Stephen Taylor picks up a line by EDK and runs with it:

While I can understand why a given person might have a philosophical gripe about specific policies in given European country, the contempt that the continent as whole is held by some members of the American right is, honestly, rather remarkable.

Not really. At least, I don’t think. There are a few factors at play:

  1. How different is the American right from the European left in this regard? The sneering is hardly one-sided. We can say “But European sneering at us is justified while our sneering is just us being Ugly Americans.” This response touches of #2 and #3.
  2. The sneering isn’t particularly limited to the American Right or European Left. Yeah, our right does it with the megaphones, and maybe our politicians do it more than theirs (or maybe not), but they do it in part because it is effective with more than just the base. Not without reason, but I get the impression that more Europeans spent more time sneering at us than vice-versa.
  3. The other issue is American intramural sneering. Which is to say, if someone is of the general mindset that America is a backwards place, they are as likely as not to look at Europe as a counterexample. They’re what we’re not. They’re better than us. Where we are different than them, well that’s a deficiency on our part. This breeds a particular sort of reaction. This isn’t an American thing, but rather a human thing (though it’s a human thing that Americans are at least somewhat more prone to indulging than others, I’ll grant.). “Why can’t you be more like them breeds resentment towards them. Even if the “you” is “we.”

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. Really how often when Right wingers throw out a Eurosneer where they quote some Euro leftie they are responding to?

    I’ve heard a million of the Eurosneers; most of them don’t sound like the person has any knowledge of what any particular European country is like. Santorum told one whopper about how in Holland they off a lot of old people which was just a slight complete lie. How many sneers are about how Europe is a socialist hell hole with out freedom or free markets? I’m just not seeing much actual info about Europe from the people who do most of the sneering. Europe is a handy boogie man; its a place holder for socialism, atheism, broken families and everything that is bad.

    I’m not buying at all your first two points but i think the third point might have some purchase. However not all that much. I see the point of mentioning how they do things other places as more of, “hey look at this cool thing that works really well. Maybe we should have this cool thing.” If i said that about a car, gun, skies, house, etc nobody would bat much of an eyelash. But if i say look at the nifty health care systems in western Europe then its a much different reaction. Another part of pointing out that somethings work well in E. is to answer the criticism often leveled at Liberal ideas that our ideas cannot work. So if i say nationalized uni HC is a good idea a conservative will say that does not and cannot work. I’ll say that it most definitely can work and here are real world examples of it actually working. That doesn’t mean we should do it that way but its a proof of concept and proof that my ideas are workable.

    I think the tendency to feel talked down to is often more a personal feeling that transcends the real world. Not that some people don’t talk down to others, but i just see that some people always feel they are being talked down to unless you agree with them. I’m just not seeing why pointing out real world examples is talking down to someone. Of course one individual can be snotty and snooty, but pointing out data and examples is not talking down. I think what you are touching on is that part of the Conservative Zeitgeist (now that is a snooty word) is that by definition Liberals are always talking down to Conservatives.

  2. It doesn’t have to be a direct response. It can be and is a response to general relationship dynamics. I see the same thing when it comes to rural/red versus urban/blue. Some people just don’t want to be considered inferior. Others want to be considered superior. The latter tend to bring out things in the former. So people who otherwise don’t care about Europe can take on attitudes (and vice-versa) as a part of the relationship dynamics.

    Liberals can come across as quite condescending and it’s not something that conservatives just woke up and decided would be felt as so. At their worst, when butting heads with liberals, they are far more likely than conservatives to treat me as though I am naive, unsophisticated, or unthinking than when I butt heads with conservatives (who are more likely to treat me as manipulative and – perhaps ironically – holier-than-thou). There are a lot of explanations for this, but this is a thing, in my view.

    • I know i’ve said this before but i’ve experienced plenty of condescension from conservatives. I don’t think condescension is a trait of any one political belief. In my red state its rare for a hunter or oil patch worker to not sneer and mock any sort of enviro view at least at first for example. I could go on for a while about the Eurosneers i’ve heard from some conservatives here. My response, which effectively ended the conversation was, ” So when were you in Europe to see these things?” ( hint the answer was always , never). I completely believe people have condescended to you since people have done so to me. I think conservatives have become predisposed to hearing and feeling condescension from others. Its more about not hearing or wanting to listen to others then being condescended to.

      You’ve never seemed holier then thou, but i’ll download the holier then thou detector extension for Firefox to keep an eye on it.

      • The right has no problem being condescending when the opportunity presents itself. “Oh, those libs, don’t they realize that when you regulate credit cards that it’s just going to lead to more charges elsewhere? Ohhhh, those naive liberals…*” (okay, it wasn’t said exactly like this, but that was the gist). But it’s nonetheless different in frequency, by my observation.

