Liberal Europe?

It doesn't matter who you talk to: Europe is considered to be "liberal." Republicans dislike it for that reasons, democrats plan trips there for that reason. But is Europe really so liberal? Before we begin, it's important to note that there is no "Europe" as a single concept. It seems most people seem to be referring to France when they speak of it. There are a lot of countries over there though.

My first example: 2nd and co-parent adoption laws regarding same-sex couples. As far as I know, there is no country in Europe where they are legal. Yet in my home region of the US, legislation passed almost uncontroversially around a decade ago in numerous states allowing gays to adopt children together as a couple. Even in the few countries that have allowed same-sex marriages (like the Netherlands and Spain), adoptions are not part of the deal. "Separate but equal?"

Then let's take religious expression. France has been a bastion of illiberalism in this regard for a while. Recently, a committee recommended banning the burqa in many public spaces in France. Supporters contend that this is merely an assertion of France's long-standing separation of church and state. I like separating church and state and don't feel that any religion should have anything to do with any government decisions. I am disturbed when political candidates talk about their faith (or even go so far as to say they talk to god themselves). But banning freedom of religious expression takes this too far. After all, the result might be that the women are then not permitted to leave the house by their ultra-conservative husbands. The problem is a spread of fundamental Islamic ideas. It makes absolutely no sense to fight illiberalism with illiberalism!

The next point is racism, integration, and acceptance of other people. Here, Europe scores poorly once again. True, this is mostly for historical reasons ("French" and "German" are nationalities, not just citizenships). Europeans claim they are not used to immigration. There is some truth to this, but it is no excuse for the xenophobia immigrants can experience there. Immigrants living in Germany and France take a much longer time to feel at home in their host countries than those in the United States, and many of them never feel at home at all, stuck instead between two worlds. This is largely the source of unrest among immigrant communities in Europe (think of burning cars on the outskirts of Paris or increasing criminal difficulties in Neukölln in Berlin).

Finally, there are inheritance laws. In most, if not all, of continental Europe, you have to bequeath property to all your children. You could not, say, decide to leave all your possessions to your best friend, who had looked after you better than your deadbeat kids. You HAVE to give your property to your kids. This is in the name of "fairness" and was originally intended to break up aristocracies by splitting land into smaller pieces. This may have made sense in the past, but it seems alarmingly un-free now. And yet: there is no desire to change these laws. Continental Europeans are content with them.

Keeping all this in mind, perhaps you ought to be careful next time you talk about Europe being a "liberal" place. Just because there may be bare breasts in some advertisements there does NOT make it "liberal"!


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