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Myths in America about Europe

by Martin Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 09:17:31 PM EST

In one of Jerome's diarys on daily kos, the comments drifted to the question, if a political system needs some kind of competition to keep the elite responsible, in a way the USSR was a competitor to the western political course.

When I suggested, that for the US todays Europe is sufficiently different to take a role as competitor, I got a response, which was interesting, despite the it didn't get any mojo so far. Actually I didn't say Europe, but mentioned the Rhenish countries and Scandinavia, for not having to deal with UK and Italy, of which I indeed think they have some problems.

Interesting, because it probably portrays the view of quite a number of non-left Americans about Europe, and may explain, why Americans don't want to follow our way of live. The comment said


  • We are more bankrupt than the USA

  • Our population is shrinking

  • Our growth has consistently underperformed that of the USA

  • Our jobless rate is higher

  • We are sick of socialism and want to become like the USA


Well the last point wasn't said literally, but it was implied as you will see below the fold.

Of course anybody reading ET knows, that Europe.Is.Doomed, but as it happens my European patriotism has triggered me to introduce some real word factoids into the debate, which you can find below the fold. For having an easy handle on statistics and having made a compromise beween the countries I mentioned and the responder, who used the term 'Europe', I took the EUROZONE data to argue the case, for which a lot of data is available at the ECB. Of course compared with Europe, the Eurozone is cherry picking, because it doesn't include 'New Europe', but the reasons for Poland, Hungary or Slovakia to be behind in some statistics, obviously may have other reasons than the current govt's socialism.


First I want to make clear from what I took the last point in the list:

"Europeans have been voting for more market oriented politicians of late,  Sarkozy in France, Merkel in Germany, Berti in Italy and soon, Cameron in the UK. The top corporate tax rate in Europe is lower in every EU country when compared to the US. And the US rate is going up. Europe is becoming less socialistic even as the US is becoming more so."

So Sarko is the new Regean, Merkel the new Thatcher, and Europeans finally 'got it'?

OK, now I start with the analysis

We are more bankrupt than the USA
There is no single variable, which can be used to check this easily, but I have some variables, which can give hints:


  • The International Investment Position (IIP), the assets hold by all entities in a country minus their liabilities, is less negative for the Eurozone than for the USA. This is relevant, as the economy as a whole has interest influxes/outfluxes. If the wealth is in private hands, instead of in public hands, the gov can tax wealth and make the private one public. The question, who exactly holds the wealth is only a second tier issue for the bankrupcy of a country.

  • The public debt, which is cited in the media, currently 67% of GDP in the Eurozone, is the full gross public debt. Even when you consider the social security trust fund in the US not as public debt, you would have to add all state bonds and - more significant - all municipal bonds to compare the number with the European numbers. The underlying assets, such as roads, stadiums, state owned enterprises,... are in Europe as well bigger than in the US relative to GDP, so the balance sheet is stronger. I might add, that Italy, a country I didn't mention as good example but is in the Eurozone significantly worsens this statistic.

  • The deficit numbers, both current account as fiscal, are worse in the US than in Europe. While this numbers can change relatively fast, they give a trend and indicate greater necessity to act in the US than in Europe.

  • The slower growth (yes growth) of population allows for less savings to keep the same per capita capital base. To give a practical example: If you have only one sibling, your parents can bequeath you half of the house, in which they are living. Your spouse inherits another half house and you can concentrate on improve an existing house instead of building a new one. With another sibling you will inherit less than half a house. The same of course is true for the public infrastructure leading to that house and so on. When you have to build up less capital, of course you can spend your income on other things, like the higher share of care Europeans have to provide for their older society. Again of course the distribution of the wealth inside the society is a second tier issue for the question of bankrupcy of the country.

Our population is shrinking
Neither the population of the Eurozone nor of the EU nor of geographical Europe is shrinking. Eurozone population is growing 0.6% a year compared with 0.9% in the USA. The EU has ~0.3% population rise yoy.

As well the significance of an aging society as a problem is overblown in the US (hugely, see Paul Krugman's blog and his discussion of social security as the problem which doesn't exist). Macroeconomically children are more expensive than an average retired person, as children not only have to eat and drink and have a shelter, but need more often new clothes and must be educated. If people work a little longer more of this education can be utilised.
[Just to mention again the connection with bankrupcy; when expenses for children are made privatly and expenses for elderly are more often public, you have a second tier problem, as it is distributional, not an overall wealth problem]

Our growth has consistently underperformed that of the USA
There is some merit to this, even when real lefties might argue, that the difference goes away, if you subtract the top 0.1% earners, but some reasons for the perceived difference undermine the nearly all ideas connected to it


  • 0.3% less population growth: Does it really matter to live in the overall bigger economy? Are the Chinese better off than the people of Norway, because China has a bigger economy or would you prefer to live in 4 million people Norway?

  • Better statistics: In the US the first cited GDP growth numbers have slight upwards bias, later corrections down occur more often than later corrections up (please compare the numbers for each quarter in 2005/2006/2007 in this comment from Jerome a Paris). By then of course the lower growth numbers for the more accurate Europeans are already in your head. Looking back, looking on the GDP growth per capita in the last 10 years, the growth advantage of the US is nearly gone, compared with the US. Well, you may say nearly, but

  • The US has had a bigger debt fueled asset bubble than the Eurozone. It is unlikely that this will go on for ever, it seems more like it is coming to an end (soon, very soon). Lets look on the next 5 years, and I'm nearly sure the per capita growth in Europe will be higher than in the US.
    [Regular readers of ET are aware of the debt fueled economy, as well known as Anglo Disease]

Our jobless rate is higher
True, but the gap is less wide than perceived.


  • Different unemployment accounting methods: It is more honest to take the employment population ratio than the unemployment rate, as this number is less biased against the methode used to determine it. This number is as well better in the US, but in the last 8 years Europe has closed the gap quite a bit. Issues with the unemployment methodology include the exclusion of disabled, people who have given up to find a job out of disbelieve to find one, the massive jail population in the USA, and other stuff.

  • Europeans don't like to move. They are less likely to move or take a very long commute to work than Americans. This leads to gains, you don't account for. Living closer to your long term friends, being integrated in a community is not valueless, even when it is difficult to give a specific amount of money to which it would equate.

We are sick of socialism and want to become like the USA
This was based on our recent voting patterns. I want to remind that the question originally was, in the dispute if Rhenish and Scandinavian countries can count as good examples for the USA. So is Sarko really a Reagan and Merkel a Thatcher? And what about Berlusconi and Cameron? I can't look into each country, as this requires hardly aggregatable data.
Berlusconi is the head of the circus, which sometimes is called Italy. If that were representative for Europe, we would have a problem.
The very likely election of Cameron in the near future is more an expression of the poor British election system than an expression of the wish of Britons, to abolish NewLabour socialism. TINA is the problem, not the hate of solidaric elements in the society.
To judge Sarko (difficult for me as I don't follow French domestic politics) and Merkel, one has to put into account the initial state. When some claim Obama is the most left wing presidential candidate since FDR, then this might be true wrt the actual political center, but the Texan Republican president and five star general Eisenhower had a higher income tax, and was for sure much much less willing to use the American military in countries neighbouring Russia than Obama plans to. Moreover Sarko has promised to use a capital gains tax increase to finance a negative income tax for the poor (call me on it, if this isn't true). Merkel's gov't has not only increased the VAT, but as well the top income tax rate (for single making more than 250,000 EURO per anno), reduced the tax deductability of several things, and increased the time the higher unemployment benefit is paid for elderly people (after the previous leftwing gov't has reduced the income tax to the lowest rate ever, and restricted welfare very strong in the agenda 2010, has brought Germany for the first time since WW II into a war (Kosovo) and started the now so unpopular engagement in Afghanistan).

