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European Viewpoint
January 23, 2003 8:47 AM   Subscribe

From a European Perspective

"President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress." Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance. "

Is this something many Americans need to hear but don't want to listen? Personally I appreciated Mr. Eno's honest and candid observations. And no, I don't think he hates America.
posted by nofundy (98 comments total)

 
When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious. "They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the rest: among the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality, functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed world... Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.

That could very well be one of the most brilliant things I've ever read.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:50 AM on January 23, 2003


Someone once described western civ as a two-dimensional grid, on one axis, "optimism" and "pessimism"; on the other axis "realism" and "idealism." Western cultures are a combination of these. For example, he said, the US is, for the most part, optimistic and realistic. This is reflected in our founding documents. (The US also has, in New England, a Calvinistic streak of pessimistic idealism, but it is in the minority.)
For the most part this makes the US "happy-ending" oriented and enthusiastic about tomorrow; also terribly arrogant and intentionally dismissive of history. Also dismissive of the opinions of those who are *not* optimistic and realistic.

Europe, however, after 1500+ years of war, has had the optimism burned out of it. It's pessimism is tempered with realism, though. A blase attitude about tomorrow, "Things will go on like this for years, only slowly getting worse." An attitude that most Americans loathe, much like the majority of French film. (Embraced, however, by America's pessimistic idealists, who are of the opinion "America last.")

(As an aside, the Russians are, strangely enough, a bizarre combination of optimistic idealist, which one would not guess, looking at the surface. But this bodes well for eventual friendship and warm cultural relations with the US.)
posted by kablam at 9:04 AM on January 23, 2003


..."the single surviving model of human progress."

Hmph. America is not exactly the model of human compassion and enlightenment, is it? Then again, neither is humanity.
posted by Shane at 9:06 AM on January 23, 2003


President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress." Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance. "

When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious

There is no such thing as a consensus "American" opinion. Taking the statements of some people and generalizing them to encompass the support of all Americans is blatent stereotyping.
posted by jsonic at 9:08 AM on January 23, 2003


LO! the mighty Eno doth speak sagacious words:

"But isn't civilization what happens when people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures? America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends."

....to fall on mute and deaf ears? Thanks, Nofundy
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 AM on January 23, 2003


Don't see eye to eye with him on most of this, but he nails our biggest problem right here:

This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism.

In my opinion, the US currently lacks an effective and vocal opposition party, which is deadly for democracy.

Also, I've now got "Driving me Backward" stuck in my head.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2003


President Bush, please stop speaking on behalf of the entire country. Better yet, just please stop speaking.
You will go down in history as the Alienation President.

I've never left the US but I know that there is a vastly different opinion of the US once you leave the US. Why does Bush not know this?
posted by archimago at 9:19 AM on January 23, 2003


There is no such thing as a consensus "American" opinion.

There is in the meat of the sandwich.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:20 AM on January 23, 2003


So, come on, who's going to take the "Those friggin' pinko pacifist Europeans don't know what the hell they're talking about" position?
posted by moonbiter at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2003


Oh wait, here it is.
posted by moonbiter at 9:25 AM on January 23, 2003


"This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism."

Truer words never written. (on review: what PinkStainlessTail said)

jsonic: You are correct. There is no consensus "American" opinion. As there is no consensus European opinion. However, as long as those who do not agree with the current administration are silent there is only one "opinion" that affects the world community.
posted by ?! at 9:27 AM on January 23, 2003


Why does Bush not know this?

too...many...jokes...

thanks for the link, nofundy. let me be the first to promote Eno in '04.
posted by serafinapekkala at 9:35 AM on January 23, 2003


>>Europeans tend to regard free national health services, unemployment benefits, social housing and so on as pretty good models of human progress. <<

The people who benefit from those services don't seem so enamoured with the West, though. I seem to remember quite a few recent arrests of suspected terrorists who hatched their plots in government-funded housing while buying groceries with government stipends.

It's very easy to point out all the things that are "wrong" with America. Americans themselves do it all the time. But I'm not convinced that a continent staggering under some of the highest tax burdens in the world, with endemic unemployment rates more than double America's current recession highs, is necessarily in a position to offer solutions. Best get your own houses in order first.
posted by kewms at 9:37 AM on January 23, 2003


The Time cover story is fairly enlightening, too.

A former cabinet minister in the British Conservative Party, which is officially even more pro-American than Bush's First Friend Tony Blair, recently leaned over at lunch and described Bush as "terrifying," "ignorant," "a prisoner of the religious right who believes God tells him what to do," and "like a child running around with a grenade with the pin pulled out."

Kewms - Keep in mind that U.S. unemployment rates are artificially deflated (by almost 2%, I think) by our large prison population, which isn't counted.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2003


"the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism."

Not me! I invect, vituperate, rant and rage! I froth and fulminate! i crassly upstage?
posted by troutfishing at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2003


While I agree that a healthy opposition party in necessary to a democracy, the statement that "The Left is virtually ignored by the media" is one of the most ignorant things I have heard lately. Unless you are talking about the Far Left (and I mean Far) the Left gets plenty media attention.

For some reason when a political party's ideas are not resonating well with the public, the first tactic is to blame the media for not covering their ideas, instead of considering that people are not receptive of their ideas. Both parties play this game, and both get plenty media coverage....

Tlogmer: Prisoners are not unemployed, thats why they are not counted...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:48 AM on January 23, 2003


The people who benefit from those services don't seem so enamoured with the West, though.

A truly impressive non-sequitur. Everyone benefits from those services; you don't actually have to be a terrorist to qualify.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:50 AM on January 23, 2003


Is this something many Americans need to hear but don't want to listen?

To reiterate two years of fear and uncertainty, President Bush does not speak for the majority of Americans, however much we would like him to.
posted by four panels at 9:56 AM on January 23, 2003


now it is everyone's mission to pick up a copy of Here Comes The Warm Jets. do it!
posted by mcsweetie at 9:57 AM on January 23, 2003


kewms: You've neatly demonstrated the attitude that seems to have inspired Eno to write his piece in the first place. Congrats. ;-)

Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?

Good point.
posted by i_cola at 9:58 AM on January 23, 2003


Either Bush is having a bad month, or the longest post-electoral honeymoon is (finally) going limp?
posted by BentPenguin at 9:59 AM on January 23, 2003


It's very easy to point out all the things that are "wrong" with America. Americans themselves do it all the time.

Meaning Europeans don't criticize their own countries? Your surely joke.

Or meaning that since the U.S. extends its influence far away, it also gets cursed at from far away? I can't stand people who *moan and bitch* about the hassle that accompanies their success, let alone entire countries.

But I'm not convinced that a continent staggering under some of the highest tax burdens in the world, with endemic unemployment rates more than double America's current recession highs

And after all that, one Euro is still worth more than one Dollar. Go figure!

