Old Europe is dying. For 200 years philosophers and thinkers have predicted the failure of Democracy. Not from the slow creeping encroachment of civil liberties, but because of the steady natural drift of progress socialism. Once a people learn that democracy can be use as a vehicle for wealth redistribution; the unstoppable decline of freedom will have already begun. While civil liberties are often taken away and returned based on the ebb and flow of a counties appetite for conflict; economic liberties (arguably the more important of the two freedoms), once taken away, are almost never returned.
Witness, France. Long thought to be a fountainhead of liberal progressive socialism. Where, whatever your state of being, the government can always be counted on to save you. The reality is entirely different however. Some places in France are experiencing unemployment levels equal to those of the United States DURING the great depression. The economy is in shambles and the almost universally recognized reason, the very government programs that the citizens have come to depend on. Within a decade or two, the economy of France will be so bad that the government will go totally bankrupt trying to pay for it all.
This problem is both well known and well understood. Regardless of the Utopian ideals of college professors and social activists; the reality is that there is simply a limit to what a government can be expected to do to help its citizens. At some point trust (and personal responsibility) must be places in the citizenry themselves. The USSR (and almost every communist country in the world) failed because of the realization, China has stayed a communist country because they identified and reformed (just) their economy in light of this realization Yet in France’s developed democracy; any reform (to fix the admittedly identified problem) is met with such hostility that their are riots in the streets.
Its a sad reality that the Presidents domestic spying and counter-terrorist programs (in the form of the Patriot Acts) are less likely to hurt American Democracy than his prescription drug package and the “No Child Left Behind” initiative.