I think there are some things, which we take as incorporated to the social contract, which holds together our very countries, which exist not, or to a significant less degree in the USA.


  • Affordable health care for everybody, financed by the taxpayers solidarity if necessary. This exists only very rudimentally in the US. Obama will improve the situation, but not to the level it is here in Europe.

  • Timely unlimited help for those who don't find a job or are too ill to work. Yes you will find homeless here, but there are often mental problems causing this. The best social security net can't stop children running away from their parents. But the number of homeless people you will find is much lower. This kind of welfare was killed in the US under Bill Clinton. So far nobody has tried to revive it. I don't mention Clinton to denounce Democrats as wose than the Republicans. But the Democrats clearly have been complicit.

  • A number of temporary hardship or leisure regulations, such as paid maternity leave, paid vacations; the Merkel gov has introduced one year partially paid (by the gov) educational leave (taken a Swedish law as example), there is more public financing of culture (theatres, concert halls, museums).
    I'm not aware of details in the US, but it seems to me that the variety of benefits and community infrastructure is much broader in Europe than in the US. As well as the Republican family values haven't led them to the conclusion, that families might need the support of the gov.


For those who want further details on the question, what kind of soldaric laws are perceived as common ground, despite it is true, that there are some, who do embrace the 'American way of gouverning', I refer to redstar's diary Change I can believe in, but generally it means that the big risks of live, age, illness, joblessness, should be shared by the community to prevent really ugly forms of poverty. While this doesn't work always, I stay by my phrase, the social net in Europe has imperfections through which people fall, the social net in America are barely ropes, where those who are strong enough can hold themselves and the strongest even climb up.

How is this possible, lower corporate taxes and more benefits, well, we don't pay for 45% of the worlds military as the US does, security is a much smaller issue (only ~1/10. as much people in jail, no gated communities).

Other things like the better oil efficiency of our economy will benefit us in the future as well. So, no, Europe is no paradise, but to claim a better gov is not absurd, especially when focusing on the issues which are actually influenceable by todays gov'ts.

And when comparing gov'ts, not name tokens (fiscal reponsibility e.g. is conservative in my book, and clearly more pronounced in Europe than in the USA), then the 'European socialsim', which is so often cited by people like Mitt Romney, is clearly prefer to the American socialism, which exists as well in form of wingnut welfare, banking bailouts, dollar devaluation policies, and the military Keynesianism.

So please, my American friends, you may declare "The USA is the greatest country in the world", "This can only happen in America", "America, the only indispensible nation", but don't complain, there wouldn't be countries with gov'ts in the world, which help their people to live a less painful live than the one in the USA.

Display:
the last chapter isn't too confusing.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 09:18:09 PM EST
"Europeans have been voting for more market oriented politicians of late,  Sarkozy in France, Merkel in Germany, Berti [sic] in Italy and soon, Cameron in the UK. The top corporate tax rate in Europe is lower in every EU country when compared to the US. And the US rate is going up. Europe is becoming less socialistic even as the US is becoming more so."

The perception of Berlusconi (Berti!?) as representing market values is utterly false. It is not even a matter of misleading. It is outright false. Berlusconi represents elite class interests: trusts, monopolies and corruption. Nothing else.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 02:06:08 AM EST
Just like "Market Fundamentalism" is preached by people who then implement policies to serve elite class interests.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 02:18:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. They preaching Markets as extractive mechanisms for the Great God of Profit.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 03:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or the Great God of Ego.

Profit is just his prophet.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:41:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
extractive mechanisms indeed...vampire IV's!

so it was you martin, making that great comment a l'orange. well done.

while living here i muse sometimes what gives italy the right (?) to run such huge deficits, what exceptionalism puffs up politicians to assume so rosy an economic future, compared to other european countries.

is it because they feel they have a (swiftly crumbling) america backing them?

that they trust that even if people have to walk over the alps to get here, the food, wine, song and historical monuments and art will guarantee eternal touristic income, no matter how much is currently being paved over, or how badly managed those resources -and the institutions- are being mismanaged?

that for all the rest of weather-deprived yurp, italy will always generate a romantic longing, that will keep the payments flowing, so they can dance out blithely on the end of the deficit-limb?

i can't think of any others. the uk has a similar sense of exceptionalism, reflected in other ways, france and germany have thankfully got over themselves to point the way for the rest.

martin's asides about italy are saddeningly apposite, why does the EU not come down harder on these twisted clowns in charge here?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:11:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This turn away from social democracy is obviously US influenced, an influence that stems from right wing free market economics, Corportism, which since Reagan has attempted to stall if not undermine (e.g., Bush's attempt to privitize Social Security) America's liberal-socialism. America's trajectory toward social democracy was dealt a great blow by the Vietnam War, and the death of the War on Poverty. America of course never had socialized medicine, from which no corporate profits can be obtained.

For me, it is sad to see too many European countries being influenced today by the American free market system, as it will undermine social democracy as it has in the USA. It will only create vast wealth and income inequality, increase poverty, and shrink the income of the middle class, which will then turn to credit in order to maintain living standards. Forget education: it will not be an affordable commodity. And a two tier medical system will emerge: plain vanila care for the average, top care for the wealthy.

Am I too simplistic or naive with this demise of social democracy in Europe?

by shergald on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 10:05:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This turn away from social democracy is obviously US influenced
Which turn away of social democracy?
In (West) Germany the first three chancellors were from CDU/political catholicism. Adenauer and Erhard made the big choices, such as the west integration, NATO membership, and a market orientated policy. Then came two social democrats, which together made it to less time in office than Adenauer alone. Then came Kohl with his 16 years of chancellorship.
Western Germany still is structurally voting for right of center parties, just the supermajority of the left in eastern Germany gives the left-of-center parties a majority.
The constitution was clearly written by people, who distrust the people. Lot of influence of the elite to prevent another rise of a figure like Hitler.

In France, please name a president, who had more influence on the course of France than de'Gaulle. The president longest in office was Chirac. None of them social democratic. France has no since 1995 a conservative president.

In Briton never before Blair labour managed to get a PM reelected. Churchill a labour PM? Uhmm, no.

So waht about NuLabour/Third Way/Neue Mitte, is this the demise of social democracy? Hey, the party heads don't want to play always only opposition. They did, what was necessary to gain majorities, even when this meant to 'betray' their traditional supporters.