Seriously, I pay a lot of taxes (among other things because I also take home a nice amount of cash). I'd rather pay those taxes and get free universal healthcare than not pay taxes at all. For exactly the same reasons that Eno proposes: you cannot create economic paradises over social hells (Eno's words: too many resented loosers will spoil any society).
posted by magullo at 10:09 AM on January 23, 2003


The first thing I noticed when I read this post is that there's a flat-out lie in the speaker (and poster's) main point.

In a speech to West Point, Bush discusses the so-called Bush Doctrine:
"The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress, based on the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance.

When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes."

This says nothing about America - in fact, it's more of a Fukuyama Doctrine than anything. Basically, it's saying that with the Cold War over, history is moving inevitably towards greater freedoms for people - there is no "Clash of Civilizations." However, that quote has been propogated by the far left, especially in Europe, far out of context, and I'm amazed that it's made it into Time Magazine.

A National Security paper reiterates a similar message:
"In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them."

Further, Eno has a very limited understanding of US history. America hasn't been "eclipsed" by a Gated Community mindset - the US history represents a nation that, until the Cold War, was more often isolationist than not. We didn't join the League of Nations. America doesn't see not signing international treaties as not supporting "the rule of law", but doesn't support many of them (sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly, in my opinion) because the government feels the treaty is only wasting everyone's time. Kyoto's reductions will make only minor decreases in global warning. Treaties did not stop Milosevic or Hussein or Pot or many others from killing untold amounts of people.

The reason America doesn't have free health care is related to why we produce the majority of health breakthroughs. There's a finanical incentive to save lives here - sure, it costs more, but without the US health care system, it wouldn't even be possible for Europe to offer the level of health care they offer right now.

I understand that Eno is only a musician, but if you're writing for one of the nation's biggest magazines, you should be expected to, at the very least, get your quotes right. Time is not Z Magazine - you're supposed to be able to trust what you read in Time.
posted by Kevs at 10:29 AM on January 23, 2003


I'd rather pay those taxes and get free universal healthcare than not pay taxes at all.
I'd rather not pay those taxes and pay for my own health care. There is room for both ways. I hope my choice is not taken away from me.

I am very glad that Europe likes the way they do things, but it would make me insane to live under that system. I would never assume to decide my way is superior, but if I were there I would consider it tyranny. Bush was a twit for needlessly poking the rest of the world in the eye, but merely opposing his stupid catchphrase does not make anyone superior, just different.

Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.

Because we are not willing to give up particular freedoms to get those benefits.
posted by thirteen at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2003


And after all that, one Euro is still worth more than one Dollar. Go figure!

Um, currency comparison's a pretty bad way to measure the economy. The yen's about (I think) 200 to the dollar, but that doesn't mean their economy is 200 times worse than the US. Actually, bad as it is, the US economy's doing a whole lot better than Europe's. This does not, of course, make us superior to Europe, but it's just one of our national strengths, along with the ability to squash small unpleasant countries in a single bound.
posted by unreason at 10:38 AM on January 23, 2003


If you read the speech, Bush did not say "the U.S. was the single surviving model of human progress." He said:

"the 20th Century ended with a single surviving model of human progress, based on nonnegotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance."

It sure seems to me me that that statement could apply generally to western style democracy as easily as it could specifically to the U.S. But I won't go any further into that hair-splitting argument

The U.S. economic and political model may have its warts, but the simple fact is that this model has been the world's economic engine and, for better or worse (I'd argue mostly better), served as the cavalry coming to the rescue for much of the rest of the free world for the last 60 years. I don't say this with a sense of being owed anything like some Americans still do, but just as the way things are.

The "don't worry, be happy" school of foreign policy sounds great, but the unfortunate reality is that there will always be people in the world that aim to do you harm...with whom you can never be friends. The best kind of walls to build in that world are those constructed of shared interest and strong defense. I believe that this is what the president was trying to say in the West Point speech. We can argue until we are blue in the face about whether or not this administration's policies will get us where we want to be...but my guess is the president is going to stick to his plan until he is proved wrong.

As a last thought...I'm pretty sure you won't find any Americans who don't want less crime, less poverty, less illiteracy, etc...but those same Americans get to evaluate the tradeoffs that drive those issues every time they vote. If Americans really believed that European quality of life was better...if they really wanted what Europeans have, they'd vote for it. So far, it seems like we are happy with what we have.
posted by cyclopz at 10:43 AM on January 23, 2003


However, as long as those who do not agree with the current administration are silent there is only one "opinion" that affects the world community.

I agree. Voice your dissent. Just be careful to criticize your target and not a whole group of people who happen to share an unrelated characteristic with it such as nationality or race.
posted by jsonic at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2003


...Eno is only a musician...

Eh, not so sure I'd say that.
posted by Shane at 10:47 AM on January 23, 2003


Europe, many countries vs USA, one country.

Old vs Young, USA is the the youngest of the countries here?

Who would be wiser? The oldest.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:52 AM on January 23, 2003


Who would be wiser? The oldest.

I suppose if if a country was a living or sentient thing that would make sense. Of course it would mean that Europe was closer to dying of old age, so that would be kind of a bittersweet thing.
posted by thirteen at 10:56 AM on January 23, 2003


There is no such thing as a consensus "American" opinion. Taking the statements of some people and generalizing them to encompass the support of all Americans is blatent stereotyping

This is perhaps the most intelligent thing that has ever been said on MIFI ever. America is democratic society (no really) with many voices and many points of view. Way can't the rest of the world understand that? Why do European critics of the US emulate the hate and ignorance they decry? Perhaps they, like Americans and all peoples at any time in all of history, are not perfect. I am an American who supports or rejects conduct of my government based on the facts rather than who takes the actions. Is that so hard? Perhaps this is my beef with most European critics, if they paused and did some investigation they would find out that the gulf between Americans and Europeans was small or did not exist. Then again, if they did, their people might be educated and such critics would not be reelected or reappointed to the positions of power they hold so dear. Sounds kind of like what American politicians or American critics of the rest of the world do? I guess I go back to whole we are a like than different thing, but that does not sell newspapers.

Old vs Young, USA is the the youngest of the countries here?

The US is the second oldest state in the world, while being one of the youngest civilizations. Our current founding document (The US Constitution) dates back to 1792, while the most current incarnations of most European countries date only to post WWII.

*Basking in the irony*
posted by Bag Man at 11:12 AM on January 23, 2003


What's wrong with a little argument between Europe and the USA? Sounds pretty normal to me, it might even be healthy. If the politicians, newspaper columnists, etc. on both sides of the Atlantic started to agree completely, now that would make me slightly uneasy...
posted by Termite at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2003


The U.S. economic and political model may have its warts, but the simple fact is that this model has been the world's economic engine and, for better or worse (I'd argue mostly better), served as the cavalry coming to the rescue for much of the rest of the free world for the last 60 years. I don't say this with a sense of being owed anything like some Americans still do, but just as the way things are.
but most rational critics of America's economic and foreign policy aren't asking for the current model to be completely dismantled, just improved. The current model has already been tweaked and modified from its origins.

