Massachusetts Daily Collegian

First world nations aren’t so left wing

By Nicholas Pappas

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Bobby Hidy/Flickr

Bobby Hidy/Flickr

If you pay attention to political discourse, you’re aware that a common refrain of the American left is to emphasize just how much we aren’t like other developed first world nations. Namely, we don’t have universal healthcare, we lack sufficient gun control policies and our criminal justice system is overly harsh. However, this line of reasoning is purely opportunistic on the part of the American left. They do not want our country to become like other first world nations overall. Rather, they only bring up this nation state version of an argumentum ad populum when it best suits their goals.

Take a few examples, starting with voter ID laws. In America, the discussion over voter ID laws boils down to this: conservatives argue it will reduce voter fraud, even voter fraud we can’t be sure is occurring since we likely only catch a small proportion of the people who commit voter fraud in the first place. The left retorts by calling conservatives racists. Why? Because the left argues that certain groups of people, specifically minorities, won’t be able to get access to IDs. Therefore, the intentions of conservatives arguing for the laws are to stop blacks and Hispanics from voting so it will be easier for Republicans to win elections.

This line of reasoning is convoluted for many reasons, but rather than run down the absurdity of calling people who expect others, regardless of their race, to be able to get an acceptable form of identification racists, let’s look at what other nations do in this area of public policy. In Canada, you can do one of three things to vote: show a photo ID like a driver’s license, two forms of paperwork with your current address on it, or present two pieces of ID with your name on it and take an oath that your address is what you say it is. In Sweden, if the voting clerk does not know you personally, she or he must verify your identity before you can vote. In Ireland, a clerk may ask you to prove your identity with one of five acceptable forms of identification. In Switzerland, the government upends the whole debate and issues registration cards to all citizens for the express purpose of voting.

Look around the world and you will see a wide variety of different voting laws, from strict to loose. However, those nations with stricter laws than the U.S. are rarely, if ever, accused of a racist plot to keep their minority populations from participating in democracy.

When it comes to immigration laws things get very interesting. As PolitiFact reported, the U.S. is one of only 33 nations in the world that offer birthright citizenship, the policy at the heart of the whole “anchor baby” argument. Nations that don’t do so include the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Denmark and almost every other first world country. Restricting birthright citizenship is something conservatives have been striving for for years, and was even part of the 1996 Republican Party Platform. Does it bother the left that social democracies and most Republicans are on the same side of a major social issue? Is it really so extreme to hold this position on immigration?

Well, what about abortion? Perhaps most surprisingly, America has a very liberal abortion policy in place relative to other countries. In Germany, Greece, Poland and more, abortion is limited to 12 weeks unless the life of the mother is at risk later on in the pregnancy. Sweden limits it to 18 weeks, and the U.K. requires women to get certification from two separate physicians to receive an abortion.

Just recently, Republicans tried to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) stated of the legislation, “It’s legislation that would allow America to join the ranks of most civilized nations when it comes to protecting the most innocent and vulnerable of life.” Harry Reid, the Democrat Leader said McConnell was “pandering to the extremists in his party.” Google what a 20-week-old fetus looks like so you can see its development, and you tell me who is the extremist in this situation.

The reality of other nations holding so called ‘“conservative” views is true in many more areas, from energy policy to corporate taxation. But don’t expect this to sway those with a preconceived notion of the rest of the world.

Nicholas Pappas is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Responses to “First world nations aren’t so left wing”

  1. Zac Bears on September 29th, 2015 4:21 am

    So you cherry-pick (1) Voter ID, (2) birthright citizenship, and (3) abortion to say that European countries are not more politically left than the U.S.

    Then you essentially ignore: (1) government spending as a percentage of GDP, (2) health care systems, (3) taxation, (4) public infrastructure investment, (5) housing policy, (6) education, (7) military spending, (8) incarceration, (9) environmental protection, and (10-100) the other issues that actually define politics/policy/governance on a left-right spectrum.

    And you have the gall to say “this line of reasoning is purely opportunistic on the part of the American left?”

    The cognitive dissonance of movement conservatism is disturbing.

  2. Kris on September 29th, 2015 10:36 am

    Zac, I’ve pointed out your cognitive dissonance on multiple occasions. I wouldn’t call it disturbing, but that’s because I’m not a smug jerk like yourself.

  3. Zac Bears on September 29th, 2015 7:45 pm

    🙁

  4. Lorenzo on December 22nd, 2015 2:11 pm

    Well, then spell it out for the rest of us, because these issues don’t really make it seem that the first world nations aren’t left wing.

    Sure, these nations may have voter ID laws, however, when you look at countries such as the UK and France, you’ll see just how easy it is for low income individuals to get these IDs. If they can’t buy ID’s, alternatives are provided for FREE, which is not what the Republicans are offering. Therefore, the thought process between us and the Europeans are virtually the same, unlike Republicans and Europeans.

    Europe may not have anchor babies, but any baby born in European countries (sans Norway) can easily get citizenship as they grow up. It’s not birthright citizenship, and, obviously, it’s a better system, but the end result is just the same, aside from Chinese people taking advantage of the system. Our thought process is exactly the same on how we want immigrants to shape our countries.

    Are democrats more liberal than Europe on abortion? Sure, why not? However, Europe still becomes super liberal when we compare it to Republicans who want to completely ban the process, which is a no-no for all European countries (sans Ireland).

    So tell me, how exactly are European countries more in tune with conservatives than liberals of our country?

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