A good judge of a person's character is how well they respond to difficult but good advice.
Europe, as a whole, and the UK in particular got that kind of advice almost 25 years ago. Then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned everyone who would listen about the dangerous economic perils that would come along with a unified Europe. It meant everything to her to save Britain from getting to entrenched in what would become the European Union.
The crux of Thatcher's argument was that Europe was way too diverse an economic playing field to expect disparate nations as different as the UK and say, Greece, to effectively manage successful economies together. And she knew that would lead to a centralized, indirectly-elected body like the European parliament basically confiscating money from British citizens. And she wasn't just talking about taxes, she was alluding to something close to an outright shakedown every time the less productive EU nations would need a handout.
For all her impassioned warnings and reasoned arguments, Thatcher was branded a fossil and an obstructionist even by members of her own Tory party and some of her cabinet. They rousted her out of 10 Downing Street and relegated her to the back benches at Whitehall.
All in the name of progress and a federated Europe.
Mrs. Thatcher passed away 18 months ago, but the current UK leadership could show enormous character by responding properly to her advice this time... even if it is 25 years late.
This has all come to a head now thanks to an outrageous but predictable row between the EU and the UK. Thanks to the UK's relatively strong economic health, (and that really is a relative term, Britain is still a mess), the EU is trying to hit it up for an additional $2.65 billion dollar payment to European governing body.
For those of you who don't see this for what it is, let me spell it out for you: W-E-L-F-A-R-E.
And welfare doesn't work. Europe's pathetic economic situation as a whole is as stark an example of that as there is.
So far, UK Prime Minister David Cameron is angrily refusing to make the payment and Friday he demanded an emergency meeting of European finance ministers.
That's not a bad start. But if Cameron really wants to do the right thing and show character, he needs to look inside his own country and listen now to the ever-more-popular leaders of the one party in Britain that has been promoting Thatcher's wise advice all along.
That would be the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, which is currently at record high popularity in Britain as voters there become more and more aware of the welfare Ponzi scheme the EU truly is.
So far, Cameron has not done the right thing as he has been bashing UKIP and ignoring its Thatcheresque warnings about the EU for years. He even tacitly sits by as the Leftist establishment persists in labeling the UKIP some kind of racist organization.
Even when those UKIP warnings come true as they did late last week, Cameron's positions and ruinous attitudes concerning UKIP do not change. At some point, someone other than just the UKIP supporters will make the connection that Cameron's outrage against the EU's financial demands are totally hollow. And that's because they come from the same man who's been bashing the people warning him of this all along.
But Cameron can perhaps be excused for suffering from the same disease all of Europe and so much of America is suffering from that I call "Welfare Delusional Syndrome," or WDS. That's the deadly illness that infects everyone who doesn't realize that welfare is not a virtuous form of charity, does not lift people out of poverty, and only succeeds in adding to its rolls.
The best and easiest cure for WDS is to read two Milton Friedman books and call me in the morning. A harsher cure is the tough medicine Cameron and the majority of Britons are being forced to take right now, and we still don't know if it will work.
Europe's "conservatives" are a far cry from conservatives here in the U.S. Most of them not only accept a massive welfare state as a fact of life, they allow elections inside the UK to be mostly about the administration of entitlement programs as opposed to offering any real alternatives to state-run systems. Cameron is one of those politicos who doesn't inspire, doesn't truly lead the way his people need him to. Thatcher was the last true European conservative of her time, but the UKIP champions of liberty and independence could be the beginning of an effective new generation of smaller government advocates.
So perhaps this $2.65 billion bill/welfare shakedown will turn out to be a good thing after all for Britain and the rest of Europe's healthier economies. Perhaps it's just the form of shock therapy they need. Perhaps Cameron will shake off the illogical and unworkable coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrat Party and seek out a natural and productive partnership with UKIP.
Or perhaps Europe, the UK, and what's left of Thatcher's constituency is already too far gone.