As a student of history, I have always been fascinated by the Germans. In the last 100 years of their existence, they have managed to fight and lose two World Wars, and within 25 years of those spectacular defeats, crawled back to the top of the heap in Europe. Even today, they seem to be the only fully viable economic power on that troubled continent. The German people have given the world the greatest music in history, the most meticulously crafted automobiles, the most brilliant scientists and the most delicious beer ever brewed in the universe. As someone who believes in American Exceptionalism, I think that the Germans can give us a run for our money in that department. If not for the insanity of National Socialism and Adolph Hitler, perhaps the Germans would rule the world even now.
So, imagine my surprise when I ran across the results of polling data about the biggest differences between Americans and Germans. When the citizens of the two nations were asked this question: What do you think is more important, the ability to pursue life’s goals without state interference, or having state guarantees that nobody is in need? 58% of Americans chose freedom, while 62% of Germans picked guarantees. When presented with this statement, success in life is determined by forces outside of our control, 72% of Germans agreed, only 36% of Americans.
It doesn’t surprise me that most of my countrymen still believe in the concept of free will, the notion that every man has it within his power to fashion his own future. But it does surprise me that a people as accomplished as the Germans don’t. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me that they have given up on the liberating power of individual freedom as a far greater guarantor of abundance than the modern welfare state, they being far further down that road than we. And frankly, the fact that only 58% of us believe it is disturbing. Take that poll 50 years ago and the number would have been closer to 90%. Still, the results surprised me. Germany, a nation that has lost its freedom to government pathology from both the right and left, still chooses to place its confidence in government as provider of life and liberty. How can a people subjugated by both the Nazis and the Communists still have such faith in government?
Add this to the thousand things in life that I will never understand.