November 6, 2004


So, Why Does Europe Hate Us? (Pete Winn, 11/01/04, Citizen Link)

British journalist Adrian Wooldridge suggests that European suspicion, distrust and hatred of American conservatism may be to blame.

Wooldridge is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for The Economist, a major newsmagazine published in London, and the co-author of "The Right Nation," a book about the conservative movement in America.

He talked with CitizenLink about American conservatism.


Q. How does the conservative movement in America contrast with conservatism in Britain and Europe?

A. The conservative movement in America is much more libertarian, much more anti-government, much more religious, much more traditionalist than anything you see in Britain. And also it has this optimistic side to it.

In Britain, conservatism is a pretty pessimistic, pretty backward-looking philosophy. The assumption for many conservatives there is that things are pretty bad and they're getting worse. In America, it's a much more optimistic creed. One can only think of Ronald Reagan, who hardly ever looked glum in his life, and announced that he thought that world could be remade for the better. So, it's partly a matter of ideas, but it's partly a matter of organization.

In Britain, you have a Conservative Party, but you don't have a conservative movement. You don't have any Christian radio stations, any Christian television channels, you don't have any politically conservative television channels like Fox News, you don't have serious think-tanks — you have one or two think-tanks, but you don't have this sort of empire of think-tanks that you do in Washington, D.C., for the conservative side. You don't have militant gun owners, you don't have anti-tax activists, or land rights activists — it doesn't exist as a movement. Here in the United States, it does.

There are many European equivalents of the Democrats — teachers unions, academics, public-sector workers and the like — all of those people exist all across Europe. But there are no European equivalents of gun-rights activists or religious conservatives or militant neoconservatives in Europe. They are peculiarly American.

Americans are the only Burkean conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2004 11:48 AM

In a sense America is less conservative, because it is more liberal in a traditional sense, meaning more protective of individual liberty. Europeans, although they have democratic forms of government, have always been collectivist at heart. Politics follows predictable class-based formulas, people vote their class interests, not their individual desires. Workers are expected to join unions (not that they have much choice) and vote like a union member by making demands for more benefits, higher wages and shorter hours. The trade off is that they have to remain satisfied within their class. Don't expect the sorts of freedoms that belong to the ruling elites, like unrestricted property rights. Likewise the elites get the benefits of their station, but as members of a collective, not as individuals. You enter the bureacracies, follow their rules and work to promote and expand their power and reach. You vote your class interests, which includes expansion of the national and international statist entities, including the European Union, the UN and the World Court.

I'd say that feudalism never really died in Europe, the EU is taking on the form and function of the Holy Roman Empire, the national elites are the nobility, and the commoners represented by the labor classes. It is hostile to religion because, since the Reformation, religion has been unable to unite the continent and has only led to wars. Secularism is the new "Catholic", or universal faith.

Liberalism has always been a radical idea to Europe. America is an oddity to them, it has succeeded at something that they have failed at by creating a united nation of free individuals by an idea that can assimilate a multitude of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 6, 2004 1:33 PM

There are no European equivalents of religious conservatives? Could have fooled me. Who's in the Vatican now?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 6, 2004 1:41 PM

Well said, Robert. Liberalism had a very brief day in the sun in the mid 19th century, but then Karl came along.

Posted by: Peter B at November 6, 2004 1:44 PM

Contemporary American conservatism encompasses the entire span of 19th century British politics.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 6, 2004 2:10 PM

He's not European, Harry, he's Polish.

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 6, 2004 2:23 PM


Posted by: oj at November 6, 2004 2:28 PM

Harry - A majority of the Vatican are European leftists whose views are more informed by secularism than the Catholic tradition. Thus, the attack against the war in Iraq led by Cardinal Sodano and Archbishop Martini -- not on the grounds that it violated just war doctrine, but that it was a war for oil, didn't respect the UN, and would incite the Muslim world to greater violence.

Posted by: pj at November 6, 2004 3:30 PM

Forget the whole article when he describes the big government, police state loving conservatives in America as libertarian. Not only are they not Capitalist, they are anti-Capitalist.

Hell, the Bush doctrine plainly states its support for one world government and the willingness to attack allies who are not threatening the US, merely if they grow too powerful.

Libertarian? God no. Fascist. Without doubt.

Posted by: just pete at November 6, 2004 3:51 PM

just pete:

Nothing wrong with One World government as long as Red America picks it.

Posted by: oj at November 6, 2004 3:55 PM

--You don't have militant gun owners, ---

only because they can't yet.

Posted by: Sandy P at November 6, 2004 6:09 PM

Willingness to attack allies - who?

Posted by: Sandy P at November 6, 2004 6:12 PM


The Vatican may have some religious conservatives in it, but there isn't a religious conservative movement in Europe. Well, maybe there's an Islamic one. There isn't a Catholic one.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at November 6, 2004 10:13 PM

Actually, there is. It takes various forms. 'House churches' in southern England. Irish clergy. French Jew-hatred.

It isn't as much of a political force as it was 65 years ago, but it hasn't gone away. Who do you think supports the restoration of the French monarch? Liberal atheists?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 7, 2004 1:23 AM

After reading oj's link to the Kirk book, I am curious if anybody has any thoughts on how much conservatives (defined any way you like), value liberty. It seems to me, based on Kirk's 10 point definition, the answer would be not very much. Thanks

Posted by: Perry at November 7, 2004 7:55 AM

Yeah, that French monarchist party matters.

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2004 8:56 AM


Liberty isn't freedom.

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2004 9:10 AM

Guns, Guns, Guns. All this talk about guns. God, Guns, and guts. You can't understand America if you don't understand guns. The real American exceptionalism is guns--it's reserved power. The People have reserved the means of force.

Look at how Europeans and would-be Europeans talk about guns. They say the exact opposite, that being allowed to have this or that gun is a grace of the State. Indeed, I assure you, the Right to keep and bear arms, a natural, prior and superior right, is what separates America wrom the world.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 7, 2004 11:13 AM