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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Seeing the small picture  

From Edward Glaeser's America the Conservative in the LA Times (irritating registration required: see BugMeNot):
Whether President Bush is reelected or Sen. John F. Kerry prevails, the United States will be the most conservative developed nation in the world. Its economy will remain the least regulated, its welfare state the smallest, its military the strongest and its citizens the most religious.
It's hard to tell which of these Glaeser finds most objectionable. The giveaway subheading, courtesy of the Times:
Europe is in the 21st century, but we remain locked in the 18th
The EU is, as we all know, the future. Backward America is "Conservative" - operationally defined as "non-socialist" - because a) we haven't been fortunate enough to have our society collapse and our form of government be updated like so many in Europe:
The new constitutions of these countries were written by socialist leaders like Friedrich Ebert, who were determined to craft institutions, like proportional representation, that would entrench socialist power. France had a constitution drafted by a socialist-heavy group, but this had to wait until after its defeat in World War II.
By contrast, the U.S. has not lost a war on its home soil and thus has never faced the internal disruptions caused by such a collapse.
and b) welfare states are a function of compassion and people are naturally xenophobic. Oh, it's not just Americans: as Europe grows more multicultural, greedy fascists are arising there, too.
People are much less likely to support income redistribution to people who are members of different racial or ethnic groups. Ethnic divisions make it easier for the enemies of welfare to vilify the poor, by making them seem like parasites who could be rich but prefer to live on the public dollar. ... Sympathy for the poor appears to be muted when the poor are seen as outsiders.
Increased immigration to Europe is making those societies more heterogeneous, and we have already seen opponents of social welfare, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, Joerg Haider in Austria and Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, use inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric to discredit generous welfare payments.
The mind boggles at the continuing ingenuity of the Left in developing rationalizations for why their predictions so consistently fail to come true.
But here's an observation from William Irwin Thompson, who foresees an entirely different future:
The United States has a high tolerance for noise [ranging from pollution to economic disruption to political dissent] but is actually a fairly homogenous culture; Western Europe has a lower tolerance for noise but is highly heterogenous.
Glaeser's facts (though not the uses he puts them to) hold, if your framework is bounded by the nation-state: America is more diverse than any indidividual European state. But on the continental/civilization scale, the EU is far more diverse, increasingly so with each expansion. And Glaeser's argument suggests that the EU's first priorities will be scaling back the welfare state and expanding its military capability. Yeah, right.

Europe and socialism are actually stuck in the 20th century, while America is trying to establish a framework for dealing with the 21st. More and more I come to believe that the clearest distinction between the two is the size of the picture you're able to see.

posted by Kelly | 8:10 PM link