Sunday, June 05, 2005

David Brooks is STILL a Moron - The European Way vs. the American

Thank god for David Brooks is a moron. I love this site. You read David Brooks, you get all irritated and steamed, but you don't even have to try to put your finger on why he's such an idiot, they've do it for you! Plus, see, this is why I don't need to write my own content: I can already be sure that somebody else has said whatever I want to say better.

In their Column 2006-6-2 Commentary they pretty much cover all the reasons why Brooks's editorial in thursday's NYT, which made the disingenuous claim that

events in Western Europe are slowly discrediting large swaths of American liberalism

seems so facile and wrongheaded. Ohhhh, where does one even begin? Anyway, you don't have to. Read their excellent post.

Actually, you can always count on the readers of the NYT to rise to the occasion as well. See "Europe, the Good Life, and Us". A few excerpts:
David Brooks is mistaken: far from discrediting American liberalism,
European experiences vindicate it.
...
German, French and Dutch voters have many desires. Trading their social
achievements for what Mr. Brooks euphemistically terms "flexibility" is not
among them.

and


An economic system's true success is measured not by its "efficiency" or the latest stock-market peak but by the quality of life it delivers. On that scale,
most Americans are falling further behind Europeans.
Of course there's nothing new here about American conservatives liking to kid themselves that everyone else in the world really wants to live like Americans. "Why else would so many illegal immigrants want to come and live here?" Plus, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, they have been patting themselves on the back with the canard that all other social and economic systems have been discredited other than capitalism: and indeed not just capitalism, but specifically the American style of Capitalism that means no job security, ever widening yawning gaps between the haves and the have-nots, and no support net for the increasing numbers of the middle class who fall through the cracks. The neocons even came up with the bright idea — which actually does awfully utopian to me, especially coming from supposed "conservatives" — that the American system is the only "sustainable" one.

Now, when one listens to conservative campaign ads, with the mantra of "he's going to raise your taxes", one just gets the idea that Americans must be, well, simply ignorant of a world outside America. How could Americans worry so much about taxation when they are already by far the least taxed people in the Western industrialized world (and get the worst public services for it, not to mention all the extra fees and higher — and more inefficient — local taxes they have to pay)? From the campaign ads, one would imagine that Americans, at least those who buy the messages in these ads, are immensely parochial and inward looking, unaware of any world outside of the United States, as if there is only one laboratory on earth for any political or economic idea to be tried.

But editorials like this remind one that the more educated breed of conservative is aware of a world outside, but is able to simply dismiss it with the notion of "American Exceptionalism": yes, sure these things may have been tried elsewhere, but we would never want to try them here because our system is a beacon to the world, and we're not going to copy the mistakes of the old world.

Did this notion spring from when the United States was founded? Although conservatives may forget that we had copied an awful lot of very important things from the Old World, like the Secular Enlightenment Values that today's theocrats want to dismantle, there were certainly an awful lot of bad things that we left behind for good reason: entrenched aristocracies and highly stratified class systems and warmongering monarchies. Since World War II of course we have given up on isolating ourselves from the rest of the world and come to think of it, we appear to be swapping the good things we got from Europe (like the Enlightenment) for all the bad things we used to abjure (like Imperialism).

And,yes, there are an awful lot of important things about which America is exceptional which any liberal would be proud of, and in fact probably more than any conservative: our stronger-than-anywhere Freedom of Speech and our more-independent-than-anywhere "activist" Judicial system in particular. And it's not hard to make a long list of things wrong with Europe, including even a few that conservatives have complained about recently. Europe sat by while Croatia and then Bosnia burned, and Europeans do have problems with Xenophobia that in some ways are worse than ours. (Of course, conservatives at the time ridiculed Bill Clinton for trying to step in and do something about Bosnia, such as when GWB ran against Gore on the absurdity of "nation building", but evidently they've changed their minds.) These past acts of cynical "realpolitik" played into the neocons' hands when Europe this time had good reason to resist the push to an illegal and destabilizing war in Iraq.

But are "pundits" like David Brooks really so ignorant that people in the rest of the western industrialized world find the thought of living in America to be potentially rather terrifying? That people in other countries think of our country, with its extraordinarily high levels of gun violence and incarceration, as being virtually a war-zone? A country in a state of perpetual civil war? That people elsewhere are proud of their health-care systems, lower infant mortality, lower poverty, and generally more egalitarian societies? (Here comes the "hating America" refrain, but is it "hating America" to want us to be better?)

Anyway. Read the 6/02 "David Brooks is a Moron" post. Besides, they don't ramble as much as I do.


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