Let a Euro trip be your lesson: big government on the old continent is way worse than some politicians would have you believe.
During the summer months, many young Americans make a trip across the pond to visit the old continent. They have good reason to do so. Europe is a gorgeous continent of stunning beauty and amazing cultural heritage. Americans are very welcome tourists, notably because you are easy to connect with (and because you tip generously). For those young Americans flirting with the idea of "democratic socialism" or a strong state in general, there are quite a few things of which you should take note.
Ah yes, the city of love. For romantic getaway or a nice dinner with friends, where could bet better than France's capital on a hot summer day?
Your dinner will be fairly expensive, though, since France's new food law increased prices artificially "to help farmers" and your flight the following day to the next destination on your itinerary will be increased between €1.50 and €18 through the government's new "ecotax" on plane tickets. You could choose to do a road trip, but note that, under the socialist government of the early 2000s, motorways were first "privatized" and then distributed via crony contracts to a single company, which makes using the roads fairly pricey. You can use public roads, but brace yourself for bad conditions and loads of traffic. Additionally, bear in mind that a liter of fuel retails for $1.67 ($6.32/gallon) in Paris at the moment and when driving south towards Italy, that price can go up to $1.90 ($7.19/gallon).
In Paris, watch out for constant anti-government protests, which are known to become violent. The Yellow Vests are still demonstrating against the loss of purchasing power, ignited by the government's initial attempt to raise fuel prices.
Your trip continues to Rome, capital of the Italian Republic, home of wonders such as the Colosseum. Just ideally don’t breathe in through your nose in many of Italy's major cities, because, at temperatures of 95 degrees, the trash is not being picked up. According to prosecutors, waste management firms often collude with organised crime and the politicians aren't doing anything about it. Romans pay Italy's most expensive waste disposal taxes. "I pay the city 350 euros [$392] every two months for trash collection. I've decided to stop paying until they clean up this mess", a coffee and tobacco shop owner told NPR.
Berlin hopefully won't be as bad. This hipster city, home of techno clubs and the historic site of the end of communism in Europe,the Berlin Wall, will make you say "ich bin ein Berliner" just like John F. Kennedy. Germany has come a long way since the end of the Cold War, but has also taken a few steps backward following reunification. The city of Berlin is currently governed by a coalition of social democrats, the far-left "Die Linke" (the successor party to the East German communist dictatorship party SED), and environmentalists. The administration decided in June that the planes celebrating the "Berliner Luftbrücke," which supplied the city of Berlin by aircraft from the Western Allied forces after the Soviets had blocked the land and waterways, were not allowed to land in Berlin. This constituted a stunning exercise in socialist arrogance.
The city of Berlin is experiencing rising prices in the housing market, which it unfortunately tries to combat through rent control, and by cracking down on the home-share service Airbnb. Even though Berlin is, overall, an affordable city, you'll soon find that your average accommodation prices are disproportionately higher than in other European cities. This is also related to energy prices, which have been exploding in Germany since the government decided to introduce its own version of the Green New Deal and transition from nuclear and coal to renewables. The result: for young German families, electricity has never been as expensive as it is today, Germany had the highest household electricity prices in Europe in 2017, and the government will miss climate targets by a long shot. It transpired that massively subsidising renewables didn't produce affordable energy and, due to shut down nuclear reactors, the country had to return to coal and gas.
On their way back, many Americans visit London to make direct flight connections. Visiting Big Ben (under reconstruction until 2021), the Houses of Parliament, or taking a ride on the London Eye promise mesmerising days before heading back. If you've caught a cold during your trip or are dealing with a far more serious issue such as a broken arm or appendicitis, brace yourself for the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
Politicians in the UK almost religiously defend the NHS for all its merits. The phrase “the envy of the world" is dropped repeatedly with regard to the public healthcare system and politicians bend over backwards to pour more money into it. £20 billion are needed annually to just to keep it up and running. There is an 18-week waiting time standard for elective treatment, with cancer treatment waiting times at their worst levels ever. Horror stories include that of a patient with a broken back waiting seven hours to see a doctor.
You might like the "free at the point of use" that British NHS supporters constantly brag about, but as soon as you notice that you're one of the 10,000 people not getting a hospital bed or you take out waiting ticket 365--after 210 has just been called (as happened to a Daily Mail reporter)--you'll reconsider whether public insurance and government as a health care provider is really all that fair or productive.
This is not a grumpy piece telling you not to come to Europe because it's a hellhole--quite the contrary. Europe is a beautiful continent with a lot of people who will be happy to host you. However, while you are here, note that the promises left-wing politicians are making about government-run healthcare or the environment aren't based on the reality of what these policies actually produce.
Come for the history and the food, don't stay for the big government.
Unsplash, Paul Dufour