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Works and Days

Why Aren’t We No. 1?

April 6th, 2014 - 11:04 pm

The end of Route One, Key West, Florida.


There is a pastime among liberal pundits — the latest is Nicholas Kristof — to quote a new center left global ranking (with unbiased titles such as “The Social Progress Imperative”) and then to decry that the United States is behind its major industrial competitors in things like “Internet Access” and “Ecosystem sustainability.” The subtext of these rants is that an illiberal, reactionary U.S. does not spend enough on government entitlements to promote parity, equality and social justice among its citizenry. These pessimistic rankings increase the angst about the American condition when viewed from scowling perches in Washington or New York.

Not surprisingly, the winners in these periodic gloomy assessments are usually smaller or intermediate quasi-socialist nations, with mostly homogeneous ethnic and religious populations (e.g., Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, etc.). And the result is that Americans are scolded to tone down their pride at being exceptional and to begin to emulate such supposedly more livable societies.

Yet I suppose that if you were to assess, say, the mostly 5.6 million homogenously well off Californians, who lived within 10 miles of the coast, from San Diego to Berkeley, they would compare quite nicely with Denmark. Or for that matter, should the Danish system be applied to 300 million in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, I also think that they would sink a bit in terms of social progress.

The criteria by which America is to be judged are often both biased and historically ignorant. Why not rank the United States in comparison with other similarly huge countries that span three time zones, and include in their enormous populations radically different ethnic and religious groups?

How about comparing America to countries that, like the U.S., have vast territories and diverse populations over 200 million — China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil? How would such nations stack up to the U.S, in terms of corruption, health care, pollution, freedom of the individual, treatment of women and gays, religious tolerance, or other criteria of “social progress?” Is there a global assessment of coups and revolutions per nation, or contrarily the longest sustained democracy?

Most such rankings rely on statistics that rarely weigh in factors that non-elites take for granted as part of the good life. How about the number of cars a family household on average owns, the relative percentage of the household budget spent on food, the price of gas that allows them mobility, the average square footage of living space, or the number of electronic appurtenances that make life easier and enjoyable, such as microwaves or televisions? In all such categories, the United States ranks at or among the top nations in the world. I suppose those in Manhattan or at Harvard would not interpret the fact that a poor Mexican illegal immigrant can buy a used Yukon relatively cheaply and fuel it with $3.50 gallon gasoline as progress. But in terms of global assessment, he still has a safer, roomier, and cheaper automobile experience than the French or Italian driver of a tiny European Fiat that requires $9 a gallon fuel.

Nor do such pessimistic assessments consider intangibles such as global politics. Globalization itself is a product of U.S. innovation and technology and the U.S. military. The latter not only subsidizes the safety of the European Union and many of China’s immediate neighbors, but also generally has kept the Western world safe and the global sea-lanes and methods of commerce and communication free from disruption. That was not cheap, which is why the European Union, for all its advocacy, does not attempt it. If Russia goes into Estonia, it will not be the Dutch or Danish army that is called upon to ask Putin to leave.

The U.S. not only created the landscape that allowed, for example, a South Korea, Japan, or Germany to thrive over the last 70 years without substantial military investments, but presently allows such countries — among them also Australia, Canada, Taiwan, and much of Europe itself — not to worry about developing a nuclear deterrent and the costly and risky politics which that entails. Should we retreat from the world stage, in the next twenty years, then we might appreciate differences in the “social progress index” of a Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan, or for that matter a Germany or Iceland that will have to vastly increase defense expenditures to survive.

Homogenous South Korean eighth graders may test higher in math than do Americans, but then again Americans are not looking up to the skies to see whether a North Korean artillery shell or gas-laden missile is on its way down. Is there a global “security anxiety” index? Nor are there thousands of South Koreans posted on our shores to protect us from belligerent neighbors.

Speaking of social progress, the United States lets in the largest number of legal and illegal immigrants in the world. Currently 45 million or more residents were not born in the U.S. — a number four times larger than any other nation. Ethnic, religious, and cultural homogeneity promotes some of the values (such as Internet access) that social progress indices usually value.

Yet in my hometown, which has been overwhelmed by illegal immigration over the last two decades, I can see why recent arrivals from Oaxaca have some difficulty in getting online free at the local Starbucks. The problem is not that they do not have cell phones with Internet service or that Starbucks and other franchises don’t offer free Internet services, but that the language, past experience, and culture of central Mexico are not quite the same as those in the United States.  Speaking Mixtecan languages and not being able to read Spanish in an English-speaking country makes it hard to surf the net.