America's model of capitalism is far from the laissez-faire ideal of Adam Smith, because we realized in the early 20th century that some regulation was needed to prevent the sort of inequality and injustice that wrought havoc in the Industrial Revolution. Likewise, America's electoral college and bicameral legislation are not pure forms of democracy. The model of which you speak is a constantly evolving entity, and part of that evolution (indeed, part of the 'genius' of American culture) is that it tries to adapt from the best lessons imparted by the world around it.

When people argue about globalization and criticize free trade, they aren't saying, "oh, Capitalism must be discarded. Trade must be discarded." (at least the rational one aren't) They're pointing out flaws in the system, unfair regulations and saying "Capitalism is good, trade is good, but the way it is being implemented in these countries is doing harm, and more fair regulations would be more helpful."

Likewise, when people criticise America's interventionist foreign policy, they aren't saying that America should just revert to complete isolation, just that when it does intervene, it may, again, be doing more harm than good.

When people speak of the advantages of European life, they continue that tradition of borrowing from the cultures that surround it and using that to refine and adapt the lives they live.
but those same Americans get to evaluate the tradeoffs that drive those issues every time they vote. If Americans really believed that European quality of life was better...if they really wanted what Europeans have, they'd vote for it. So far, it seems like we are happy with what we have.
Peasants living in rural farmhouses without running water or electricity would generally be happy with what they have, but that might just be because they aren't aware of how their lives could be better.
posted by bl1nk at 11:15 AM on January 23, 2003


Peasants living in rural farmhouses without running water or electricity would generally be happy with what they have, but that might just be because they aren't aware of how their lives could be better.

Um, yes, but peasants don't know about running water, etc. Our citizens know about the advantages of a European system, they just choose a different way. That's not ignorance, it's free will. They choose for this country to be as it is, just as you choose for your country to be run the way you want it. Europe chose a more socialized model, whereas we chose an individualistic capatalist model. Just because we didn't do things the same as you doesn't mean we're somehow ignorant or wrong.
posted by unreason at 11:22 AM on January 23, 2003


Wow, I just want to agree that in a puff piece full of rehashed and exceedingly common opinions completely blowing your one actual "fact" makes you look like a fucking idiot. The Bush statement is clearly meant to apply to Western democracy, capitalism, etc.

This article says nothing new. Nothing, in particular that we haven't heard on metafilter recently. Anyway, my politics include a lot of what Eno supports. However, I'm tired of people talking in generalities about Bush, Europe, ignorance, and nationalism. America will change it's social welfare system a single step at a time according to our national politics and debates. Lumping it all together with international law, Iraq, the two-party system etc, etc serves no purpose. We are not Europe. We're quite closely related, but our politics and debate are not shaped by our differences with Europe.
posted by Wood at 11:25 AM on January 23, 2003


dates back to 1792

Sorry signed in 1787, but it took until them to ratify.

When people speak of the advantages of European life, they continue that tradition of borrowing from the cultures that surround it and using that to refine and adapt the lives they live.

Has not America done this? The US was build from the foundations of other culture and remains on the most heterogeneous societies in the world. While this has created may advancements it has also created challenges that most other countries don’t face or don’t face to same degree. While European countries remain largely homogeneous (I know this changing and there are some exceptions, but nowhere near the diversity of the US)
posted by Bag Man at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2003


" I am an American who supports or rejects conduct of my government based on the facts rather than who takes the actions. Is that so hard?"

Yes, that is hard, if not impossible: where do you get facts from? Certainly not the government itself. Certainly not from the mass media. Maybe from the Internet -- but, then, so much on the Internet is unverifiable and untrustworthy.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2003


you're supposed to be able to trust what you read in Time.

*snort!* This is just about the only thing that I've read in Time that I can trust.

Eno may have overstated Bush's equivalence of America with the "model of human progress" in that one sentence, but 1) the phrase does accurately summarize Bush's (and many Americans') dangerous, myopic chauvinism, and 2) that one quote is not the basis of the article, the Bush administration's actions are.

And to second Shane's colorful "not only a musician" post, considering the amount of very thorough and logical thinking and writing Eno is responsible for, and the influence his ideas have had on Western music (if not Western culture in general), I don't think it's exaggerating to call him a visionary. And though that doesn't make him right, it certainly makes him worth paying attention to.
posted by soyjoy at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2003


unreason: They know about the advantages? According to what research? According to whom? I see very little wrong with Eno's editorial, and I hardly consider myself to be a lefty. A moderate-to-liberal sort, but not a lefty. Maybe it's an informational thing, though. Anyone who looks at quality-of-life-related stats (socioeconomic indicators and whatnot) of the U.S. often enough and compared them to those of Western Europe would have to come to much the same conclusion. We're not half as advanced as our leadership constantly lets on.
posted by raysmj at 11:33 AM on January 23, 2003


Is it true that the US president has responsibility for foreign affairs, rather than the elected assemblies? Is this part of the problem in the way the country is perceived by others?
posted by kerplunk at 11:35 AM on January 23, 2003


As much as I dislike GWB and his amazingly stupid policies, nothing makes me think he might be on the right track more than disagreement from Europe. On the day Germany and France hail Bush as a "great leader" is the day when the rebellion has to begin.
posted by owillis at 11:36 AM on January 23, 2003


I think it's time to recall a great MeFi comment: "People, we're trying to have a civilization here."

Has the US behaved, globally and within its own borders, in a civilized manner the past few decades?

Certainly it has behaved very absymally on a number of occasions. Between poisoning its own citizens in a series of military experiments, to using radioactive ammo in its last war, to thwarting democratically-elected foreign governments...

...well, it's a pretty ugly record. Dunno if the bad outweighs the good -- and I'm not sure that's important.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 AM on January 23, 2003


Is it true that the US president has responsibility for foreign affairs, rather than the elected assemblies? Is this part of the problem in the way the country is perceived by others?
Kerplunk, the elected assemblies (House,Senate) have little to no sway over foreign policy besides allocation of funds. It comes from 1600 Penn down, for better or worse - which is why our policies have to be so confusing to the rest of the world from time to time. 8 years one way, 4 years the other way...
posted by owillis at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2003


The reason America doesn't have free health care is related to why we produce the majority of health breakthroughs.

No. It's related to the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of the social and labor movments in the first half of the 20th century. To state it in the broadest strokes, universal health care was a reform that was demanded and won throughout Europe in those decades, and it was a reform that was on the table and lost in the U.S. during the New Deal (in part because FDR rejected the idea), hence our current system of health insurance largely linked through employer rather than government. sorry no links to more information; the server here is having fits this morning...