Economically Europe was probably more conservative than the USA until about Reagan. There are no dramatic changes since. The country which has moved are the USA.

I think the conservatives have clearly more shaped the Rhenish countries than social democracy. What I was speaking in my last point of the diary is, that there is no major shift to the right in Europe, but basically business as usual. Take into account the opening of the poorer eastern Europe, which does pressure our wages, but helps eastern Europe to become richer - clearly more cooperative than let say Mexican/USA relations, think about it, would the USA let Mexicans codecide in their trade policy as eastern Europeans do in the EU(?) - and you get what you see.
And frankly, if what you see and hear about Europe isn't the slightest bit different than what you see and hear about the USA, then with at least one of us something is seriously wrong.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:11:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France has now since 1995 a conservative president.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:12:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
De Gaulle was mostly an authoritarian. On economic policies, he was certainly not neoliberal, had strong "planned economics" tendencies, and would probably economically be around the current PS. He wanted a conservative social democracy with the bosses getting more than their share of money, rather than a neoliberal free for all...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:32:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guess what, Lower saxony considers to buy additional shares of Volkswagen.
Blah, blah, blah, so far there was a veto right in the Volkswagen law, when someone had 20%. Now Porsche (with the help of the EU) tries to push that limit up to 25%.
What does conservative PM (coaltion with the libertarians) of lower saxony say? If necessary he will buy additional shares of Volkswagen to keep the states veto right. The same one, who recently said, he would fear for Germany, when the SPD cooperates with 'Die Linke' in Hesse.

Resembles more de'Gaulle than Reagan, or not?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 04:15:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may add as well, that Germany was more free market orientated all the time since WW II compared with France. Less industry policy (even some very extreme free market people in Germany said, we need more of that, if the French are doing it), more independence of the central bank with a clear priority of figthing inflation, and Ludwig Ehrhard called himself a neoliberal, where the neo however really meant, that there is a difference between calssical liberalism and neoliberalism.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 04:38:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin:
In Briton never before Blair labour managed to get a PM reelected. Churchill a labour PM? Uhmm, no.

...Except for Ramsey MacDonald, Clem Attlee, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 01:31:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay - I missed the 're'. Wilson got an extra term on the electoral rebound. Not quite a re-election, but Heath won 1974 by the skin of his teeth and only hung for half a term.

Blair, arguably, wasn't a Labour politician at all - more a centrist Social Democrat at best, and a closet Thatcherite at worst.

But your points don't mean that the population at large doesn't support the left. The media have always made it hard for left-ish narratives to win.

Sarkozy and Berlusconi would have struggled to win anything at all without direct media backing. Blair would probably have won a first term after too much Thatcherite sleaze, but might have had a harder time after that.

The situation throughout Europe has been that there has been no aggressive progressive movement with a strong and fresh message for at least thirty years. So progressives can only vote for a less bad option.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 01:41:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair really took it a bit too far. Therefore I focused on the Eurozone in the diary, as Britain really has a democracy problem.

The media have always made it hard for left-ish narratives to win.
This is simply wrong. The vast majority of journalists are left-of-center. A poll among journalists in Germany revealed only 8% would feel close to the CDU, less than to the greens.
Left-ish narratives, which have clearly won the public are, that non-discrimination tops the freedom of contracting, that parents are incapable to educate their children (and therefore the gov can't wait until the age of 6 to grab the children), that the democratic right has supported the NAZIs more than the democratic left (far fetched, but arguably true, when it comes to the party elite, factually opposite to reality, when looking on voting paterns and milieaus).

Other leftish narratives didn't convince the public, despite the media pushed for it, e.g. that racism would only be a problem where natives mistreat people with migrational background, but not vice versa.

As you can only vote for a whole party, not for a single issue, lobbyists are the ones who matter more than the media. Politicians will then say, they are brave going against the mainstream doing the necessary things. Can you name one leftish idea, take Brtain, which has nothing to do with profits, which didn't make it at least to some degree into politics?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:08:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin:
This is simply wrong.

I don't know enough about the German political scene, but the quotes that are posted here from Der Spiegel hardly seem like they're pushing the progressive envelope.

As for the UK, Italy and France, I'm not sure how you can say that I'm factually wrong. Berlusconi would be no one if he didn't own most of Italy's media, and Sarko's close friendship with French media leaders, complete with exotic upmarket holiday perks, is well known - as are Murdoch's deals with Blair.

It's only on blogs like ET that you'll find progressive talking points. Otherwise in the UK we have exactly one serious magazine with a progressive viewpoint, with a minimal readership, and two papers that are sort of centre left, sometimes.

The FT occasionally publishes a heretical talking pointm but the usual narrative from the 'serious' press is, and has always been, relentlessly right leaning. You only have to look at Justin Webb's BBC coverage of the US election to see that his idea of fair reporting is constant criticism of Obama.

Aa for Germany - I suspect a poll of publishers and editors, who define narratives, would show that their sympathies are far more right leaning than those of journalists who usually have to write what they're told to.

Martin:

Can you name one leftish idea, take Brtain, which has nothing to do with profits, which didn't make it at least to some degree into politics?

Historically or recently? Because currently all we have left are vestiges and shreds of the progressive changes of the post-war consensus - universal high quality free education is being replaced with corporate control of curricula, health care is heading in the same direction, infrastructure is mostly mismanaged by the private sector at vast public expense, tax rates place the burden of taxation on the poorest earners, tax avoidance by the rich is endemic, and the press collude to cover up the true state of things with scare stories about racism and missing blonde girls.

Is this what a progressive utopia looks like?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 09:45:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, you can't say there is no place for left-wing narrative in the media. Sarkozy's friendship with some French media leaders is real, but that doesn't mean he controls the media. The main television channels are certainly biased, but many independent newspapers and magazines as well as radio channels (including France Inter).

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 02:42:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The main TV channels and newspapers will have far more influence than smaller indie publications and channels.

You don't need to 'own the media' completely - you just need to own enough of the main opinion forming channels to create an illusion of narrative consistency for the non-chattering population.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 05:00:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, some of the main newspapers like Liberation and Le Monde, and one at least of the main radio channels, like France Inter, are not "small indie publications".

One of the reasons of the so far successful campaign against the Edvige police database was that the media echoed properly the citizens' voice.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 07:08:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But are Libe and Le Monde Left, or triangulated centre-Left?

How much has their position shifted over the last forty years?

To what extent do they influence and define policy compared for the FT, the Econo and the WSJ? (Even in France.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 07:57:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Monde has pretty much triangulated to the center right, and Libé from left to the center left. They are however much, much more read than the English financial press, at least in politics (French politicians simply don't speak English)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 08:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarko and the UMP won a majority. Are Libe and Le Monde to the left of Sarko - I'd say yes, with Libe well to the left. Le Monde's views dovetail with the right wing of the PS - i.e. it is center-left. Libe's views tend to be those of the middle and left of the PS, i.e. it is left.

