Monday, February 01, 2010

Raising more questions than answers. Not that that's a bad thing at all.

There have been a couple of interesting (and brief) posts in recent days at Crooked Timber.

On America:

But there are clear senses in which it is not right that the U.S. is a center-right nation. For example, it’s at least odd to have a center-right nation that lacks a center-right. There aren’t that many Olympia Snowes around – not even Olympia Snowe herself, during this whole health care business. It’s not as though America is the country where, when you elect a guy like Obama, you have to beat the center-right off with a stick, compromise-wise, when the center-left is plainly crying out to meet somewhere in the middle.

On Europe:

Almost every state of any significance in history has aspired to dominate its known world. In the last century, Britain, Germany, Russia and even France aspired to this role, and right now Russia and China are keen to try. Religiosity, militarism, inequality, and governments that do little for their subjects are the norm rather than the exception. Long hours of hard work have been the lot of humankind at least since the arrival of agriculture.

The real exception to all of this is Europe. The largest economic aggregate in world history, it has enough military power to repel any invader, but is deeply uninterested in using this power to any more glorious end. It grows by a process of reluctant accretion, controlled by ever more onerous admission requirements. In all of history, it would be hard to find anything comparable in terms of pacifism, godlessness, equality, leisure for the masses or public provision of services.

... It’s for these reasons that American views of Europe resemble de Tocqueville in reverse. Something so unprecedented, and against the laws of nature, they think, cannot possibly survive, let alone prosper. And yet it does.

[Footnote references removed.]

I find both of these comments to be on target.

But a comprehensive explanation for either phenomenon eludes me.

But they're both worth thinking about.

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