There's a finanical incentive to save lives here - sure, it costs more, but without the US health care system, it wouldn't even be possible for Europe to offer the level of health care they offer right now.

So you think a) all the breakthroughs happen in the U.S., and b) doctors and researchers in Europe don't save more lives because they don't have higher financial incentives? Gee, that's funny: the particular type of radiation therapy that saved my life about five years ago was developed in Europe in the 1940s, and (as far as cancer treatments go) is dirt cheap. (Leaving aside the assumption that the rate of doctors' pay is somehow directly related to the effort they expend in saving lives.)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of of medical research, breakthroughs in medical technology, etc. that happen outside the U.S. (the work on HIV in France in the '80s, for one of many, many, many examples)? And what about infant mortality rates, life expectancies, and rates of certain diseases in Europe that are as good or (not infrequently) better than U.S. rates? (I understand that those statistics are related to more factors than just medical care alone, but access to and quality of medical care does certainly play a significant role.) Sorry that it contradicts your free market model, but the U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on high quality medical care and research -- not today, and not historically.
posted by scody at 11:39 AM on January 23, 2003


They want what we've got

More accurately: "They're resentful because they can't do much about American influence and actions, and this is made all the more acutely uncomfortable given the perceived superiority of European culture over American."
posted by shoos at 11:41 AM on January 23, 2003


"...we produce the majority of health breakthroughs."

Proof, please.

Myself, I'm fairly certain that Canada has a far higher rate of per-capita health advances than the USA.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2003


Anyone who looks at quality-of-life-related stats (socioeconomic indicators and whatnot) of the U.S. often enough and compared them to those of Western Europe would have to come to much the same conclusion.

No they don't. Just because people have a different opinion, that does not mean that they don't know as much as you. I, for example, have seen these statistics numerous times. I'll be the first to admit that the European system has it's advantages, ie universal healthcare, low crime & pollution, etc. But our system has advantages too. A more robust economy. A military that doesn't require it's allies to defend itself. A population that is far more diverse than Europe is (Although this is changing). A system that gives out far more foreign aid and assistance than any other country in the world. A medical system that invents most of the new drugs and treatments. Is the US perfect? Certainly not. But I and many others have studied both systems, and chosen the US way. That's not ignorance, that's choice.
posted by unreason at 11:46 AM on January 23, 2003


scody: Canada, Japan and many other democracies started universal health care plans after World War II. Britain's own National Health Service was created after the war too, which means it was created after the New Deal era.

Universal health care was also lost under Truman, Nixon and Clinton (but, curiously, not under LBJ, under whose watch Medicare and Medicaid passed).
posted by raysmj at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2003


The article is less than a thousand words. We don't have to think about Eno's reputation to evaluate it. It's the same vague complaints that we get every day on mefi. I'm a big Eno fan. I don't really feel like his rep has any effect on my opinion of the article or vice versa.
posted by Wood at 11:51 AM on January 23, 2003


Unreason, that's the second time you've spoken of the American economy.

You do realize it's in sad, sad shape in comparison to Canada's economy, right?

And again a comment on the USA leading healthcare research. I'd dearly love to see something backing this up, as I'm certain that Canada is a hotbed of biotech.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:53 AM on January 23, 2003


unreason: Depends on what you think the role of government is, I suppose. According to Madison the end of government is justice - nothing more, nothing less. Is justice creating better drugs while millions of your citizens cannot afford them or are not provided with a decent opportunity to receive health insurance? Is a diverse population a reasonable excuse for higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, rising income disparities, etc.? No. Does the U.S. give out more foreign aid as a percentage of GDP? Absolutely not.
posted by raysmj at 11:56 AM on January 23, 2003


Who would be wiser? The oldest.

The US Government is older.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:57 AM on January 23, 2003


The reason America doesn't have free health care is related to why we produce the majority of health breakthroughs. There's a finanical incentive to save lives here - sure, it costs more, but without the US health care system, it wouldn't even be possible for Europe to offer the level of health care they offer right now.
The technological advances of the pharmaceutical and medical industries have nothing to do with national health insurance and everything to do with America's intellectual property laws. European patent laws have always been against the patenting of life-saving drugs and medical technology because they hold that it is unethical to allow a company to have a monopoly on a cure for cancer or the common cold. This has resulted in a brain drain of scientists to the States, lured by the money of Big Pharma, who are able to charge high prices for their life-saving cures due to American patents. Paying for these expensive drugs are, ironically, one of the difficulties in implementing a national health plan in the US.

Certainly, one can argue that pharmaceuticals need to charge some price to cover the research and development costs, but it's not like these companies are being run as non-profit corporations. One wonders how much money these companies would need if they didn't have these inflated marketing budgets that insist on flooding your tv channels with half-hourly ads for drugs that you might not need.
posted by bl1nk at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2003


Does the U.S. give out more foreign aid as a percentage of GDP? Absolutely not.

Um, $100 feeds a man better than $1, regardless of the wealth of the donor. Besides, that article doesn't take into account the many forms of indirect aid given through international organizations funded through the US.

As for justice, nothing guarantees that the government has to provide you with cheap drugs. When Madison talked of justice, social programs of the kind you're talking about were not really considered the job of government. Note, however, that I'm not saying there aren't problems with American health care. I'm just saying I'd prefer that when we try to fix it, we don't use the same methods as Europe, with the accompanying crowded waiting rooms and dissatisfied doctors. (Read the European newspapers for some stories about this) Europe's system has it's good points, but i'd prefer we come up with a system different from Europe's.
posted by unreason at 12:16 PM on January 23, 2003


unreason: What methods are we using then? What different type of system to you imagine? Why should we ever worry about health care, if the Founding Fathers didn't see it as a need? Do you have a point here, or are you just being defensive? There's no need to be. It's not as if someone is attacking you personally. A sign of being a mature nation, like being a mature person, is being able to take well-reasoned and non-hostile criticism without pulling out your claws - although, granted, it's never easy.

I think the criticism is easier to take from Eno regardless or his reasoning, because he makes it clear he loves America, and much of what it has represented over time - just in case that wasn't clear from his music and whatnot. So why not address his criticisms with arguments that aren't nit-picky or an attempt at changing the subject? "We give a lot more in foreign aid because we have more, despite the small percentage" is not a worthy or serious counter-argument.
posted by raysmj at 12:39 PM on January 23, 2003


Old vs Young, USA is the the youngest of the countries here?

The US is the second oldest state in the world, while being one of the youngest civilizations. Our current founding document (The US Constitution) dates back to 1792, while the most current incarnations of most European countries date only to post WWII.

*Basking in the irony*


Thanks Bag Man, as I was referring to the civilization aspect of the two, USA & Europe. A much better explanation with the word civilization than country.

And I did take the article more as writing on the wall than back lash towards Americans rather America itself. As the article made me wonder, if it was perfect as apple pie, USA.