        * – Yes, I realized that, you jackass. I just believed that it was a good idea anyway.

        • Hmm. Favorite example: During the run up to Gulf II, there was a favored little comic/writeup thingy about how you should punch anti-war protestors until they understood the concept of self-defense and why pacifism was an utter failure.

          It apparently never occured to the genius who wrote it — nor the god knows how many that forwarded it (I got a dozen copies from relatives and one was prominently displayed on my father-in-law’s fridge for a few months) — that being “against a war” and “pacifism” weren’t the same things.

          Because, you know, anyone who disagreed with the Great War on Iraq must have been a pacifist (and therefore a stupid, idiotic, smelly hippy) because there was no legitimate objections. Period. It was a lovely little circular reinforcenment. The War was Just and Good, anyone who said otherwise was Hippy/Pacifist/Socialist/Frenchman and thus not worth listening to. It had a nice patina of smug righteousness and superiority as a kicker.

          • There is a lot that the right should be feeling bad about with regard to the run-up of that war, but I actually don’t put that in the condescension box. I put it in a box that is worse than condescension.

            Broadly speaking, in my experience, conservatives are more likely to assert moral superiority and liberals to assert intellectual superiority. Both sides ultimately assert both, a lot, of course, but in the same sense that right-handers use their left hand and vice-versa. When someone accuses me of having insufficient moral conviction or an insufficient appreciation of right and wrong, more likely they are of the right. When someone accuses me of being narrow-minded and insufficiently broad-thinking, they’re more likely to be of the left. This, despite the fact that neither the right nor left have actual dominion over the areas which they claim.

          • That’s a really provincial way of looking at things. You need to think about the bigger picture.

  3. There’s a difference between Eurosneering over here and Yanksneering over there. They know more about what’s going on over here (at least in the lower 48) and Americans are pitifully uninformed about Europe. How many Americans can correctly identify the prime minister of the UK, for a start? Who’s the president of France and what political party does he represent? What does it mean for American foreign policy now that the pro-American Sarko is out of power? What are the implications of the Spanish government’s bank bailout?

    All the silly old fables about the rudeness of French waiters and Italian lotharios be damned. Most Europeans speak decent English. You could line up a thousand Americans and shoot every one of them through the temple with a 22 caliber pistol and not kill anyone who can correctly conjugate the past participle of sauter.

    • That was what I was thinking when I said “not without reason.” There are reasons why they would sneer at us in broader numbers than vice-versa. We’re more of a factor in their lives. Of course, some of the perceptions fall under “a little knowledge being a dangerous things.” They sometimes describe America in ways that are… uhhh… foreign to me. And not in the sense of “I hadn’t thought of that from the outside perspective” before, but rather “What country are you describing here?”

      There is actually an analog here when we talk of asymmetry of knowledge of states within the US.

      • Americans are ignorant and seemingly proud of this fact. Look at all the money pouring into the Wisconsin recall vote. How many people outside Wisconsin realise both the Democrat and the Republican were both running on a platform of breaking the school union in the last election?

        As for America being more of a factor in their lives, I’m not sure I completely concur. In Europe, people are expected to be able to have an informed political discussion. Here in the States, our political discussions (obviously, present company excepted, which is why I hang out here ) have been reduced to the sort of discussion one has about sports teams or NASCAR.

        It’s rather like kink. At first, it’s just horrible. Then it becomes horribly fascinating. At last, it’s merely fascinating. I don’t think I’m projecting any superiority onto Europeans when I say they do feel pressure to stay informed where Americans feel no shame in their ignorance of the world at large. Yes, this is a vast country; every European I’ve known who came to visit me has said so.

        Yes, it’s rather like that old Steinberger New Yorker cover when we’re so large as a nation we take up four time zones. But it’s shocking and personally embarrassing to see how Americans react to Europeans who come over here. Where do the Euro-sneerers get off at? Romney’s spent time in France, he should know better. We seem to glory in our bumpkintude over in the Land of the Free, forever proclaiming our superiority over other countries.

        • I think a big part of it is how disconnected we feel from the process as a whole. It takes monstrous effort to know what’s going on. It’s easy to just kind of give up unless it’s something that inherently interests you. Local elections are seen, unfortunately and inaccurately, as comparatively unimportant due to the national. The national, on the other hand, is so large in scope that it’s pretty difficult to get a real grasp on. It’s the perfect formula for a disconnected country.

          • For all the news we’re bombarded with these days it does take a monstrous effort to sort out a picture of the process as a whole. In this little town, there are three bars and three cafés. People around here do talk to each other. They’re intensely political. If our national elections are so large in scope, it’s very weak tea in terms of facts and actual positions held. Romney out there in his high waist blue jeans, what a sap, as fake as a three dollar bill. Obama affecting black speech when it suits his purposes, he’s not a whit better. Promises made, promises broken, the Congress in a near perpetual psychotic fugue, as unpopular an institution as its ever been.

