that you do in America (rich vs. poor). Everyone is a little closer to middle class. Everyone contributes and everyone benefits. No one gets ahead, but no one gets left behind either. Whereas in America, you can win big or lose big. You only succeed in the American model through hard work. Everyone succeeds in the European model simply through participation.
I'm not really intending to make a value judgement here, really more of an observation.