Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Goldberg: Culture Counts in Society

Jonah Goldberg:
What I find interesting about the liberal defense of European welfare states (They really work! No Really!) is how they leave culture out of the equation almost entirely. Conservatives, particularly free market types of the Kempian variety, have a similar myopia...Maybe, just maybe, France and Denmark can handle the systems they have because they have long traditions of sucking-up to the state and throne? Marty Lipset wrote stacks of books on how Canadians and Americans have different forms of government because the Royalist, throne-kissing, swine left America for Canada during the Revolutionary War and that's why they don't mind big government, switched to the metric system when ordered and will wait on line like good little subjects. Liberals constantly invoke Sweden as a governmental model without paying much heed to the fact that Sweden's government succeeds as much as it does because it governs Swedes. And maybe, just maybe, the reason America doesn't have a sprawling European welfare state is that America isn't Europe. And, unlike some of our liberal friends, Americans don't want to be Europeans. Indeed, that's why so many Europeans move to America, so they can be Americans.

If government systems are the only variable, or even the most important and decisive one, then how come it's so damn hard bringing third world countries into the first world? There are plenty of African and Latin American welfare states that are indistinguishable on paper from their European cousins and yet we don't see Swedens and Denmarks all over the place. And of course no one can deny the salience of this point when it comes to poor benighted Iraq. What a happier place the world would be if fixing Iraq merely meant installing the most fashionable system from Europe these days, whatever that is.

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