Monday, December 26, 2005

Jerry's Kids

Watch out for those college boys. Gerard Alexander, an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, delivered the smackdown line of the season in the fall 2005 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, of all places.

The spirit of Jimmy Carter exited the American political stage decades ago, but, like Jerry Lewis, it remains a matinee favorite on the other side of the Atlantic.

You need a Three Stooges sound effect with that one. Perhaps the eye-poke or the knock-on-the-head.

It's a good, insightful treatise on the relative orbits of Ero-Venus and Ameri-Mars. It starts out with the point of view of American conservatives, and actually tackles the difficult target of defining them:

In sum, American conservatives of nearly every stripe agree that the world is a complex and competitive place in which human nature and its limitations play pervasive roles. In such a world, good people are wise to cultivate individual skills and character traits, to limit centralizing power (especially government), to confront rather than duck serious challenges, and to get incentives right, especially for predators, with an eye toward encouraging virtue, and at least restraint.

Some of the points made about our neighbors across the ditch are obvious ones to those of us who pay attention to European elites:

The perception that Europe is uniformly center-to-center-left is further reinforced by the fact that public expression is monopolized by a collusive journalistic, intellectual, and Eurocratic elite whose "arrogance [is] almost beyond belief," in the words of William Kristol. Its ideologically lopsided political and intellectual elite is so potent that it may shape Europe's political identity as much as secularism and economic dependence do. Mainstream European press coverage of America, free markets, and robust conservatism is so routinely paranoid and hyperbolic that it makes Howard Dean look temperate.

Others were surprising, at least to me:

The result is that average U.S. per capita income is now about 55% higher than the average of the European Union's core 15 countries (it expanded to 25 in 2004). In fact, the biggest E.U. countries have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states. A recent study by two Swedish economists found that if the United Kingdom, France, or Italy suddenly were admitted to the American union, any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana. Ireland, the second richest E.U. country, would be the 13th poorest state; Sweden the 6th poorest. The study found that 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards.

Which, of course, overlooks the fact that the average Swedish household doesn't have to pay for a great many expenses the average American one does.

But the overall conclusion rings true to some other studies I've seen: the American left has more in common with the American right than it does with the European left.

As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge note in "The Right Nation" ... , "the more you look at [America's] prominent Democrats from an international perspective, the less left-wing they seem." "For the foreseeable future," they write, "the Democrats will be a relatively conservative party by European standards." It may be that our liberals and conservatives have more in common than they realize, and thus much to gain by seeing their common principles prosper around the world.

Which offers yet another chance to urge you to read "The Right Nation," no matter what your politics may be. I'd especially urge it on those European elites, but I doubt they're interested.