The long-existing transatlantic divide in attitudes toward the role of the state in society has grown over the past two decades. In nine of the 13 European countries surveyed, fewer people today than in 1991 think that people should be free to pursue their life’s goals without interference from the state. Only in Britain and Italy have the proportions expressing this view increased. However, Italians and the British are still more supportive of an active role for the state in society than are Americans. The least support for a laissez-faire government is in Lithuania (17%) and in Bulgaria (23%).
The ritual performance of the legend of democracy in the autumn of 2012 promises the conspicuous consumption of $ billion, enough money, thank God, to prove that our flag is still there. Forbidden the use of words apt to depress a Q Score or disturb a Gallup poll, the candidates stand as product placements meant to be seen instead of heard, their quality to be inferred from the cost of their manufacture. The sponsors of the event, generous to a fault but careful to remain anonymous, dress it up with the bursting in air of star-spangled photo ops, abundant assortments of multiflavored sound bites, and the candidates so well-contrived that they can be played for jokes, presented as game-show contestants, or posed as noble knights-at-arms setting forth on vision quests, enduring the trials by klieg light until on election night they come to judgment before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they were produced.