One reason why the U.S. is volatile, influential, dynamic, and by far the most culturally influential society in the world are the number and variety of its legal immigrants. No one wants to move to Russia. Switzerland does not want any new immigrants. France and Germany don’t quite know what to do with those already residing in their countries. China and Japan could never consider an African, Swedish, or Mexican immigrant fully Chinese or Japanese. The Arab World would not let in Jews and in many places is driving out Christians. Building a large new Church anywhere in the Islamic world is for all practical purposes now impossible.

In short, people vote with their feet, and by huge margins prefer the greater freedom, economic opportunity, and security of the U.S., not to mention its meritocracy that assesses talent far less than elsewhere on class, racial, tribal, or religious criteria. Because the U.S., also unlike other countries, strangely does not value that much education, capital, or skills in assessing potential immigrants (family ties and the fact of reaching U.S. soil being the more influential criteria), and because it hosts somewhere between 11 and 20 million illegal immigrants, it naturally has ongoing challenges to provide near instant parity to millions who arrive here poor, uneducated, and without money.

To suggest that we are at fault because our healthcare or primary education system is somehow not up to Danish or Icelandic standard is laughable, when 13% of the present population is foreign born — and probably far more had we accurate numbers of illegal aliens currently residing in the American southwest. The source of immigration makes assimilation also more difficult. Switzerland became culturally and psychologically incapable of accepting more immigrants, despite the fact that they are largely from elsewhere in Europe. In contrast, most of the current immigrants to the U.S. arrive from an impoverished Mexico and Latin America, not Canada, and thus come with far greater disparities than other North American citizens.

Assessments can be rigged anyway that one wishes — if the point is to advance preconceived and ideological aims. The relative price of food, fuel, and cars, or the number of air conditioners per capita, or the global rankings of universities, or comparative population growth, or the rate of and age at marriage, the ability to defend one’s nation without alliances and outside subsidies, or religious observance, or rubrics about assimilation, integration, and intermarriage of newcomers could all be massaged to make Europe look quite pathological in terms of aristocratic bias, class impediments, ossified attitudes from defense to entrepreneurship, atheism, and the loss of freedom resulting from  massive regulations and high taxes.

In short, if you want to prove that the U.S. is not number one, you can — usually to reflect the particular agenda you wish to advance.

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Top Rated Comments   
"The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won’t last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America’s natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome’s work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.”)."

Radical leftism took pollution and made it into a permanent grievance industry against capitalism. The One World Socialists took the grievance industry of global warming...(which is so hideously fraudulent that it morphed into the hyperfraudulent "climate change", giving it a lottery ball every day to point that EVERY climate "change" is...."proof" of the fraud)

Radical leftism similarly took slavery and made it into a permanent "white man's guilt" and a stain of "racism" that cannot be wiped clean.

Radical leftism took sexism and made it a permanent grievance, despite now overwhelming evidence that it does not exist and ginned up a continuous machine of phony "battles" in the obtuse "war on women"...including the vacuous claim of "wage unfairness"...of which there exists precisely...none.

Radical leftists took the Viet Nam war and made EVERY conflict a "quagmire", created a raging fabrication about "imperialism" and "blood for oil" and THOSE slanders now...are uttered not merely from the left, but from the duped non-leftists as well.

ALL of these cottage industries of grievance are all designed to accomplish the weakening of America and those still operating with strength and in opposition to small c communism. (oddly, in a way...MOST of the countries aligned with America...suffered under the inanity of the communist model)

Finally, small c communism assaults religion and the faith based. It must. Because those who believe in power higher than THE STATE...will always doubt and resist their totalitarian masters. AGW is part of the overall fraud.

It isn't's tyranny.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nicely said cfb. It is hard to disagree with VDH's overall summation. Even smart lefties are pretty stupid. They completely ignore an entire range of factors (concisely outlined by VDH) when they assess the U.S. This is due to three main reasons.

1) They are not creative thinkers. This is partly due to lack of imagination and empathy (see item 3 below). That means they apply their limited tactical and strategic abilities mainly to destroying, and spend little time on the logistics of creating the pie-in-sky utopian visions that fill their diseased brains. That is why (for instance) the Obamacare rollout was such an embarassing farce, along with all the rest of their nonsense schemes. The only thing they are good at is stealing and creating chaos.

2) Their whole ideology is based on a Soviet doctrine which incorporated Marxist-Leninist concepts, but had as its central objective, the social balkanization (as you point out) and military disarmament of America.

3) They lack imagination (which is linked to empathy) and are very self-centered, so when you combine that with item 2 above, it's easy to see why they have a hard time thinking past the one to two inch range. This makes them historically ignorant, shallow thinkers. They look only at superficial effects and consider only those causes that buttress their utopian ideology. For instance they convince themselves that humans are universally peace-loving, cooperative creatures that have been corrupted by capitalism. Therefore a strong US military is merely a war-machine. They adamantly ignore all the historical, archeological and genetic evidence however suggests that man is, at least in large part a predatory, competitive, highly warlike species that prefers peace during times of stability and prosperity, at least at home, but periodically enjoys expansion, aggression and conquest abroad.