You can argue that the right wing of the PS is really center-right. However, you then also have to accept that the French electorate tilts sharply right and simply doesn't want left wing policies.

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 01:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Monde is to the left of Sarko, but Sarko ain't exactly the left wing of the UMP. Le Monde was clearly for Balladur in 1995, for example.

Libe aims for the right wing of the PS, nowadays (for example they were for the Yes in the Constitution referendum). This has changed in the last few years. They are anti-Sarkozy, but increasingly (Euro-)liberal in their economics commentary. They are center left at best, in their current incarnation.

As for the French electorate - the 2007 presidential election represents the French opinion badly, as on the left it was skewed by the need to have somebody from the left in the second round. In 2002, and in various regional elections, people calling themselves Communist gathered 15% of the vote, with other parts of the left, like the Greens, getting another 10%... And the right wing of the PS has pretty much joined Sarko. The PS has bee to the right of its electorate for quite some time.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 03:04:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The question is not to know if Le Monde and Libe are Left or centre left (if it was the case could you please provide precise criteria?), but to know if some of the media were channeling left-wing narratives. I claim it is the case, mentioning Le Monde, France Inter and Libé and I could also mention Le Nouvel Observateur, Marianne and many others.

Unless you think anything to the right of Olivier Besancenot does not belong to the Left...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 01:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For Liberation I am thinking very precisely of the last page of the 2007 first round of the presidential election edition, which contained an interview essentially claiming that France needed neoliberal reforms, badly.

But it is true that left narratives can be found in Le Monde and Libération, although they are not necessarily prevalent. After all, Jérôme was published there...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 03:08:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know enough about the German political scene, but the quotes that are posted here from Der Spiegel hardly seem like they're pushing the progressive envelope.

Well... on one hand, despite what Martin says about different starting points, "left-of-center" doesn't necessarily mean "progressive" anymore in Germany either. On the other hand, SPIEGEL is historically more close to the liberal FDP, which historically swung between the centre-left and centre-right, so their neolib+neocon swing may not be representative of say state TV journalists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 04:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The economic department of the spiegel is clearly right-of-center.
Is insulting parents, when they don't want to give their children into a public Kindergarten as well neolib+neocon?
At least I know now that neither Milton Friedman nor G.W.Bush are either neolib or neocon.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:06:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what's your point about neolib+neocon; but I wrote it thinking of the parallel movements of SPIEGEL's economic department (neolib, and that already in the closet in Augstein's time) and writing on foreign policy/internal security (neocon, after the Aust takeover, openly only from late 2003 or so). (Note BTW that SPIEGEL printed articles critical of the Kosovo War while the bombing went on.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:34:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know enough about the German political scene, but the quotes that are posted here from Der Spiegel hardly seem like they're pushing the progressive envelope.

Read ZEIT, try this. Of course in German. Why should a German newspaper have an English version?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So that people outside of the country can read it, at a guess.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:18:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aa for Germany - I suspect a poll of publishers and editors, who define narratives, would show that their sympathies are far more right leaning than those of journalists who usually have to write what they're told to.

Probably to focus the poll only on the economy department of a newspaper would already give you a more right wing result than including the feulliton and the klatsch section.
But my impression is largely, that the narratives are taken from the politicians, less self created - and that there are little narratives around at all.

is being replaced with corporate control of curricula
That seems to be for profit.

health care is heading in the same direction
As well for profit?

infrastructure is mostly mismanaged by the private sector at vast public expense
Seems somebody wanted to make profit with the initial privatisation.

tax rates place the burden of taxation on the poorest earners
For profit - of those who pay the lobbyists, which not to tend to be the poor.

tax avoidance by the rich is endemic
Never seen something that clearly done for profit.

the press collude to cover up the true state of things with scare stories about racism and missing blonde girls.
Nobody told them, that the country is looted. That would be the job of the party head of the labour party. Hey, but after more than a decade of labour gov't it may fall back to himself negatively.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:26:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A poll among journalists in Germany revealed only 8% would feel close to the CDU, less than to the greens.

Do you have a quote/link?

I am rather sceptical that that was a truly representative poll. Also, "the media are full of liberals against us" is a rather universal conservative meme.

That meme is not without some basis in reality, as media people tend to be highly educated fellows who are less impressed by the traditionalist elements of conservative rhetoric. Then again, even in Germany, progressively from the seventies, "left-of-center" media people seem to be preferring the right (not center) of the SPD, and from 2002 on, one could speak of "Merkel Social Democrats" [in analogy with the 'Reagan Democrats' of the eighties] going over to the CDU in the media.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 04:09:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lots of mainstream journalists will back rightist parties regardless of their personal preferences, because otherwise they simply lose their job. It's happened in France, USA and the UK a lot recently, and in Italy, well, better not get into that. I don't know about Germany.

But a poll of what they personally feel does not necessarily reveal much of what they convey.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 05:16:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true, that journalists are often not allowed to write negative stories about enterprises, especially advertising customers.

But there is as well public media, and e.g. the SPD owns some newspapers.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 08:19:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I haven't got a link. But I have read it.

That meme is not without some basis in reality, as media people tend to be highly educated fellows who are less impressed by the traditionalist elements of conservative rhetoric.
As people with higher income are more likely to vote for rightwing parties, I guess, this is as well true for more educated people.

So there are a lot of things.

  • opinion parts of journalists are often not about policies, but about how well or not well a party follows its boss. Fawning MPs/PMs towards their boss = good, critical voices and lively discussion = bad \ in the last years the SPD was quite a bit wilder than the CDU. Schroeder in the end had as well problems to keep his people together, why else would he had given up?
  • Everything what "Die Linke" says is bad, toxic. If something isn't introduced by a widely respected person, who hasn't done such a 'betrayal' as Lafontaine (is stepping down was seen very bad from the beginning, not only when he joined Die Linke), it can't be taken serious. If later others follow such ideas, they are called populist (see the heat the CSU got for asking for inflation adjustment of the income tax, this was similar to a Linke proposal earlier).
  • the journalists have to take into account, what people think. This is quite simple. If the economy runs well, the current politicians are seen in a good light. If the economy runs bad, they are seen in a bad light. This is no different than in other countries. Merkel had simply the incredible luck, that her chancellorship started just at the beginning of an unexpectedly very good year. When the economy slows for a longer time, such as in 2001 - 2005, she won't be seen favourable any more.
  • journalists are rarely economists. One idea, which was sold to them by both, the CDU and the Schroederites is, that the budget should be balanced. This specific issue gets much more credit than it should get. And the current grand coalition simply was very successful in doing that.
  • the sense that journalistic ethics requires neutrality leads to views, which are necessarily close to the center. So yes, journalists are at the right edge of the SPD. And when people like Schroeder, Steinmeier, Clement, Muntefering sell something like the agenda 2010, and they say TINA, then the journalists will write TINA, because most of the serious people say TINA.
  • the grand coalition makes economic policies left of Schroeder. Schroeder: record reduction of the top income tax rate/ GC: 3% increase of that rate// Schroeder: agenda 2010 // GC: prolonging jobless pay  for elderly, the change of stock earning taxation (which will bring in more money over time); this are just small steps, but the direction is obviously in the other direction. So why should a journalist who has believed Schroeder, now attack Merkel, when he is favouring left policies?
  • Kohl was not at all popular in the media. He managed even to get into a long dispute with the BILD, (while Schroeder said, he can gouvern with BILD and GLotze(TV))


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 08:58:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have read it.

