As the rest of the world, Europe was hit by the economic crisis. Budget deficits ballooned as tax revenue decreased, and governments tried to save their economies with stimulus packages. The budget deficit problem (governments spending more money than what they get in revenue) is specially acute in countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. In those nations, the budget deficit is over (or very close to) 10% of the size of their economies (measured by GDP).
A large budget deficit means that the government needs to borrow the extra money, raise taxes, cut spending, or a mixture of the three.
I made the following chart using Economist Intelligence Unit estimates for budget deficit in 2010 across 19 European nations. I then gathered information on the political ideology of the ruling political parties in those countries, dividing them into the categories of left, center, or right. Notice that these categories are not universal, but country-specific, so that a government in the "left" category is said to fall on the left of the political spectrum within its nation, and not within Europe as a whole. Therefore, for example, the British government is considered left wing, even if in other nations it would not be classified as such. If the government is a coalition of right and left wing parties, I decided it should fall on the center.
The graph shows the average budget deficit of all the countries in each of the three categories (with governments on the left, center, and the right of the political spectrum)
It seems that in Europe, even with the crisis, right-wing governments are still much more committed to fiscal responsibility than those on the center and certainly than those on the left. It seems that incumbent leftist parties in Europe will be under greater pressure to create new taxes and raise old ones, put on more debt, and cut expenditures aggressively. These measures, as the case of Greece shows, will be very unpopular. Perhaps Europeans will finally learn that out of control entitlements and public spending are usually a recipe for disaster.
The following is the data I used for the chart: