In late May, fellow Brit, the sagacious Mark Steyne, observed: "Sick in bed a couple of months back, I started reading 'A Declaration of Interdependence: Why America Should Join the World' by Will Hutton, and found it such a laugh I was soon hurling my medication away and doing cartwheels round the room." Why?
"The great Euro-thinker. . .compares the American and French Revolutions, and decides the latter was better because instead of the radical individualism of the 13 colonies the French promoted ''a new social contract.''" In other words, the Founding Fathers got it completely assbackwards! First at pains to demonstrate his love of American pop culture, Hutton then gets both his facts and political philosophy completely wrong - thus raising Steyne's triumphant cackles.
First, consider theory.
"[I]t's the [Europeans] willingness to subordinate individual liberty to what Hutton calls `the primacy of society' that has blighted the continent for over a century: Statism -- or `the primacy of society' -- is what fascism, Nazism, communism and now European Union all have in common." Statism, no matter how benign, subordinates the individual to some alleged collective `good.' But American's believe in individual destinies - not any vague societal one.
Why the difference? In the Lockean world of America, people and social relations precede the state. Only by delegating rights to a central authority do individuals gain for themselves what they otherwise would do on their own. But this is no blank check. Rather, inalienable rights belong to each and every one of us, as human beings. This is the ultimate protection against overreaching state power.
Next, consider the many facts.
First, certain US states have practiced democracy for almost 300 years, not Germany or France. The latter have fallen to fascism, Nazism, and communism. Only with US help did Europe regain its way, finding a relatively benign statism instead. Will Hutton should work from the former to the latter, not the reverse, if he is to play fair with the weight of historical evidence.
Secondly, Hutton mistakes the "social safety net" Euro-socialism has constructed for itself with progress. Euro-soc is sclerotic and burdened with cultural inferiority and material backwardness that, by European's own entrepreneurial reckoning, might take a hundred years to catch up to US levels.
The claim that the Euro `social model' of society and politics is superior underwent a decisive drubbing in 2004's "Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality," by German business journalist Olaf Gersemann. Using a thorough systematic analysis of the statistical data, he finds that these arguments - often the same deployed by Hutton - are either outright false or seriously overestimated. Hutton argues that Americans pay a huge price for their economic system in income inequality and other social problems, like two working parents because of indebtedness. In fact, very few families find two parents working out of necessity.
Inequality of income is wildly overestimated in the US for several reasons: Most wealthier parents work long hours by choice, yet relatively few of the poor do; "income" figures neglect ubiquitous transfer payments for the poor; and many millions of recent immigrants, typically bottom-rung poor from Mexico, exaggerate income inequality. But when quality of material life is calculated, such as the poor owning cars, air conditioning, homes, and living space, it's much better to be poor in the US than Europe. 60 percent of all the world's immigration is to the US, which remains a beacon for opportunity.
The greater market freedoms in America create a more flexible, adaptable, and prosperous system than the declining welfare states of Europe. The US leads in opportunity, economic growth, quality of life, R & D, cultural exports, and higher educational quality and opportunity, leaving Europe far behind except when it comes to access to basic health care.
Upon the sound defeat of the new EU constitution in France, The New York Times reported on reaction in Bobigny, a working-class suburb of Paris, with 18 percent unemployment and a large ethnic Arab and African population, where 72 percent of the voters there said `no.' The suburb's Communist mayor, Mr. Biringer said: "We are already in a Europe of unemployment and regression."
Recent research conducted by political scientist Paul Gottfried revealed a salient changed ideological reality. Before the Fall of Communism, leftist ideas and politics flowed from Europe to the US. But after the Fall, this process was reversed. Thus, New Labour and Prime Minister Blair in Britain achieved its present success through imitating Clinton and the DLC. Others like Germany's Chancellor Schroeder and French leftists have only gained power in the absence of coherent alternatives from the right, not by dint of political seriousness.
The endemic problem for the left today is its inability to cease navel gazing, projecting distracting animosities, and do the hard work of actually rethinking its political identity and program. Facile won't do, nor will perfunctory or mediocre. But like Michael Moore, that's all we ever get. (Sigh.) Will Hutton's opus is similarly wide of the mark.