Twenty years after she left her post as Prime Minister, the spirit of Margaret Thatcher is reportedly back in Britain. According to The Telegraph, “Only a quarter of people believe more money should be spent on benefits compared with more than half in the mid-1980s, it was disclosed. A large-scale analysis of social attitudes over three decades also found fewer adults wanted the Government to redistribute income and many believed inequality was down to “individual laziness on the one hand and hard work on the other”. The disclosure … is being seen as evidence that public opinion is “far closer” to many of Lady Thatcher’s core beliefs than it was when she left office in 1990.” As you may have inferred, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Iron Lady. I don’t know what Britain will do about this, but that attitude is a step in the right direction.
This reminds me of a statistic cited in Jeremy Rifkin’s 2004 book, The European Dream, originally taken from the Pew Global Attitudes project.
“two-thirds of Americans believe that success is not outside their control. In Germany, 68% answered the exact opposite way…. By more than six to one, Americans believe failure is the result of the individual, not society… 71% of Americans believe people can escape from poverty. Only 40% of Europeans believe the same….Asked why people are wealthy, 64 percent of Americans say [it is] because of personal drive, willingness to take risks, and hard work and initiative.” And why do others fail? When asked that question, 64 percent of Americans cited a lack of thrift, 53 percent ascribed the failure (at least in part) to a lack of effort, and a like percentage said that failure was due to lack of ability. ….. but “in Europe, a majority in every country – with the exception of the U.K., Czech Republic, and Slovakia – ‘believe that forces outside of an individual’s personal control determine success.'”
Having lived in Germany, I find this poll to be quite apt.