Both the European and American ways are deeply rooted in old traditions — even in different branches of Christianity. These forces continue to shape attitudes across the Atlantic. Nowhere are these ideological differences more instructive than in the conception of property and social responsibility, argues Steven Hill, author of “Europe’s Promise.”
In Europe, the ownership of property and the exercise of individual and commercial property rights are not seen as absolutes, as they are in the United States. Rather, they are viewed as a privilege that confers reciprocal social obligations.
In the European conception, those who own and hold property — especially the wealthy and corporations that own lots of it — have a responsibility to contribute to the common good for the privilege of exercising those property rights.