Lifestyle & Culture

With the US in turmoil, more Americans will come to Europe, challenging the Old Order

Watch out, Europe … the Americans are coming

Once upon a time, there was a Great Leader – the best leader – who made America great again. He made it so great the majority of Americans got sick of all the greatness and voted him out of office so they could return to a stable, if boring, normal.

But it was too late.

The authoritarian/democratic divide defines dysfunctional America, and the faith in its democratic institutions and processes is shattered. All the special people who loved the great leader and helped to make America truly great again by trying to overthrow the government are on one side, and all the sad losers are on the other. And they seriously, seriously hate each other to the point elected officials threaten each other on a regular basis.

An important part of the Cult of The Donald is the Q-Anon hoax that Donald Trump is saving those poor sex slave babies chained in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor by a global cannibalistic pedofile elite.

Yes, the myriad Q-Anon conspiracies are laughable to sane people, but about 25 percent of Republicans are on the Crazy Train, and former Trump officials are advocating a Myanmar-style coup to return the Great Leader to power. So, President Biden finds himself – as so many political scientists have observed – in the unenviable position of merely managing American decline, stymied by neo-fascist forces only Trump can control.

(Note to Republicans: Political cults don’t end well. See “Mussolini, B.,” “Hitler, A.” and “Stalin, J.”)

That political tension spills over into daily life, splitting families, wrecking marriages and making it more and more difficult to just do business. To compound matters, the cost of doing businesses is astronomical in innovation centers such as The Valley and Boston.

So at some point, I predict the Greener Pastures Syndrome will kick in and you will see more Americans looking for the new land of opportunity and maybe a little adventure. And, frankly, Europe is where the action is right now, with the most economies atop the World Competitiveness rankings .If you doubt me, tune into some of the expat Facebook communities such as Americans in France, where more and more people are crowdsourcing advice about relocating.

This is not exactly a new thing. European companies such as SAP and BP have had American CEOs. And American companies have certainly had European CEOs. But what we’re going to see is the beginning of the end of American exceptionalism and the emergence of American adventurism.

Skeptical?

Here’s why I see motivating more Americans coming to Europe during the coming decades:

Political instability

If the Trump Cult was successful at anything, it was at kicking the supports out from under America’s foundational institutions. Bipartisanship. Rule of law. Standards of political civility and ethics. Trump’s constant harangue that he lost the 2020 presidential election because of rampant voter fraud isn’t just the rant of a sore loser … it’s an attack on the democratic process.

Trust me … voting in the U.S. means walking into a polling station in your neighborhood school, community center, church or temple where your friends and neighbors – who know you by sight – take seriously their responsibilities as poll workers. The chances you’re going to toddle up from El Salvador and sneak into a Pennsylvania or Georgia voting booth are zero. As are the chances Nicolás Maduros programmed the Dominion voting machines to shift tens of millions of votes to Biden from Trump. In fact, the biggest challenge is getting Americans to vote at all, not stopping illegal aliens and dead people from casting ballots.

Trump’s Big Lie a cris de coeur to the gun-slinging yokels who want to overthrow America’s liberal (in the generic sense) democracy and replace it with an authoritarian-for-life. Trump tapped into white fear at a moment when the country is dividing up between multi-culti cities in Blue States with limitless opportunities and mostly white and heavily evangelical rural areas in Red States with far fewer career options.

A new study by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape finds that the driving force in the 6 January assault on the United States Capital was the replacement conspiracy … that conservative whites believe Jews are behind the effort to advance the rights of people of color, who are rapidly becoming the majority. That’s a demographic issue and those tend to start civil wars, re: the former Yugoslavia.

Gun violence

There have been at least 267 mass shootings – defined as at least four people wounded or killed – across the United States as of mid-June. That’s a pace projected to match or exceed the 600 total mass shootings in 2020. The Hill has a post stating that road-rage shootings alone kill or injure someone every 18 hours … an average of 42 road-rage killings every month. There are countries with higher rates of gun deaths per capita, but they are all developing countries or former war zones such as Iraq. No country in Europe even comes close.

None of this is ever going to change, because America is all about gun rights, with more states waiving all restrictions on buying and carrying guns including assault rifles.

Especially assault rifles.

These semi-automatic, high-velocity weapons, along with semi-automatic handguns, drove gun sales in America to record highs in 2020. The Gun Lobby is so strong in America that no gun-control legislation ever succeeds even after massacres such as the slaughter of school children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. If your future plans don’t include dying at Walmart, the only thing you can do is what our family did … leave.