Lefties can't abide this because it underscores two inconvenient truths: One is how historically unique the U.S. is for not using it's vast military superiority to conquer as much territory as it possibly can, particularly in the last 100 years. I don't know of any historical precedents in this regard. The other is the fact that Europe and the rest of the Western hemisphere could not possibly have indulged in its lavish welfare statism if the US had not been there to maintain global stability and peace, even though this did entail some hard fought regional wars (Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I... ) That is why there is no point negotiating or even talking to lefties. They suffer from that peculiar ailment of being so stupid that they cannot even begin to grasp how stupid they are. So you will never find common ground, and when you think you have, it is only because you are being set up (they are stupid in the sense that they do not properly interface with reality, however they are can be quite cunning). But that's a whole other story...

Still, I wonder how long the structural advantages that VDH highlights can last under Obama's globalist-statist-collectivist onslaught. (Though the Republicans have done their share to advance this state of affairs too, though perhaps not as part of an overall grand strategy).

If you'll permit me a slight digression: For instance how long can entrepreneurial freedom survive the rise of the surveillance state? This involves not only the long term-storage of all internet and telephone activity, but detailed databases can and are now being used to log individual's purchases and other commercial transactions, whether online or at retail outlets, plus library loans, websites, books and magazines read, medical records, personal tastes, hobbies and pass-times, sexual preferences and habits, energy consumption, driving distances and speeds, social networks, physical location and movement. They even collect data on physical attributes such as eye color, facial structure and speech patterns from your web and phone cams. Virtually every electronic device we now use has been converted into a tracking system. All of this is the end result of a concept termed “Total Information Awareness” which was created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for use by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. The goal is to “know everything” and allow for “predictive policing” systems which can identify and monitor potential criminals before they commit crimes. Indeed analysts now even have the capacity to predict with high degrees of accuracy how you are likely to vote, what kinds of inducements you are likely to respond to as well as many other behaviors you are likely to engage in.

Is it a good idea for government to know so much about us since it now controls ever greater aspects of our lives? Isn't this the perfect tool to silently isolate and neutralize political dissenters over time, by for instance, regulating them out of business? There may be an appropriate role for these technologies in
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Global worming and climax change.

Two groups are changing the world through fraud, propaganda and totalitarian seizure.

Radical leftists and radical Islam. The hoax of global warming is based entirely upon a fraudulent push of predetermined pap, disguised as science and sold with propagandist fury. There has been no warming since 1998 and the computer models used to punish advanced nations and steal their wealth to give to poorer countries is based on political lies, trampling actual scientific methodology beneath its grimy feet.

The radical overthrow of cultures infuses the populations of European and Euro-descendant nations with the "worming" of radical scheming, a parasitic infestation that weakens the host nation and fills it with self-loathing, an unearned guilt and a soft underbelly.

Radical Islam moves in as the host country is immune compromised and plants dormant cells that lie in wait to destroy from within, living off the healthy cells of an advanced society.

Small c communists pass laws and impose restrictions on growth, weakening the economic health. They tear down defenses, make a sieve out of borders, and conquer...based upon fabricated slanders utilizing wedge differences in every "suspect" class.

They destroy every possible hamlet of unity. Their most ferocious attacks come against societal pillars of communal strength. Religious congregation, patriotism, and groups formed in the resistance. The regions most "traditional" are slandered the hardest. Ridiculed, scorned, assaulted.

The infestation is the global the small c communists who do not assemble on borders as do their large c brethren. The crush the will by making a society doubt and hate its past.

The climax change is how this all is intended to end. They seize the government from free nations and destroy freedom from within. The government turns on its people and begins to eat away at its strength. It gets away with treason by hiding as "liberal", "compassionate" "do-gooderism". the biggest lie of all.

The "rankings" and "ratings" and "scientific" studies...are simply propagandist leaflets dropped on the populace by the traitors.

They are all part and parcel of the overthrow scheme. A society has two choices. Surrender and die. Or resist the parasites, diagnose the disease and eradicate it.

Treason is not a political difference of opinion. It is a high crime.

