Europeans and Americans

Simon Kuper, writing in the UK publication Financial Times, had an article a couple of months ago with the title “Why the US is becoming more European”…a rather smug article, in my view.  He asserts that for decades, influential Americans looking at other countries used to ask “When will they become more like us?”…and argues that this has not happened, is not going to happen, and that, on the contrary, the US is becoming more like other countries…”Much of American society is Europeanizing”…and he seems to feel that this is pretty much an unalloyed good thing.  The article reminded me, though, of a passage from an old science fiction story by Poul Anderson.  Published in 1953, it is perhaps the first story to focus on the use of computer technology for surveillance of citizens.  Here’s the passage that came to mind on reading Kuper’s article:

The intellectuals had been fretful about the Americanization of Europe, the crumbling of old culture before the mechanized barbarism of soft drinks, hard sells, enormous chrome-plated automobiles (dollar grins, the Danes had called them), chewing gum, plastics…None of them had protested the simultaneous Europeanization of America: bloated government, unlimited armament, official nosiness, censors, secret police, chauvinism…

(I reviewed and excerpted Anderson’s story, which is very interesting, several years ago:  Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society.)  Simon Kuper, in his FT article, doesn’t raise any concerns about potential loss of American liberties..individual autonomy, freedom of expression…as a result of the projected Europeanization.  Topics he does focus on are: falling population growth rates..more abandonment of religion..falling American tendency toward violence (both lower violent crime levels and less support for military actions)…moving less frequently…less interest/dependence on automobiles…and what he says is a generalized disillusion with American exceptionalism.  “If you’re the only person driving down the motorway into oncoming traffic, you can either assume that you are exceptional and everyone else is wrong, or you can eventually conclude that you need to change.”  (Can you see why I referred to Kuper’s article as smug?)  He does admit that “some people argue that a more European US would be cease to be innovative” and admits that there may be something in that, but then goes on the assert that “the US in its previous social-democratic phase from about 1933 to 1980 remained innovative: it became the world’s first motorized society, built the atomic bomb, and landed men on the Moon”…and says “It’s doubtful whether more recent American innovations such as Facebook and Amazon increase the sum of human happiness.” America’s future, as he sees it, is to become a European-style ‘social democracy’.

The author thinks that American demographics imply that the Europeanization is rather inevitable…that “the Republican solution is to pass state laws aimed to disenfranchise Democratic voters.  The US of the future can have a Trumpist Republican rule or it can have a democracy, but it probably can’t have both.”  (He does not compare proposed Republican procedures for election management with those procedures in current use in Europe and other places, nor does he address the question of just how meaningful the word ‘democracy’ is when political communication and discussion is largely controlled by monopolistic and often-government-linked entities)

Kuper does make the valid point that the US has become more like Europe in some ways…and I’d also note the some influential American voices would also like us to become more like China.  But there is plenty wrong with his analysis.  Population growth, for example: while the US fertility rate is lower than it has been historically, it is still (IIRC) higher than any Western European country with the exception of France.  And immigration has been limited more by admission constraints than by demand: Kuper might want to check out what’s been happening over the few months since his article appeared.

The silliest thing in the article is this: “If you’re the only person driving down the motorway into oncoming traffic, you can either assume that you are exceptional and everyone else is wrong, or you can eventually conclude that you need to change”…here we have the true voice of Groupthink.  Traffic driving on the left or on the right is purely arbitrary and it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s consistent: evolution of national cultures, political structures, and economic strategies is something else entirely.

(An earlier version of this piece was posted at Ricochet about a week ago.)

The Othering

So I heard today that Bill DeBlasio (since he’s so smart and has done such a great job) is only letting people who can produce some sort of proof of vaccination into certain places like a gym or a bar. Other cities are probably doing the same or will before too long. Outside of instantly making business owners some sort of arbiters/law enforcement officials, having to decide what is proof and what is not, etc., this is just preposterous. What a stick in the eye to a person who actually has a religious belief that they shouldn’t get vaccinated. Or someone with a medical condition where this type of thing isn’t the best idea. Or someone who just says “hey, I don’t want it”.

I’m thinking that this is the point where actual guns may begin to come out and we will see things get a little “physical”. I’m hoping not but I can’t see any way around this. I’m vaccinated but won’t be patronizing any business that voluntarily does this.

Biden’s Bogus Chinese Bogeyman: America Should Kowtow Now

The focus has shifted from the typical initial totally perverse justifications for the current unprecedented (historic) spending plans, e.g., to “stimulate GDP” (a measure of spending) and “create jobs” (work is what we do to consume, not an end in itself) to meeting and defeating the threat posed by China’s expanding economic and military might. This is precisely the policy the Chinese would have demanded of their Manchurian candidate in return for their billion dollar Air Force 2 Hunter Biden “investment.”

America’s real casus belli (Thucydides provided three in 400 BC, fear, honor and interest) is part fear but mostly economic interest. China after a seven century hiatus is once again a rising imperial power following a traditional mercantilist approach of accumulating wealth through trade, simultaneously accumulating and investing in gold and a global belt and road trading system while restoring lost honor.

Why War?

Foreign policy, totally ignored during the 2020 Presidential election, is now front and center, with the Biden Administration, which initially kowtowed, now beating the war drums louder than did the Trump Administration. War is a continuation of politics by other means, and the politics among nations generally reflects their imperial interests. America’s Founding Fathers may have been libertarian theoreticians, but their complaints against the King related to the right to exploit America’s vacant land and resources. England may be “an island of coal surrounded by fish,” but the Admiralty of the Navy Winston Churchill recognized that England’s control of the seas required conversion to oil and that required control of the Middle East. The landscape had barely begun to recover from the Great War “to end all wars” when the same parties rearmed for the rematch.

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Some Random Unscientific Observations About Covid

The press is in full ramp up mode to sell ads and clicks with the new and improved delta variant of the commie crud (copyright Sgt. Mom on that term). Many localities are making people bring out the masks again. Here in beautiful Dane County, Wisconsin we have as of yesterday a “recommendation” that everyone wear a mask in a public place. Naturally, this is the first step to a new mandate. Same thing in Chicago and IL.

While cases are up here, hospitalizations, the key metric to me, are flat. From the Dane County commie crud dashboard, you can see that hospitalizations (as of this writing) sit at 23 people. It has been around there for many months now – sometimes under 20, sometimes it gets up to around 25. I check every day.

We have had one death due to covid in Dane county in the last two months. For those number geeks like me, that is eighteen ten thousandths of the population of Dane County that have died due to covid this Summer (so far).

If people aren’t in the hospital, why is everyone getting tested and causing the positivity rate to move up? All of the local big testing centers closed long ago. The only thing I can imagine is that people who are in for other things like a physical, or a knee replacement or something else are getting covid tested and coming up positive. And that would prove that most people, as many have been saying all along, are going to be just fine, even if they get the commie crud.

I decided to look at some stats for Los Angeles county to see what all the hubbub was about. Around eight hundred as of this writing are hospitalized with commie crud. Sounds like a lot, but still below the 14 day average. And far below January when there were 8,000 people in the hospital. Four people died yesterday, which is one one millionth of one percent of the population. I’m fairly certain that covid accounted for fewer deaths than traffic, crime, overdose, or any of a number of other ways to die in LA. So this is the deadly delta variant? Color me unimpressed.

And remember that a lot of these stats are probably wrongly recorded, as the old saying goes people dying with covid vs. from covid. But the data is the data. And still, (even with the cooked books) the number of people, for all of the yelling and screaming, that seem to be affected seems ridiculously low.

Keep calm and carry on.