Opportunity

The tech world is a bit like a gold mine. Sooner or later, every vein plays out. Even though Europe has had a nice string of successes including Skype, Adyen, Klarna and a string of fintech companies including Wise (formerly TransferWise), there still hasn’t been a Facebook, Amazon or Apple … companies that really do change the world.

That’s a good thing for American tech talent looking for an opportunity no one else sees. Though I see the ongoing trend of American venture capitalists setting up in Europe as sort of an advance team.

Tech also has boom-and-bust cycles. Silicon Valley is old news. Now it’s Austin. And after Austin, it’ll be Miami. But there’s so much cash sloshing around the U.S. that in each of those places, the cost of living is skyrocketing. Europe’s competitive advantage is that here, there are affordable emerging innovation centers from Porto to Prague with lots of tech talent.

Americans are far more likely to strike out for opportunities than Europeans. It’s in our DNA. As Americans start to see new opportunities, the big beneficiaries are going to be the Tier-2 cities such as Eindhoven, Lisbon and  Milan … cities with already strong tech ecosystems. Ecosystems that are about to get a lot stronger. In the future, it’s going to take a combination of a promising ecosystem and some other attractions including outdoor adventure, mountains and sea. Cities such as Valencia and Grenoble could see their fortunes change.

Europe needs American talent, that’s for sure. But this will be a mixed blessing. See why below.

Cost of education

This is where the transformation starts as American come to school, then stick around to work. Our daughter Lale attends Maastricht University and I’m struck on each trip to visit her how many American students go there. Even in Eindhoven, which has TU/e, there’s a surprising number of kids on the streets speaking English. This isn’t just a coincidence. The average cost of a 4-year college education in the United States ranges from at least $40,000 to more than $200,000 depending on whether it’s a selective public research institution such as the University of Michigan or a top-tier private university such as Harvard.

By comparison, as non-EU citizens, Americans pay about $40,000 in total tuition for a three-year undergraduate degree in the Netherlands. That’s a considerable difference.

The data is erratic and mostly anecdotal, but I would still assert the trend is there. Until the pandemic, the number of American students in Europe, especially in Germany, was rising steadily to more than 180,000 in 2019 from about 120,000 in 2008, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators data.

Again this is anecdotal, but we notice that more and more of those kids are sticking around.

Cost of healthcare

I think we’ve beat this dead horse into submission, but in the U.S., we paid $700 per month for health insurance that basically covered nothing other than extraordinary expenses. Here in the Netherlands, we pay half that with just about everything covered, including all hospital stays, all doctor’s visits, most prescriptions and basic dental care. Our family deductible in the U.S. was $9,000. Family deductible here is about $400 per person. And what we pay for out-of-pocket is fixed, not intentionally opaque and absurdly inflated as in the U.S.

Adventure

There’s no place that speaks to young, talented and adventurous Americans like Europe. Café lifestyle. The skiing. The sea. Plus many of us are connected to the continent by a common heritage and generational traditions and languages. A kid from San Francisco, for example, is going to adjust faster to Berlin or Barcelona, and with less friction, than to Tel Aviv, Dubai, Shenzhen, Seoul or Taipei.

The downside for Europe

While European companies and startup ecosystems will have access to more ambitious and entrepreneurial talent, it’s not going to be all rainbows and unicorns, so to speak. More and more, the non-stop, 24/7 American life will seep into Europe, and that includes workplaces.

Talk about disruptive!

Europeans value their vacations and time spent with family. Descended from the Puritans, we Americans are defined by our work. We value empire building and getting stupid rich, which is why the vast majority of the world’s 100 most valuable companies ranked by capitalization are either American or Chinese.

We don’t take vacations. We don’t work four-day weeks and we sure as hell don’t buy into the European concept of the greater good. (Well, I do, but I’m barely an American.) In the long run over decades, this will mean a challenge to Europe’s Old Order of ossified bureaucracies, endless holidays and low productivity.

And tax-dependent national governments punishing citizens for making too much money. Because in the American approach, too much is never enough.

The question will be, “Can we strike a balance between American laissez-faire business approaches and individualism and the European tendency to value consensus over competitiveness?” My money is on the Americans. Karl Marx, that most astute observer of capitalism, once observed how capitalism reshapes the world in its own image. That has never been truer than now that business is global.

About the author:

Terry Boyd is co-founder of Dispatches Media, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Boyd has been a military reporter, business reporter and an entrepreneur, selling Insider Louisville, a pure-play digital news platform, in 2013.

Boyd & Family are long-time expats and have lived in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

You can see more of his Dispatches posts here.

Check out Terry Boyd’s portfolio on Third World Photos here.

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