When it comes to spending, the United States is zigging as the rest of the western world is zagging.

In the wake of Greece’s financial collapse, many European leaders have acknowledged that there are serious consequences to a massive, unsustainable welfare state.  Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, for instance, has been focused on putting the government’s finances on solid ground. And earlier this month, Germany’s Cabinet approved a 2011 budget that cut spending by 3.8%, reduces borrowing and cut spending.  

That’s why it was downright bizarre when President Obama pushed his European cohorts to move ahead with even more spending during last month’s G-8 Summit outside of Toronto, where he was met with quizzical political resistance.

Now The New York Times reports that Britain’s new coalition government is planning to “make enormous cuts in the public sector,” including a “radical reorganization of the National Health Service:”

Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

In a document, or white paper, outlining the plan, the government admitted that the changes would “cause significant disruption and loss of jobs.” But it said: “The current architecture of the health system has developed piecemeal, involves duplication and is unwieldy. Liberating the N.H.S., and putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians, means we will be able to effect a radical simplification, and remove layers of management.”

It’s a strange day when the United States is no longer leading the way when it comes to free markets and freedom.  But it appears some in Europe are beginning to deal with the consequences of their decades-long  spending-spree. Not only is this a step in the right direction toward financial solvency for Britain, but also it expands individual freedom for the British people by breaking down the government-run system and returning more choice to patients and their physicians.

Hopefully someone on this side of the pond is listening.