What I'd be interested in is not the bare fact but details - e.g. how wide was the scope of the poll within the realm of journalism, was it a straw poll or scientific, who made it, when, framing of questions and such.

On some of your points:

  1. The center is a moving target :-) And I think the right of the SPD, just like the left of the CDU/CSU as it befits a Volkspartei [how do you say that in English?], are beyond the overall centre.

  2. You yourself contended that Merkel's current leftist economic policies (and perhaps foreign policy, too) run opposite to her and the CDU's 2005 campaign platform. (I could say her lust for power was so strong that she broke all her election promises to get into government in a Grand Coalition ;-) ) The media love for her dates from before the elections, and in fact, I even read some 'reformist' criticisms of her.

  3. Kohl vs. SPIEGEL was legendary, but otherwise, you just named one of the examples I had in mind when I said "universal conservative meme". That Germany has RTL, Sat1 and Pro7 today was born out of Kohl's explicit intentions to 'balance' critical independent public media (coded as always as "left-leaning") with friendly media. The slant of the new privates is nowhere near as drastic as Fox News or Berlusconi's channels or even French media owned by Sarko's personal friends, but Bertelsmann (owner of RTL) is indeed a hardcore conservative giant in the Meinungsmacher business, and ProSiebenSat.1 can't be called left-of-center. Let's not forget about former German media giant Kirch, either, who was a bit too close personal friend of Kohl.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:29:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The center is a moving target :-) And I think the right of the SPD, just like the left of the CDU/CSU as it befits a Volkspartei [how do you say that in English?], are beyond the overall centre.
I think major party is used for Volkspartei. It is true of course, that the parties are overlapping. And people like Bluem/Geissler or Clement/Schroeder could be in the other party if only economic policies would count (Bluem/Geissler could even be in the left party then).

You yourself contended that Merkel's current leftist economic policies (and perhaps foreign policy, too) run opposite to her and the CDU's 2005 campaign platform. (I could say her lust for power was so strong that she broke all her election promises to get into government in a Grand Coalition ;-) ) The media love for her dates from before the elections, and in fact, I even read some 'reformist' criticisms of her.
She has broken most of her election promises, except the VAT increase, which was probably among the most important ones. But it is very clear, that the 2005 campaign platform was far away from the center of people's opinion. And of course there are people critisising Merkel for breaking her promises, e.g. Friedrich Merz and co.

RTL, Sat1 and Pro7
Thought we speak about serious journalism. Last time I viewed news on one of these channels, I couldn't detect that. I don't think these channels make people more conservative. I think these channels make people more unpolitical at all, which as it is 'Unterschichtenfernsehen' admittedly helps the right.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think major party is used for Volkspartei.

Does that bear the connotation (pretty strong in German) of being a consolidator of diverse streams from all parts of the population? (Where the suggestion is that minor parties represent specific minority layers of society.)

Thought we speak about serious journalism.

You didn't specify your poll of journalists was among "serious" journalists, so I didn't know we are speaking only about serious journalism :-) At the level of influencing people, the daily news half-hour of either channel compares to tagesschau and heute. But anyway, I could have named n-tv, too.

I think people can be made more unpolitical and conservative at the same time. At least on the economy, preaching consumerist individualism is a 'conservative' propaganda already. When things are dumbed down, and analysis is left away, what remains is often highly saturated spin. That's exactly what Berlusconi's channels are doing. (BTW, have you ever suffered channel-surfing in an Italian hotel? Worst the B effect produced the TV landscape in Europe, no contest.) IMHO RTL & co do the same, but much less overtly, much more subversively.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 10:14:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Minor side comment on RTL & co, given the anniversary. Back then I watched TV practically for 24 hours, flipping between several news channels I then had on satellite. Strangely enough, I found the coverage by RTL and Sat.1 the most informative: ARD and ZDF were then caught at unawares, Hungarian channels did little beyond relaying stuff from US channels, while CNN (and Fox and MSNBC) tried to fill every second with endless repetitions and talking heads babbling away in which real new information, not to mention understanding, was quickly lost.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 10:20:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
preaching consumerist individualism is a 'conservative' propaganda already
No, it isn't. It is 'social-liberal' propaganda. The viewership of these channels is less wealthy than the average. It is nothing said about the source of the money to buy the products. Transfers would be the easiest for the viewership.
Individualism is clearly against conservative values. The hyping of indpendency, the neglect of loyality towards the people in your immediate proximity and ridiculing of family bounds is a left wing issue.
I want to remind you about Jerome's diary 'I don't do charity, I pay taxes'. I have I wouldn't have known, that Jerome does charity, I would have thought 'What an asshole'. Along the lines of an episode, I think written by Tolstoi about charity/Barmherzigkeit and the Russian soul, communists are forbidden to do charity, because you are in either of two situations
  • perfect world, no charity necessary, because nobody has problems
  • prerevolutionary world, charity only softens the suffering, which ultimatively will bring the revolution to the perfect world. So charity prevents the perfect world from coming
Jerome in his diary says - to Americans, who live in a country with a broken gov - don't do charity, just vote for left parties and your moral duty is done. No reason to do anything for those, who suffer, just cold blooded cynism in the face of suffering. No personal responsibility for others, no honour in resign from own rights to help those who suffer more. People really following such ideas, and not just proclaiming them, while doing the opposite, have replaced their heart by a mechanic.

Familyism and local communityism are conservative, the atomisation of the society into individuums, which are only connected by the state, but not with each other, is something favoured by leftys.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:09:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin:
Familyism and local communityism are conservative, the atomisation of the society into individuums, which are only connected by the state, but not with each other, is something favoured by leftys.

You have some very strange ideas about the Left, certainly as it works in the Anglo world.

Wasn't it Thatcher who said 'There's no such thing about society' and proceeded to act as if that were true?

Left wing discussions are filled with ideas of community and interpersonal responsibility.

How much time have you spent talking to real progressives?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:24:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To make it short: the individualism promoted by leftists (and to a much lesser degree liberals) is anti-authoritarian, not anti-community.

When conservatives speak of community, in my observation, it's always in terms of hierarchy and submission. Be it family, state, nation, party, company, military. Consumerism might undermine 'family values', disturbing the 'moral conservatives', but at the same time, it also undermines the sense of solidarity and thus the support for policy proposals based on them and politicians running with those; and undermines the running and survival of authority-challenging communities like unions, parties, consumer groups and such. While Martin is speaking thinking of a political landscape where no major party politician dared to speak like Thatcher, a German conservative doesn't even have to be a Thatcherite/Reaganite/Anglo Disease worshipper to favor such an outcome.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:39:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft - i.e. the longstanding German intellectual tradition of contrasting traditional style 'community' with the 'society' generated by modernity.
by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:39:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The viewership of these channels is less wealthy than the average.

