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The Narcissism of Minor DifferencesHow Europe and America are Alike$
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Peter Baldwin

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391206

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195391206.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Civil Society

Civil Society

(p.148) Eight Civil Society
The Narcissism of Minor Differences

Peter Baldwin

Oxford University Press

Quantifying The Attributes of civil society, in turn, is complicated and slippery, but let us try. Americans are oft en thought to be unusually antigovernment in their political ideology, practically anarchists by European standards. They are supposed to believe in individual reliance, be less inclined than Europeans to have the state help the worst-off , and more likely to regard the poor as having failed. Surveys of attitudes do not, however, uniformly bear out such polarities. Proportionately more Americans than anyone but the Spaniards claim to obey the law without exception. A higher percentage of Americans trusts their government a great deal than many Europeans, other than the Spaniards, the Swiss and the Finns (figure 159). A Pew Foundation survey in 2007 found that proportionately fewer Americans worried that the government had too much control than did Germans and Italians, with the French at the same level and the British just a percentage point lower. A higher percentage of Americans have a great deal of confidence in their civil service than any Europeans other than the Irish. Proportionately, almost five times as many Americans as Swedes say they trust their government bureaucracy (figure 160). But talk is cheap, and such findings may indicate desire as much as reality. The trust of Americans in their state apparatus can be measured more concretely by their willingness to pay taxes. Unlike many Europeans, Americans pay the taxes required of them. Only in Austria and Switzerland are the underground economies as small. In the Mediterranean, the rate of tax avoidance is much higher—over three times the American level in Greece and Italy (figure 161). The Montana survivalist—so beloved by the European media—holed up in his shack, provisioned for a siege, and determined to resist the government’s impositions, is as uncharacteristic of the average American as the Basque or Corsican separatist, ready to kill and maim for his localist aspirations, is of the average European.

Keywords:   Antisocial behavior, Civic associations, Friends, Individualism, Multiculturalism, Organ donation, Pew Research Center, Shadow economy, Television

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