How many Europeans would start to migrate across the pond?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:54 PM on January 23, 2003


Um, I'm not being defensive, I'm raising what I see as valid points. As to your dismissing my arguments without addressing them, I'd suggest you read yesterday's excellent mefi article on fallacious conversational arguments. Perhaps my points weren't made clear, so I'll state them a little better:

1. I want good health care for America, but justice isn't a factor. Health care is good, but it's not a matter of justice, and my point was that the Madison quote is a bit out of context from what he probably intended. That's ok, the founding fathers aren't all knowing or always correct (ie their ideas about slavery, women, no presence of industry, etc) but it makes the Madison argument somewhat irrelevant.

2. I don't like our current system much at all, but I like the European system even less. Therefore i'd like our reform to take a different course. I'll readily admit to not being a healthcare expert, but I'd prefer a system where the government augments health plans for the poor when necessary, as opposed to a completely socialized medical system. I'm not wedded to this idea, i'd just prefer something better that what Europe's got.

3. As you choose not to engage my argument on foreign aid, I'll not go into that here. Suffice to say that the numbers are simply not accurate given the amount of indirect aid we've given to international institutions over the years.

I genuinely haven't got anything against Eno. I find most of his arguments fallacious, IMHO, but I respect his opinion, and I don't regard bringing up points of interest as "nit-picking".
posted by unreason at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2003


unreason: Germany doesn't have a socialist-type system of health care. It foundations were in fact laid by Bismarck in order to stave off socialism. You have little to no idea as to what you're talking about. What is the "European system" anyway? What does the German system have in common with Britain's NHS, etc.?
posted by raysmj at 1:17 PM on January 23, 2003


Perhaps this is my beef with most American critics, if they paused and did some investigation they would find out that the gulf between Americans and Europeans was small or did not exist.
posted by moonbiter at 1:26 PM on January 23, 2003


Eno did get the quote wrong, so thank you for the people who pointed that out. However it's true that Bush is heavy-handed in his speaking manner and could have potentially gotten all of Europe on board the Iraq-war-train had he used the right methods and techniques. The differences between the US and Europe are more creations of Euros and Americans who prefer to define one against the other. In the macro sense, and this is a point Bush was actually making, if clumsily from the Euro perspective, is that we have pretty much all of the same ideals.
posted by cell divide at 1:27 PM on January 23, 2003


You have little to no idea as to what you're talking about.

Ouch, that's unpleasant.

Germany doesn't have a socialist-type system of health care. It foundations were in fact laid by Bismarck in order to stave off socialism.

My apologies, when I was talking about socialism, what I was really thinking of was the heavy amount of centralized government control, which Germany still has. A nice system, though, and I'll admit that I learned a lot about it from your article.

What is the "European system" anyway?

A system that relies on heavy amounts of centralized government control and regulation. I'm not saying that such a system can't have it's benefits, I'm just saying there are other options between that and our US "throw 'em out on the street if they can't pay" method.

In the future, please attempt to refrain from making personal attacks on the maturity and competency of your fellow mefi'ers, it makes things more pleasant.
posted by unreason at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2003


moonbiter and cell divide: Where in the article does Enoe suggest that all Americans think the same, or that there is a consensus opinion? He said only that "perhaps some Americans" agree with the president, but nowhere did he say all Americans do. He does suggest that those who disagree aren't speaking out enough, or aren't organized enough.

unreason: Would you please read the posted article on the German system in full? It's a decentralized system in which government is not the major player. Look at page four. (And what personal attacks?)
posted by raysmj at 2:06 PM on January 23, 2003


"How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?" - Eno

"I'm not convinced that a continent staggering under some of the highest tax burdens in the world, with endemic unemployment rates more than double America's current recession highs, is necessarily in a position to offer solutions." - Kewms

"I'd rather pay those taxes and get free universal healthcare than not pay taxes at all. For exactly the same reasons that Eno proposes: you cannot create economic paradises over social hells (Eno's words: too many resented loosers will spoil any society)." - Magullo

"Eno has a very limited understanding of US history. America hasn't been "eclipsed" by a Gated Community mindset - the US history represents a nation that, until the Cold War, was more often isolationist than not. We didn't join the League of Nations. America doesn't see not signing international treaties as not supporting "the rule of law", but doesn't support many of them (sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly, in my opinion) because the government feels the treaty is only wasting everyone's time." -Kevs

"Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got. - Because we are not willing to give up particular freedoms to get those benefits." - Thirteen

"Actually, bad as it is, the US economy's doing a whole lot better than Europe's. This does not, of course, make us superior to Europe, but it's just one of our national strengths, along with the ability to squash small unpleasant countries in a single bound." - Unreason

"The U.S. economic and political model may have its warts, but the simple fact is that this model has been the world's economic engine and, for better or worse (I'd argue mostly better), served as the cavalry coming to the rescue for much of the rest of the free world for the last 60 years. I don't say this with a sense of being owed anything like some Americans still do, but just as the way things are." -Cyclopz

"Perhaps this is my beef with most European critics, if they paused and did some investigation they would find out that the gulf between Americans and Europeans was small or did not exist. Then again, if they did, their people might be educated and such critics would not be reelected or reappointed to the positions of power they hold so dear." -BagMan

"Eno may have overstated Bush's equivalence of America with the "model of human progress" in that one sentence, but 1) the phrase does accurately summarize Bush's (and many Americans') dangerous, myopic chauvinism, and 2) that one quote is not the basis of the article, the Bush administration's actions are." -SoyJoy

"Anyone who looks at quality-of-life-related stats (socioeconomic indicators and whatnot) of the U.S. often enough and compared them to those of Western Europe would have to come to much the same conclusion. We're not half as advanced as our leadership constantly lets on." -Raysmj

"As much as I dislike GWB and his amazingly stupid policies, nothing makes me think he might be on the right track more than disagreement from Europe." -Owillis

"The reason America doesn't have free health care is related to why we produce the majority of health breakthroughs.