Precisely. But why on Earth do you think that makes them left-of-center oriented? Bild is aimed at lower-class, less educated people too, and I hope even you won't take its support for Schröder as reason to call the flagship of the Axel Springer Verlag left-of-center. But obviously conservatives need to communicate towards lower-class people. Since universal suffrage was introduced, it's not enough for conservatives to get the majority of the feudal, clerical and moneyed wealthy people, so they have to get those less wealthy people.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sentence stood in connection with the next one. Promoting consumerism to a non-wealthy viewership doesn't make them feel they get too much transfers.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:55:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit the meaning of that sentence was lost on me, and still is after the above. What do you mean with "transfer"?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:00:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Transfers - redistributional policies by the gov't e.g. direct via any kind of welfare, indirect via cross subsidies for the health care system/ retirement system overproportionally benefitting those with less than average income.

In other words, right wing parties in charge are not very likely to produce results with the RTL/Pro7/Sat1 viewers more money in the pocket - at least not in the short term - than left wing parties. So to win them, it doesn't make sense to focus them on the money in their pocket, but distract them with other issues, like telling the left parties are ammoral, or do not have the skills to run the gov't properly.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:09:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know what, this diary was about that Europe's economy does fine, probably better than the US one.

If Europe is as much owned by big corporations and Chicago school boys as the US, then of course using it as an example that different policy is possible for Americans is completely useless. So long live Milton Friedman, long live Dick Cheney, long live fox news, they are doing the only policy which ever proofed to work.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:19:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a brief comment. Thanks first your extended reply. I don't know Europe's direction, but I am afraid to agree that Europe is being influenced by US economic policy since Reagan, the free market ideas that not only put us in great debt, but the inqualities it produced and the complete ignorance, even demonization, of the "poor," an evil word these days in America, who have suffered under the free market. They just can't compete. No American politician would today speak up for the poor. The "middle class" is the thing, the same group that bought into the "greed" ethic and suffered losses to the wealthy as income and wealth shifted upward.

My impression really came from watching Canada elect a right wing Reaganite, while it seemed that France did the same thing with Sarkosy, while the social democrats lost miserably. It seems as if a stable social democracy can be easily upset if one can convince ordinary people that greed is good, the lazy poor are holding them back, and the rich can make us all rich if we only let them have more of their own money, i.e., low taxes.

by shergald on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 02:13:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Er, Mitterrand was in office for 2 years longer than Chirac.

That said, he was never a leftist, he just played one to get elected. But at least his was a PS administration.
You could also argue that Chirac wasn't sincerely very right wing. But since 2007, well... Now that is a turn towards American right wing nonsense.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 05:04:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our "market values" people are the same, at least the ones who do the preaching.  some who say it believe it, but they are usually just down-below parrots who don't really understand the situation.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:37:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary/comment.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:41:53 AM EST
Of course compared with Europe, the Eurozone is cherry picking, because it doesn't include 'New Europe'

Nitpick: Slovenia is already in the Eurozone, and Slovakia will be in from next year.

(Also, even the EU would be cherry-picking within Europe.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:06:47 AM EST
Yep. The situation in eastern Europe is worse. But I think even Mitt Romney would feel silly to proclaim, that the state of Georgia in the greatest nation in the world is still better off than the former soviet republic of Georgia.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 08:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I wouldn't put it past your average US Rightwinger...
by Bernard on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 03:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't put it past your average american, wing nut or otherwise.  I had a wonderful Spanish exchange student some years back, she used to come home exasperated when idiots would ask her stupid stuff.  I can still see her shaking her head and saying, "Do you know what someone asked me today?  He asked me if we have cars in Spain! I told him 'No, we have horses and carts."

I think very few Americans would understand that Georgia in Europe was even comparable to Georgia in the South.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 06:16:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The very likely election of Cameron in the near future is more an expression of the poor British election system than an expression of the wish of Britons, to abolish NewLabour socialism.

Oh, believe me, a wish to abolish NuLabour features very highly in my list of objectives.

However, I'm curious where socialism comes into it as my response to that would be "if only". NuLab is not an ideological project that encompasses a consistent set of economic and social objectives which it proposes to sell to the public. Rather, it is an opportunistic one that is driven by the expoitation of working and middle class prejudices to achieve electoral success that enables it to manipulate propaganda more effectively to continue that success. Anything it does along the way is pure by-product of that manipulation and all consequences for good or evil are accidental.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:24:24 AM EST
by the way, for those who don't know, is a term invented by Paul Krugman.
He has noted, that complete losers which have to leave the Bush administration for some little scandal, tend to get positions in spin tanks like 'American Enterprise Institute', 'Kato Institute', 'Project for a New American Century', and so on.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 08:23:35 AM EST
In my opinion, it is impossible to approach general attitudes among Americans with logical arguments. The overwhelming majority of Americans don't know much about Europe, or any other part of the world for that matter. Many of them are raised in an atmosphere of rabid nationalism according to which American values are the only ones that count. To speak in the United States too highly, say, of Europe can provoke abrasive comments from Americans who might tell you, "If Europe is so great, then why don't you go back there?" When they shout, "We are the greatest country on Earth," they mean it literally and that your country is inferior to America. Unfortunately, people from a number of countries have helped fortify those attitudes among Americans. Germans, for example, have fawned over Americans for such a long time that many Americans must think Germany is an awful place to live in.
by Anthony Williamson on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 09:52:37 AM EST
the myth of American exceptionalism and the fact of anti-intellectualism in the US deserves longer treatment.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 11:00:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to get it right you had better focus on our geographic and cultural isolation.  If you really want to get it right focus on how this happens to people not just US citizens.  Its not the whole story but it is the precondition.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 12:40:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is how Kissinger opens his book Diplomacy:


"...both the American and the European approaches to foreign policy were the products of their own unique circumstances. Americans inhabited a nearly empty continent shielded from predatory powers by two vast oceans and with weak countries as neighbors."

::

"...European diplomacy had been forged on the school of hard knocks."

::

"The nations of Europe did not choose the balance of power as the means for regulating their relations out of innate quarrlesomeness or an Old World love of intrigue...Europe was thrown into balance-of-power politics when its first choice, the medieval dream of universal empire, collapsed and a host of states of more or less equal strength arose from the ashes of that ancient aspiration."

To me, the spirit of American exceptionalism is evident in our insistence that democracy be the goal of every nation around the globe. That the nation which adopts democratic institutions has somehow "arrived," when what the US is much more comfortable with is a free market open to capital formation regardless of regime. (Think China, for instance.) I think I'm more comfortable with the vaguer notion of "self-determination," whatever peaceful, stable form or mechanism that might take. Be it clan, tribe, ethnic group, or religion, if the citizens regard their government as legitimate, that's basically ok by me - though I may have reservations over some local practices (like convicting the victim of rape, for instance, and sentencing her to be flogged, a la Saudi law).

