Actually, no, there were plenty of democracies in Europe without social services before WWII, one of the main reasons for the rise of undemocratic governments during the great depression. The UK invented the NHS, and it was a liberal idea (not liberal in the american sense, liberal in the european sense) that a labour government implemented with the consent of the conservative party. In Europe most of the universal health systems were created out of a consensus of (rational) right-wing and left-wing parties.
So no, there was no "Democracy+Universal Healthcare" package in most of Europe. Our politicians simply sat down at the table, worked out the issues and got the job done.
This is ridiculous. It was expensive because of other reasons, probably because you were in a touristic zone (Paris IS expensive), or in the summer, or some other reason. But for the large increase to be the result of taxation the VAT would have to be in the 300% neighborhood....the top VAT in France is 20%, it is higher than in the US, but not a lot more.
And the european states do not fund anything to keep anyone happy, these services exist because we (well, out grandparents and parents) wanted them and were willing to pay them with taxes....nothing was "given" to make the populations "happy", the people demanded something and their representatives delivered. In true democracies people get what they want if there's a consensus.
In any case, while Americans think of our governments as wasteful and inefficient, it is useful to remind people that most European countries have far less debt-to-gdp than the US federal government and many of its states WHILE providing universal healthcare, universal quality education and universal access to quality higher education.
Neither the European or American welfare systems provide anyone with the "finer" things in life. I don't see a lot of people on welfare shopping at Dior. They DO provide basic food and shelter, because not letting someone starve to death is kind of a humane and christian thing to do.
Or...you know, all people could have a common training center so that everyone could have a equal start and have a chance to succeed or fail in the marathon due to their merits, and you could have a first aid tent to help those who fall down so that they can continue to run....
You think you are defending a meritocracy, you really are defending a "law of the jungle"ocracy, a state of barbarism where the strong prey on the weak.
Americans used to belief in equal opportunity as much as europeans, even right-wing politicians used to at least be in favor of a strong education system to empower the citizen and to give everyone a equal chance to succeed or fail (AKA: Meritocracy)....i have no idea what happened to the US, especially to the republican party.
Basically a broken system. Its a shame really, the free world really needs a strong US to counter China and Russia....but with rising healthcare costs as a result of a broken political system, the US is on the fast track to financial insecurity and general weekness. Unless the US can work up its problems China will be the world's most powerful nation.....and a world led by the current Chinese regime is not a very good world to live in....