No. It's related to the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of the social and labor movments in the first half of the 20th century. To state it in the broadest strokes, universal health care was a reform that was demanded and won throughout Europe in those decades, and it was a reform that was on the table and lost in the U.S. during the New Deal" -scody

"I'll be the first to admit that the European system has it's advantages, ie universal healthcare, low crime & pollution, etc. But our system has advantages too. A more robust economy. A military that doesn't require it's allies to defend itself. A population that is far more diverse than Europe is (Although this is changing)." -unreason

"Unreason, that's the second time you've spoken of the American economy....You do realize it's in sad, sad shape in comparison to Canada's economy, right?" -Five Fresh Fish

"According to Madison the end of government is justice - nothing more, nothing less. Is justice creating better drugs while millions of your citizens cannot afford them or are not provided with a decent opportunity to receive health insurance? Is a diverse population a reasonable excuse for higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, rising income disparities, etc.? No. Does the U.S. give out more foreign aid as a percentage of GDP? Absolutely not." -raysmj

"Bush is heavy-handed in his speaking manner and could have potentially gotten all of Europe on board the Iraq-war-train had he used the right methods and techniques. The differences between the US and Europe are more creations of Euros and Americans who prefer to define one against the other. In the macro sense, and this is a point Bush was actually making, if clumsily from the Euro perspective, is that we have pretty much all of the same ideals." -cell divide

I just couldn't resist a brief "best hits of the post" recap. my apologies to those omitted. It seems to me that no one really adressed Eno's trenchant three questions.
posted by troutfishing at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2003


"How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?" - Eno

"I'm not convinced that a continent staggering under some of the highest tax burdens in the world, with endemic unemployment rates more than double America's current recession highs, is necessarily in a position to offer solutions." - Kewms

"I'd rather pay those taxes and get free universal healthcare than not pay taxes at all. For exactly the same reasons that Eno proposes: you cannot create economic paradises over social hells (Eno's words: too many resented loosers will spoil any society)." - Magullo

"Eno has a very limited understanding of US history. America hasn't been "eclipsed" by a Gated Community mindset - the US history represents a nation that, until the Cold War, was more often isolationist than not. We didn't join the League of Nations. America doesn't see not signing international treaties as not supporting "the rule of law", but doesn't support many of them (sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly, in my opinion) because the government feels the treaty is only wasting everyone's time." -Kevs

"Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got. - Because we are not willing to give up particular freedoms to get those benefits." - Thirteen

"Actually, bad as it is, the US economy's doing a whole lot better than Europe's. This does not, of course, make us superior to Europe, but it's just one of our national strengths, along with the ability to squash small unpleasant countries in a single bound." - Unreason

"The U.S. economic and political model may have its warts, but the simple fact is that this model has been the world's economic engine and, for better or worse (I'd argue mostly better), served as the cavalry coming to the rescue for much of the rest of the free world for the last 60 years. I don't say this with a sense of being owed anything like some Americans still do, but just as the way things are." -Cyclopz

"Perhaps this is my beef with most European critics, if they paused and did some investigation they would find out that the gulf between Americans and Europeans was small or did not exist. Then again, if they did, their people might be educated and such critics would not be reelected or reappointed to the positions of power they hold so dear." -BagMan

"Eno may have overstated Bush's equivalence of America with the "model of human progress" in that one sentence, but 1) the phrase does accurately summarize Bush's (and many Americans') dangerous, myopic chauvinism, and 2) that one quote is not the basis of the article, the Bush administration's actions are." -SoyJoy

"Anyone who looks at quality-of-life-related stats (socioeconomic indicators and whatnot) of the U.S. often enough and compared them to those of Western Europe would have to come to much the same conclusion. We're not half as advanced as our leadership constantly lets on." -Raysmj

"As much as I dislike GWB and his amazingly stupid policies, nothing makes me think he might be on the right track more than disagreement from Europe." -Owillis

"The reason America doesn't have free health care is related to why we produce the majority of health breakthroughs.

No. It's related to the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of the social and labor movments in the first half of the 20th century. To state it in the broadest strokes, universal health care was a reform that was demanded and won throughout Europe in those decades, and it was a reform that was on the table and lost in the U.S. during the New Deal" -scody

"I'll be the first to admit that the European system has it's advantages, ie universal healthcare, low crime & pollution, etc. But our system has advantages too. A more robust economy. A military that doesn't require it's allies to defend itself. A population that is far more diverse than Europe is (Although this is changing)." -unreason

"Unreason, that's the second time you've spoken of the American economy....You do realize it's in sad, sad shape in comparison to Canada's economy, right?" -Five Fresh Fish

"According to Madison the end of government is justice - nothing more, nothing less. Is justice creating better drugs while millions of your citizens cannot afford them or are not provided with a decent opportunity to receive health insurance? Is a diverse population a reasonable excuse for higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, rising income disparities, etc.? No. Does the U.S. give out more foreign aid as a percentage of GDP? Absolutely not." -raysmj

"Bush is heavy-handed in his speaking manner and could have potentially gotten all of Europe on board the Iraq-war-train had he used the right methods and techniques. The differences between the US and Europe are more creations of Euros and Americans who prefer to define one against the other. In the macro sense, and this is a point Bush was actually making, if clumsily from the Euro perspective, is that we have pretty much all of the same ideals." -cell divide

I just couldn't resist a brief "best hits of the post" recap. my apologies to those omitted. It seems to me that no one really addressed Eno's trenchant three questions.
posted by troutfishing at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2003


oops -sorry for double post
posted by troutfishing at 2:15 PM on January 23, 2003




"How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people?"

Because we believe that we are a meritocracy. And we believe that our poor, many of whom are poor by choice, live awfully well. Further, some of us do not believe that it is the proper role of government to seize property from those who produce, in order to distribute it to those who do not.

"How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements?"


Because we are a sovereign nation. We don't believe in restricting the freedoms of our people for the good of the "world community". Our economy permits us to remain this way.

"And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?"

Because, slowly but steadily, the courts have given the politicians way too much power-- power that was not sanctioned by the Constitution. We ought to be a Republic, Mr. Eno. Not a democracy.
posted by trharlan at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2003


Wow, a double biggie, troutfishing. Anyway, those are three rather different points. This is a flaw in the article. And though I don't call people anti-American, people that lump all of their complaints together with the unsubstantiated thesis that they have some sort of common root (perhaps in ignorance and arrogance) do lend the impression of anti-Americanism. Obviously he feels there is some sort of underlying but unstated flaw in this country rather than a simple collection of disagreements.

Anyway as for the second: How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? Personally, I don't see international agreements as being much like law at all. Agreements are the results of diplomacy. I have enough of a problem dealing with the fact that I need to share a legislature with all of the people in this country. I don't believe the international community has enough in common to form the sort of society that makes "law". I think that European sentiment is utterly wrong in its distribution of powers at what you could call "scales of humanity". Certain things like climate etc will have to be dealt with on an international scope, but I'm happy with letting individual nations restrict GM foods if they want. Or not if they want.

Actually the US isn't really doing what I want right now. I'd hope we could be more anti-GM. However, I don't feel like passing the buck upwards is going to make my life any better. If I can't change things I disagree with in the US, then what makes me think I'm going to be able to affect the WTO? And I don't really give a shit about the ICC. Will it be better than S Africa's T&R, or the ad hoc Hague tribunals? Nope. And if it will, then it will without us. Go prosecute somebody and prove that it's so great.
posted by Wood at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2003


I just couldn't resist a brief "best hits of the post" recap. my apologies to those omitted. It seems to me that no one really addressed Eno's trenchant three questions.