And it is high time we begin to treat it as such.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (60)
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I actually talk to illegals. I don't know how illegal they are, here in White Plains, NY. They have green cards. And when they tell me things are slow here for work, construction or otherwise, I ask them, "Why don't you go back to Peru". They just smile, warmly, at me. I take it as, buddy, you have no idea how good you have it. And it's true.
Both my kids, in their 20s are highly successful. The reason, I explicitly told both of them and inculcated in them that they should think like new immigrants, act like new immigrants. And it worked! One has a great paying job and the other is on a scholarship in grad school.
For all our BS, and there's much; Hitler mayors, magic fantastic chief executives, Machiavellian newspapers, this is still, right now, this minute, a country where a man or woman who is smart and hardworking can kick ass.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Describing Switzerland as "quasi-socialist nation, with mostly homogeneous ethnic and religious population" is plainly stupid. Given that description stems from a professor of history, I'm not surprised we're no longer No. 1...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
In my view Americans are victims of their own success. It is quite clear to see that a country united under one set of moral principles (Judeo-Christian) and also blessed with a sense of brotherhood and solidarity that other countries lack; where honesty and hard work are prized rather than stigmatized... has to succeed. Americans do not realize their own virtues because they rarely reside in foreign countries for long. When they do they live among the privileged classes. America has a long way to go yet. This too shall pass. Other countries have gone through similar phases, some have succumbed to degradation but others have stopped quite near the abyss and turned back. You know your history so I don't have to quote any examples. What we really need is to get involved in morally educating the youth while we can. We need to talk to them and act to correct what is wrong and encourage what is right. When the Roman Empire fell and Europe was invaded by vandals, I am sure that many Romans thought those foul smelling barbarians were going to erase civilization. But it was not so, those barbarians were to give us the Europe of the Middle Ages. Alixer became Alighieri, civilization conquered the barbarians in a couple of generations, Cyril and Methodius were not patricians, they were familiar with barbarian customs themselves. So take a good look at the brownies coming from Central America because their sons may become one day the John Glenn, the Bob DeBakey, or the Joe DiMaggio of some future America we cannot even imagine just like George Washington naturally could not even imagine Elvis or baseball stadiums. Our job is not to preserve the image of America but the spirit because it is precious and it is the first time it has appeared in history. This wonderful synthesis that America is, will be changing fast for a while but it is not lost, it shall not be lost if we keep our focus and don't forget the principles that made us great.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dr. Hanson remembers an America that is long gone. There is no longer any reason to be loyal to the Amerika that now exists.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since you don't want to be loyal to America. Don't call on anything in America.
In fact have the courage to pack your bags and leave.
Or shut-up.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bingo!, Dr Hanson!
"The U.S. not only created the landscape that allowed, for example, a South Korea, Japan, or Germany to thrive over the last 70 years without substantial military investments, but presently allows such countries — among them also Australia, Canada, Taiwan, and much of Europe itself —"

This sums it up, never mind that the World generally dismisses most of us Ameddicans [sic] as having passed our usefulness since 1917 roughly, in no particular order, the actual order depend upon the geographical viewpoint.....after the effects of the Marshall Plan, Normandy Landings, the Italian Campaign of WWII, the Berlin Airlift, the defense of Taiwan and Japan since 1945...1945, plus others having blurred into a rather dismissive History only for academics to explore at some convenient time in musty ateliers.

Bluntly, our young blood and boatloads of United States dollars over the past century have generally yielded, "Yanks Go Home!" graffiti just about everywhere after their desperate immediate need has passed. The usual pop-up in this category is le grande Charles wanting all Americans out of France, prompting Dean Rusk to quip, "Out of the American Cemeteries in France also?"

Currently it's Iraq and Afghanistan which only want our cash; they want Americans out. Completely out. The Taliban are merely a Red Herring. [no pun intended]. That of course, will be denied in the usual recipients' quarter.

Numbah One? Why should we care about published "rankings"?

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but have something that they don't have. Tens of millions of mestizo Central Americans.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have brother in law who always reminds me that Germany has better roads than our interstate system. The only thing I can say is "yes, but do they have 47,000 miles of them?" Admittedly, they are not what they once were when new, but they're not bad today. And, there are 47,000 miles of them.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have presented a very good look at the dynamics and diversity of our society and I doubt many would argue with your points. I appreciated a good article based on good information and facts, not ideological bullcrap. This is a great country with a wonderful future if we can keep the idiots out on the fringe and pay attention to the issue we need to rather than stupid crap.

I have problems with tooting our own horn too much. I don't like it in people and even less in countries. When somebody starts that we are the light of the world crap or we are the greatest, I keep expecting to hear the strains of Deutschland Uber Alles and see folks come to attention and throw their right arm and hand up in salute.

I think we're a great country but a little humility never hurts. I'm not in favor of trying to engage in more warfaring.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I always try to highlight to people just how ridiculous it is to compare the United States to European countries. For perspective, I always make sure to point out that the population of New York City alone is just slightly lower than that of the entire population of Austria. So, one American city is almost as big as one entire European nation.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I thought Rush Limbaugh said it very well today. He said that Liberals want their performance to be evaluated on their INTENTIONS not their results. Seems pretty darn accurate to me.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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