Thursday, March 05, 2009

American Possibility

That Europe-America divide crops up again in Roger Cohen's column. The striking sentence is this: 'Nobody in their right mind would give up the manifold sensual, aesthetic and gastronomic pleasures offered by French savoir-vivre for the unrelenting battlefield of American ambition were it not for one thing: possibility.' This is the balanced, liberal, patriotic view. It's not quite American exceptionalism, but it's close. Unremarked by Cohen, it raises a crucial but probably unanswerable question. Does American 'possibility' exclude at least one possibility - a quality of life to equal that of the French? I'm inclined to think it might, but much depends on how tightly you define 'possibility'.


  1. "Europe will never be like America. Europe is a product of history. America is a product of philosophy."
    Margret Thatcher

    Maybe we should change that to the "rest of the world" is a product of history? (Probably with the exception of Oz and NZ.)

    So the idealized version of European culture is in its history, but what if the demographics change and history to the new comers becomes irrelevant? or far less meaningful?

    Argentina should be the wealthiest nation on earth, at the beginning and middle parts of the 20th century it was. USA and Argentina share a pretty similar constitution except for one thing, Property Rights.

    America has an idealized version of property rights as opposed to Argentina's more European inspired collectivist version, Obama gave a radio interview a year or two back where he thought that Argentina's version was the better model.

    For all the absurdities and failures of Americas version, they are far better than Obamas wish list, and Obamas version will not pay the bills.

  2. Or you could say they've had fun fun fun, now daddy's taken the T Bird away.

  3. This is basically equivalent to one of the old canards the Republicans used to rope in the lower middle class: "Don't raise taxes on the wealthy! This is America! One day you might be wealthy too."

  4. Might I just say, apropos of nothing (at least, nothing *here*), that Esquire Magazine just declared Bill Nighy the third best-dressed man in the Western world? Somehow, Prince Charles got first place.

  5. Ian Wolcott has it.

    When the few tell the many "beware the robbing hoods" most get confused and identify with their oppressors.

    Sure, it's possible but it is it likely?

  6. When the few tell the many "beware the robbing hoods" most get confused and identify with their oppressors.

    Poor, silly Americans. Over two hundred years of free speech, free elections, radical politics and universal public education and they're still all suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

  7. Now, Peter, in fairness it would be pretty difficult to get the full French experience in the States, where we charge for many of the services that the French get for free.

    I can't even imagine how much you'd have to pay our Muslim youths to burn your car, let alone what it would cost to square it with your insurance company.

  8. If you want to get a genuine feel for America, stop reading the New York Times, turn off PBS and NPR, and spend a couple of weeks in South Philly.

  9. My son just told me a scary statistic: The U.S. ranks 53rd in the world based on the freedom of its press. Nope, the Brits aren't up in the top five either: It's the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, and I can't remember the other two. Oh no, wait -- Ireland *did* make the top five. That's odd.

  10. Susan, do you think perhaps Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands rank so highly because their journalists never have much interesting to say?