"How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?" - Eno


They do not seem like very good, or answerable questions. If you could point to someone named Country, it might work, but there are a multitude of answers for each of those.
I will take a stab anyway.
1. Because not everyone does as well, and addressing that problem in a way that might please Eno is contrary to nature of a large chunk of the people who live here.

2. Many times international agreements conflict with the already stated rights of Americans at home. You cannot serve two masters.

3. Why do cheetah outrun gazelle? Apparently human nature causes people to collaborate in their own interest.

I do not imagine that satisfied much.
posted by thirteen at 2:43 PM on January 23, 2003


I seem to have posted a bit slow.
posted by thirteen at 2:46 PM on January 23, 2003


"How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people?"

Because our economic success is based upon rewarding diligence, thrift, intelligence, prudent risk-taking, unsentimental mobility, and carefully stewardship and advocacy of family ... and punishing laziness, wanton spending, stupidity, imprudence, criminality, irrational loyalty to a particular place or trade, and heedless or neglectful family behavior. There are few poor people who aren't guilty of one of the vices to be punished, or who had parents who were.

"How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements?"

Since when has the "rule of law" had anything to do with submitting involuntarily to international agreements one does not find congenial. The US is a sovereign state, and obliged to obey only those international agreements to which it as subscribed and not subsequently withdrawn in accordance with their provisions for withdrawal.

"And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups?"

Because our system allows anyone with a point of view to express it in more or less any manner in which he able to do so. Free speech is the essence of democracy; states which supress free speech in the name of democracy have the idea all wrong. The US system is exquisitely responsive to changes in public opinion, whereas the political systems of most countries in Europe are terribly sclerotic, admitting only the most narrow range of opinion into the debate and permitting almost no variation in material public policy from administration to administration. Thatcher in 1979 to 1981 imposed a few moderate changes in public policy and it was regarded as unprecedented earthquake!
posted by MattD at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2003


MattD: How much substantive domestic policy change occurred during the administration of Ronald Reagan, in comparison with what changed occurred during the Thatcher years (based on where they started)? Reagan got rid of what? The Mohair subsidy, which returned under Dubya? Thatcher privatized much of its (vastly larger) public housing stock, did away with a social security plan, etc. There is absolutely no comparison between what Thatcher accomplished and Reagan did domestically, unless you want to get into talking about defense spending.
posted by raysmj at 3:31 PM on January 23, 2003


Wow, a double biggie, troutfishing.

That we'd all read before, you might add.

Did anyone read what Kevs wrote? This post is based on a misquote. Bush did not say what Eno (rather pettily) attributes to him.

In other news, The Axis of Weasels apologises for North Diarrhoea and Kid-Rock.
posted by hama7 at 3:41 PM on January 23, 2003


Matt D: that's manifestly false -- the spectrum of opinions represented in european government is far, far wider than that represented in the american gov., due in no small part to their far more modern electoral structure (I believe something like 20 percent of the vote in the last french presidential election went to sociailist parties). You may disagree with that entire spectrum vehemently, but that doesn't make it any less of spectrum.

(On preview: what raysmj said.)

Since when has the "rule of law" had anything to do with submitting involuntarily to international agreements one does not find congenial.

The rule of law has always been about submitting to agreements involentarily. The international part is new, I'll admit, but it doesn't seem like a particularly big stretch.

Prisoners are not unemployed, thats why they are not counted...

As far as I know, the vast majority of prisoners are indeed unemployed, but that's beside the point -- the majority are drug users who wouldn't be employed (not legitimately, at least, and thus not countably) if they weren't in prison.
posted by Tlogmer at 3:54 PM on January 23, 2003


Ray...

I'm not a Republican. I don't think Reagan was a very good President. But he...

- was willing to sacrifice a year of unemployment in order to stop endemic inflation, and that inflation has remained low for two decades now
- was willing to run up a huge national debt for the military, which was a major (though of course not the only) reason why the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended

These two alone have had huge ramifications on world and domestic policy. The US couldn't have one like Thatcher because our government was never the pre-Thatcher (or even post-Thatcher) size in the first place. What we do have, as mentioned, is a rotating series of Presidents who really do attempt to leave as big as mark as possible. I personally, on this issue, wouldn't mind a little more consistency - I believe a survey showed the economy was best when the presidency and Congress were divided as far as parties were concerned. The gridlock was enough to keep the gov from messing things up, I guess.

(And it must be mentioned, that while I do enjoy Mr. Eno's music, I still wish he'd done better research for his article; sorta like how I wish Noam, just once, would come here and speak about, y'know, linguistics, since that's what he actually has the incredible knowledge and talent to discuss eloquently)
posted by Kevs at 3:59 PM on January 23, 2003


Perhaps this is my beef with most American critics, if they paused and did some investigation they would find out that the gulf between Americans and Europeans was small or did not exist.

I agree; I wish they would too.
posted by Bag Man at 4:00 PM on January 23, 2003


Tlog...they do have more variety as to whose elected to parlaiments in Europe, but the coalition system basically leads to more staid policy that one would expect - not that I think there's anything bad about that.
posted by Kevs at 4:04 PM on January 23, 2003


>>There is absolutely no comparison between what Thatcher accomplished and Reagan did domestically, unless you want to get into talking about defense spending.<<

And if you were to talk about defense spending, you might discover an inconvenient fact like the US contribution to NATO, and thus to the security of Europe during the Cold War era. What share of European domestic programs is funded by money that European countries don't have to spend on defense, thanks to the NATO umbrella?
posted by kewms at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2003


Addressing questions (1) and (3):

The Europeans tend to complain about the wealth inequality and the life of the poor in the US. They might see these as the main cause for violence and high drug consumption. From the American point of view, wealth inequality is irrelevant. "Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday." Of course this belief is based on false assumptions, such as income mobility. However, as people believe it, there is no danger of revolt, there are a lot of people supporting this system, and the society is relatively stable. And the Europeans cannot figure why!

The Americans are more concerned about unemployment. He/She knows once unemployed, s/he is mostly on her/his own, and very likely to become poor if s/he does nothing about it. Unemployment is seen as a very bad thing for a society in US. However, Europeans are not too much worried about unemployment, as the aid received is relatively large.

Which system is better? Both! It is OK to praise one system and dismiss the other as long as there is diversity. If, under certain conditions, one system proves itself wrong, the knowledge of the alternative option is already present and the adaptation process does not take too long.
posted by MzB at 4:23 PM on January 23, 2003


Kevs - point taken. Still, I'm not sure I agree that their policy is more staid than the U.S.'s. At the risk of sounding stupid when someone mentions something obvious, I can't think of a single major government change in the last 10 years (barring all the post 9/11 security stuff).
posted by Tlogmer at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2003


For those who want to read Bush's speech for yourselves.

Eno didn't misquote. You may not agree with his reading, but his quote wasn't wrong.

Eno wrote: "President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress."