The problems of equal opportunity, economic development, human rights, security, and the various freedoms to exercise are goals that can be sought with whatever mechanism of governance a particular state exercises at the moment. That they tend toward a democratic power structure is moot. Right now, it seems to me that democracy as a mechanism of governance is less of a holy grail than those conditions and rights themselves.

Anyways. Can you think offhand of any other developed nation as culturally isolated as the US? Russia, with its open borders and historical distrust of foreigners/invaders? China, the ancient Middle Kingdom and oldest of great civilizations? Japan, with its finely honed traditions of honor and fidelity? Any others?

See? Now you've gone and done it. You got me thinking, and the smoke's rising out of my ears. Maybe we're all exceptional. Maybe it's exceptional chauvinism that troubles me.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 01:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolute sovereignty? So, no criticism of what the Bush government is doing except on pure pragmatic power politics principles? (i.e. that it is counterproductive to US interests) Nor do I really understand why convicting rape victims is beyond the pale by your understanding - why should it be an exception?
by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 01:23:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problems of equal opportunity, economic development, human rights, security, and the various freedoms to exercise are goals that can be sought with whatever mechanism of governance a particular state exercises at the moment. That they tend toward a democratic power structure is moot. Right now, it seems to me that democracy as a mechanism of governance is less of a holy grail than those conditions and rights themselves.

I'm not prepared to give up on those liberties that I made certain I mentioned in the earlier comment, and as for sovereignty being absolute and the practice of international power politics, I'm not suggesting that either. As I study more, I come to appreciate the points of view of, say Russians, who've been cursed throughout their history with open borders over which were cultures who believed that raiding Russian settlements was a worthy career. It's not democracy per se, that I'm dissing here, but more American chauvinism about democratic institutions.

John Brady Kiesling, in his Diplomatic Lessons, goes into a little of the psychological basis of what constitutes the legitimacy of a government, as well as how many levels of identity a citizen can hold simultaneously. He's not the only person I've read who touches on this.

Like I said, it's a large subject, one that I'm just now trying to get my head around, and deserves larger treatment. That being said, I can only view American chauvinism with contempt, and now you know a little of where I'm coming from with this. When I mentioned American exceptionalism, I wasn't being clear enough. It's the chauvinism I object to.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US establishment uses 'Democracy' as a stand-in for 'American Business Interests.'

You can see how this works when the press sneers about 'populism' - which in most countries would be considered democratic, especially when there's a strong majority supporting it.

On ET we sometimes call US-style democracy Democracy™ to distinguish it from the real thing.

In practice, Democracy™ usually means fascist dictatorship.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:30:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think you have to ditch democracy outright. Only "Democracy": when American politicians say democracy, they mean US style democracy, with its specific institutions, traditions, and its heavy emphasis on the economy. Other countries can get democracy in other ways. And it should have domestic sources, simple telling them what to do is not democracy but playing (being forced to play) democracy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 04:23:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a comment, papicek.

Handing out "3's" is not really ET etiquette. It's either "4" if you approve, or "2" or less on the rare occasions we get trolls here.....

"3's" can be misunderstood, and I don't think nearlynormal regarded it as nearly normal... ;-)

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:59:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat Sep 13th, 2008 at 05:48:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that most Europeans really know that much about the US. That point was driven home to me in repeated stays in provincial Germany. Annoyingly, they think they do because they watch movies and TV. And I certainly wouldn't call the attitude 'fawning'.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 01:11:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European pols fawn. Enthusiasm from the rest of the population is likely to be a little more circumspect.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 01:55:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good summary. Thanks Martin. A couple of additional comments:

0.3% less population growth: Does it really matter to live in the overall bigger economy? Are the Chinese better off than the people of Norway, because China has a bigger economy or would you prefer to live in 4 million people Norway?

Not that your average USian would know Norway from Albania anyway. Heck, many of them probably believe they're as poor as the Inuits...
(To be fair, how many Europeans would know Nebraska from Minnesota?)

Moreover Sarko has promised to use a capital gains tax increase to finance a negative income tax for the poor

Very true, but there's catch: thanks to last year's "fiscal ceiling" the wealthiest taxpayers won't pay an additional cent; the full burden of it will be carried in its entirety by the middle class (That's Sarko's social justice to you).

Affordable health care for everybody, financed by the taxpayers solidarity if necessary.

This is definitely one thing the right-wing governments in EU have been consistently undermining: more co-pay and more and more reliance on private insurer schemes, all in the name of --you guessed it-- reducing the taxes ...
by Bernard on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 04:00:48 PM EST
Several years ago the economist had results from a geography quiz given to citizens of various countries. Europeans generally scored higher than Americans, but not by much.

Speaking of Minnesota, I haven't met a European (who isn't living in the US) who knows where Minneapolis is (my response after they ask where I am from). About 1/10 have even heard of it. I always follow with "it's 500km northwest of Chicago," and maybe 1/4 claim to have an idea where Chicago is.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:23:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Minneapolis has about 370,000 people, so do you know where Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Wuppertal or Bochum is?
I don't expect anybody to know exactly where Norway is, but that it is a European country, I think is something. That it doesn't have a huge number of population, say less than 100 million, too. And a country is more important than a state.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:35:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Minneapolis has about 370,000 people, so do you know where Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Wuppertal or Bochum is?

Yes and no. Minneapolis-St.Paul metro has a population well over 3 million. We're talking a place that's significantly larger than Frankfurt, and roughly the size of Munich.

by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did Munich grow a lot recently? When I lived there, about 10 years ago, I think it was slightly over 1 million.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:51:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Metro region. The city is 1.3 million. Depending on which metro standard you use, the metropolitan region is either 2.6 or 4.6 million. The latter is stretching things a bit. For M-SP it seems the equivalent numbers would be 3.1 and 3.6 million.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:02:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chicago is the 3rd largest metro area in the US, so the lack of European knowledge of that city surprised me more than anything. Despite the actual size of the Twin Cities as pointed out by Marek, I'm not surprised by lack of European knowledge.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:21:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My general take has been that most Europeans know where NYC, LA, Miami are. Next comes DC, then SF and Chicago. Beyond that things tend to get a bit vague.
by MarekNYC on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 06:47:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it true that the bouclier fiscale exempts the very rich from this?

i had thought the mechanism more like a transactional Tobin tax, seperate from that calculation, but I could very well be wrong...also note the shift of all the RMI and similar funding, creating working poor out of non-working poor; but poor all the same. Though, it should be noted the value of work is an ethical value, good for both individual and collective...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 03:47:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow.  A really chewy read, especially for this time of night, and every bite a feast, and I don't think my judgment is clouded by Europhilia (which my spellchecker apparently doesn't think is a word.)

Thanks. Goodnight.

Karen in Austin

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 02:26:29 AM EST
...we don't work as hard as Americans...True, we may take (what are usually working) vacations, but when we are on the job we work our asses off.

Americans, it is my experience, noticeably less so.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 03:51:40 AM EST
Ah, redstar my friend, if you could tell that one day to Lafayette on Economist's view, I'd most definetely owe you one!