When you read Bush's speech you will see that the full paragraph was: "The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress, based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance. America cannot impose this vision -- yet we can support and reward governments that make the right choices for their own people. In our development aid, in our diplomatic efforts, in our international broadcasting, and in our educational assistance, the United States will promote moderation and tolerance and human rights. And we will defend the peace that makes all progress possible. "

Much of Bush's speech compared America vs. "imperial communism" or America vs. totaliarism. Based on reading the speech I believe Bush was speaking of his vision of America as being that "single surviving model."
posted by ?! at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2003


Yes, that is hard, if not impossible: where do you get facts from? Certainly not the government itself. Certainly not from the mass media. Maybe from the Internet -- but, then, so much on the Internet is unverifiable and untrustworthy.

One should at least try. Or is ignorance bliss? You have cited some of the many sources of factual information (a good dose of common sense is needed too), but any investigation is better than uninformed knee-jerk reactions. Perhaps, I mean to say judge on substance, not just who did it. The world is too complex to do otherwise. Then again FFF, I guess you support ignorance and blind dogma rather than actually improving people’s lot or the state of the world.
posted by Bag Man at 5:07 PM on January 23, 2003


Kevs: Interesting, but yeah . . . comparing Reagan and Thatcher is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges in some ways. They worked very under different systems, with differently sized welfare states and the like, and of course different constitutional powers. The president has very little power, comparatively, except in foreign policy. Even so, imagine Reagan getting rid of Social Security. He actually tried. He was voted down 96-2 in the Senate, if I remember correctly - and the Senate was majority Republican at the time! Otherwise, I wasn't discussing foreign policy, unless you want to consider the impact of defense spending on the domestic economy (which is a thorny topic). I don't think this is such an inherently great thing either, and do like more consistency. I think the problem with our system lies more with the fact that special interests can hide out in so many little different places. It's nearly anarchic. In any case, I couldn't believe what MattD was trying to suggest.
posted by raysmj at 5:16 PM on January 23, 2003


Age does not necessarily mean wisdom. Sometimes it means senility.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:38 PM on January 23, 2003


?!, Eno's characterization and yours are wrong. Your bias is showing.

Because I do not believe that Bush is literally a monkey, I can tell you that he thinks the same as I do. That Europe (e.g. Sweden, Germany, Belgium) and the US have an enormous shared culture that includes the "model" he speaks of. Another quote makes this clear:

The United States, Japan and our Pacific friends, and now all of Europe, share a deep commitment to human freedom, embodied in strong alliances such as NATO. And the tide of liberty is rising in many other nations.

WRONG: President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress."

CORRECT: President Bush recently declared that the U.S. is an example of "the single surviving model of human progress."

And seriously, ?!, reading only what you wrote, how do you go from "there is a single model" to "we are that single model".
posted by Wood at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2003


kewms: Here is the NATO contribution list for 1998. I have no idea how these contributions size up as a percentage of GDP, although I did find a couple of articles about the issue. If Congress and the White House/executive branch don't like this, though, they could drop out - but, no, the U.S. has actively encouraged expansion in recent years.
posted by raysmj at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2003


That is a pretty bad misquote. Not only misquote but intentional misrepresentation.
posted by shoos at 6:08 PM on January 23, 2003


From the article: Surely this isn't the America that anyone dreamed of; it's a last resort, nobody's choice. WTF? Show me any other country that has as many people trying to get in - legally or not.

Anyway -- what Wood said (two or three comments above)- well done. One slight little twist of what Bush *actually* said turned into a big brouhaha over nothing. What Bush said is, in fact, correct to a very large degree. Democracy, rule of law, capitalism, etc, are by and large the Sole Surviving Model...correctly so.
posted by davidmsc at 6:18 PM on January 23, 2003


"belligerent, myopic, unilateralism" - one todays excellent quotes from john kerry.
posted by specialk420 at 6:31 PM on January 23, 2003


five fresh fish: this article (published in Science 5 years ago) has some data relevant to the 'health advances' question. Or here if you have a subscription.
posted by shoos at 6:57 PM on January 23, 2003


WRONG: President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress."

CORRECT: President Bush recently declared that the U.S. is an example of "the single surviving model of human progress."

......"I.....did not have sex....with that woman....."
posted by troutfishing at 8:20 PM on January 23, 2003


troutfishing: heh, heh. thank you

wood: (1) I invited everyone to read his full speech. Without further derailing the thread I still believe Bush believed that America embodies that single surviving model. (2) Careful with your quotes. I never wrote "there is a single model"

As a matter of fact I don't believe "The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress..."

And, come to think of it, when Bush said "The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress, based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance." he couldn't have been thinking of America. Maybe the country aspires to it, but...

Bias: "A leaning of the mind; propensity or prepossession toward an object or view, not leaving the mind indifferent; bent; inclination." Guilty. Indifference to the place of America in world politics would be not be in my best interest.
posted by ?! at 9:08 PM on January 23, 2003


trout...I'd say there's a huge difference.

It's sorta like the difference between "Hussein is the only evil man alive" and "Hussein is an example of an evil man". Or "Bill Gates is the only rich person in the world" and "Bill Gates is an example of a rich person".
posted by Kevs at 9:08 PM on January 23, 2003


Fear and loathing in the u.s
posted by johnnyboy at 4:34 AM on January 24, 2003


davidmsc - i think you'll find iran has more people trying to get in than the us. by a factor of 5.
bush's speech would be alot more accurate if NOT! were added to the end. i mean, i know he's only a politician, but it takes a lot of ignorance to expect anyone with even a vague knowledge of american foreign/domestic policy to swallow his rhetoric.
almost as bad as berlusconi's mates.
Steve_at_Linwood - '"The Left is virtually ignored by the media" is one of the most ignorant things I have heard lately'
lol, exactly the opposite opinion to that expressed by matthew engel;
'Indeed, there is hardly any such thing as the liberal press. Since Watergate, the Post has acquired a virtual monopoly over the Washington newspaper market, grown fat and - frankly - journalistically flabby. Its op-ed page is notable for its turgid prose, its conservative slant, and the apologetic tone of its more liberal contributors'
posted by asok at 6:32 AM on January 24, 2003


Shoos: thx. I see that Canada frequently appears in the top 5/top 10 rankings, along with the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and France.

Canada has 1/10th the population of the USA, 1/2 the population of the UK, 1/3rd of Germany, 1/4 of Japan, 1/2 that of France.

So it's not a bad showing at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2003


Kevs - sure, you're right - in terms of logic, strictly speaking. But I take issue with the "single surviving model" claim and rather doubt that Mr. Bush has ever studied anthropology: human nature, if anything, is very, very plastic. Hence - many possible models untried and untested.
posted by troutfishing at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2003


"Does not!"..."Does so!"..."yeah, well your mother was a big ugly beetle!"
posted by troutfishing at 7:10 AM on January 27, 2003


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