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 05:23:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the only way to measure this productivity?

Stagnant wages plus increased productivity = people working hard? Hmmmm.

by Upstate NY on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary and discussion!

Post it at the big orange and see what happens. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 08:22:50 AM EST
This diary was adapted from a comment at Big Orange, linked in the diary intro :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 08:54:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doh!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 03:44:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to offer up my own American myth about Europe, but also state that some myths are true. At least, originally, the term myth referred to things true since the ancients didn't recognize our fancy contradistinctions between so-called myth, so-called dream, and so-called reality:

Europeans are much less interested in tying the sources of power in Europe to supra-governmental interests, such as global and multinational corporations, oil majors, etc.

When European nations oppose the USA, the answers as to why are usually found in corporate battles (France lost a few Iraqi contracts, no?) and when they agree on a place like, say, Kosovo, the mutual sharing of contracts create a similarity in policy. The media too is "owned" as in the USA, and sure they are very willing to open up the books on the USA when it comes to Iraq, but that's easy. What of European adventures? I followed the Balkan Wars very closely and was dismayed at the one sidedness of German, French and British (to be expected) accounts of the wars. It mirrored American disinformation pretty closely. The same is true of other media accounts of events on the continent. When it doesn't favor the European powers, the media never crosses their line.

All of which is to say that I believe in general Europeans are much less circumspect about the levers over governmental power than Americans are. The reasons are obvious: the US system is bought and paid for by special interests that pervert the function of gov't. Any man on the street will tell you, "Oh, they're voting that way because they are owned by the credit card companies." Most voters are profoundly aware of why/how their politicians vote on certain issues. In Europe, with no ties between political funding and politicians, this relation is not as obvious. Though I maintain it exists.

Only in the UK is this relation made open and explicit. A UK pol or administration is much more open to saying "We are backing the US in Iraq because otherwise our control of resources in the region would cramp our economy and bleed our corporations." (ie. Brits make the connection between war, blood, oil and corporate profits readily).

Maybe the UK is a more proper model for Europe proper?

by Upstate NY on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 09:51:59 AM EST
Two things.

Frist MArtin uses a mythology in the colloquial way.. he has been clearly not influenced by me regarding mythology as a structural narrative which by definition is true :)  A real myhtology is true by definition because it can not be wrong (within the parameters of the culture), actually it is impossible to think in term of true or false regardins an structural narrative mythology.

Greeks had the structural narrative that Gods interacted with humans frequently, they did not live in two realms of existence completely separated, this was a fundamental part of the structural narrative of the greeks, and that's why it was amtyhology.

In Western europe cities (and I guess most of US big cities) we have our mythologies, or structural narratives, for example the existence of the self is not discuted or think in terms of tru or false, t is obious, we grew thinking in this terms of true or false .. tehre is no doubt that the self exist.. in the same way , my grandma family 70 years ago had never listened about the self, and the idea that one existed and had to grow an improve and all that stuff was not present... and the bororos, well for the bororos there is no self not becuase they do not think about it but because they actively think that the brain is open to everyone, it is their mytholgy as true as it can be,and as real as our self... only that for them, our "self" is kind of crazy.

So , martin is actually referring to narratives which are not structural...and uses myths in the colloquial term as a "false narrative"... Maybe next time he uses the new language.

And regarding money I can talk abut Spain because here we really do know. First thing, compared with the US, money has no influence. Here money has no direct influence,it is indirect, it is via the networking that money provides that bankers and rich can get what they want.

typically, the biggest networking is in the hands of banks. They may have less money compared with other industries, there are people who are more rich and indsutries more relevant that the biggers bankers... but they are the real ones, the ones that really influence and talk with any government and any minister. Economic policy is a mutual understanding, financially pro-banks and then focused on union-managers arrengements for the rest of the economy...

This is why it is very easy to implement new regualtions and policies in almost any sector but economic policy is basically the same no matter who rules.

Migeru can give you more information about that.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:40:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:42:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spanish networking.. sure..... Botin and co..

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I am not specially placed to comment on that. I've been out of the country for 8 years while you are still within earshot of the rumour mill...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:50:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, my myth tangent was just a rant left over from last night after reading some of Nietzsche's Gay Science.

Again, I'll overgeneralize here about Europeans. Even where there is awareness of powerful interests in gov't, the fact that you have more transparency because money is not passed to politicos directly, creates a tendency to respond to the policies of gov't without a full contextual awareness of corporate interests.

This is just my sense in discussing politics with Europeans. The American response is typically to suss out a politician's hidden motives, whereas Europeans are much more ready to consider politics at the conceptual level. Politics in the USA is so debased because a conceptual discussion of policies is already subverted by the election process which preceded it.

In Europe, the tendency is reversed, so that Americans find difficulty in explaining political policy to Europeans since we tend to harp on the power arrangements rather than discuss policy. Or, for voters who have no interest in power arrangements, they'd rather discuss say lipstick or religion or abortion or being a war hero. For many of these voters, they engage in power relations at the level of worker's rights (i.e. they do consider union membership, minimum wages, etc.)

For others who also ignore policy statements and governing concepts, they may dig deeper and put a keen eye on, say, GE owning NBC, or Disney owning ABC, or  Sumner Redstone--a lifelong Democrat--supporting Bush now because he's great for Viacom. We'll notice that SONY and Bertelsmann have had an enormous impact on American culture by pushing laws that streamline book publishing and, unfortunately, destroy literature.

The direct money tie places a different emphasis on politics.

by Upstate NY on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:54:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
because [in Europe] money is not passed to politicos directly

It isn't?

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh?

Hah, I thought the EU members rated well on bribery and such.

by Upstate NY on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:00:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - rated well, but not perfect :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:01:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy?, France?, Suitcases full of cash from shady arms dealers passed on in dark empty parking lots.

And I'm not even going to start on the ex communist states.

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:04:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just watch out for the frontpsage tomorrow.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:54:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think what Martin is talking about is the presence of PACs and similar 'soft money' channels in the US political context. This creates an explicit and quasi-legitimate link between various corporate interest groups and the pols they have paid forshared their concerns with and this drives any discussion of policy matters to be framed in terms of lobbyist-mandated power relations and factions as a matter of course.

On the Euro side there may well be plenty of money arriving with the pols via anonymous suitcases and/or plain brown envelopes, but because this is plainly and clearly illegitimate it allows us to maintain the conceit that policy considerations are not structured by the priorities of corporate benefectors (even if the actuality is rather different).

So it's not that our pols aren't whoring themselves to the corps, it's that the default assumption of their being bought and paid for doesn't structure our political discourse the way it does Stateside.

Regards
Luke


-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Fri Sep 12th, 2008 at 12:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is not,a t least Spain. No money can reach ever the president or a minister. It is just forbidden.

Money suitcases are more lower orders, majors, adn in some cases head of finantial apparatus in political parties....for the networking...

As I said, the important thing is networking, who knows who.. and what you are going to do after you quit government.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:36:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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