            Why don’t we do something about it? Why are we so passive in the face of such an upfucked system? Because people don’t want to hear complex answers to complex problems. Greginak alluded to Liberals talking down to Conservatives. Exactly how should Liberals phrase their responses to simplistic conclusions?

            Several important friends are expatriates in Sweden and Germany. My oldest daughter married a Finn. My son in law prefers the USA (that is to say, downtown Chicago) to Finland but they go back and forth a fair bit. I’m still bolted into Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris in which I once lived for several years. I still have friends in Munich. They’re all rolling their eyes up at America’s general trajectory. One German said it was like watching an much-loved friend going senile.

            America is greatly loved in the world. There’s a mythos about this country, embodied in our unique status as a nation of immigrants and slaves and the mysterious Native Americans, so many people yet still so much open space. If they sneer at our government, and they do, they still love Americans and many would like to be one themselves. I have a friend who’s very tall. He said it was tough being so tall. Lots of kids in school would try to pick fights with him. Maybe it’s this business of having to look up at us, we really are big and powerful and such folks attract the envy and hatred of others.

            Thing is, they no longer envy us. America isn’t a place where the promise of Starting Over still means anything, as once it did. We’re on the downhill slide. Like the Roman Republic, we’ve had our two hundred good years. Now we’re into the four hundred bad years which followed. Oh, there were some bright spots in those four centuries, Marcus Aurelius and suchlike. Europe has been on the downhill slide for a while now, too. The EU seems to be coming apart at the seams. Not much to envy about them, either. Capitalism and democracy have been tussling over the bedsheets for a while now and democracy seems to have huffed out of the bedroom and now sleeps on the couch.

            I don’t have a simple prescription for the ills of America. This much I do know, people are losing hope. We who still harbour some hope that our government might be responsive to the needs of the many and not the campaign-dollar-funded demands of the few are not encouraged to believe there’s any reason things will get better soon.

  4. I think it’s odd that you wrote this post, today. Just this morning I was thinking about doing a post about Eurosneering.

    No, really. I was thinking about how I had a nice European style breakfast on my back patio with Italian coffee and Greek yogurt and some fruit juice and how nice it might be to have really fresh food and produce to cook for dinner every night even if that meant having a tiny little refrigerator so I’d have to go to the store every day but that would be okay because it would get me out there mingling with others in the community and what’s wrong with any of that for Americans to feel superior about?

    Then I turned on Twitter and did the post I did. Because, come on, a personal friend and Conor Friedersdorf sparring. That’s way better than the joys of fresh grapefruit.

    • The idea of a “continental” breakfast here and in Europe is so different. Here its crappy pastries, white bread and a box o’cereal. In most of Europe its high quality fresh cheeses, meats, pastries, fruit and various other things. I was on the other side of the pond a month ago and the breakfasts in the hotels were worth enjoying as opposed to here where they are filler.

        • You can buy Thomy and other eurobrands online, of course. You can even get pata negra bellota ham — bust your budget occasionally and enjoy life!

          My Swiss girlfriend often tells people over there that we Americans aren’t quite as unbelievable as the “silly Americans” media stories would have them believe. I then have to correct her: “sorry, we really are like that.”

  5. 1) That is just about the whitest thing a person can say.

    2) In most of Hungary, where we were biking through, they had plenty of mayo. If you got fish, you got a big dish of mayo with it. They got plenty of mayo.

    • Maybe things have changed, or maybe it was just a different part of Europe (we never got to Hungary) but that was not our experience. Our experience was that we happened on a tube of mayo early on and thank gawd we did because all of their food was dry, dry, dry and there was almost never mayo, mustard, or anything. We didn’t even like mayo! We still talk about that to this day.

      • Whoops, misunderstood your plaint above. Sounds like the European experience left you angry, bitter, and very dry-mouthed. Sorry.

        • I’d actually love to go back to Europe. I just want to make sure I have a tube of mayo with me next time.

          • Oh, not on the plane. We found them in Europe once, I’ll do it again (I hope!). It’s just that next time, I’ll buy 5.

  6. The thing that strikes me about conservative Eurosneering (love that word, by the way) is how strategic it is. Europe presents an alternative way of structuring a post-industrial society that is pretty much a direct challenge to every underlying presumption of the movement right: a regulatory welfare state that promotes “secular humanist” values, a non-punitive correctional system, and a rather different balance of individual vs. collective rights. To my mind, these are largely successful societies, especially in Northern Europe, where the Protestant ethic is still strong (e.g. Germany, Holland, Denmark, Finland, & Sweden).

    The threat of a successful counterexample leads to the reflexive denunciation of everything they represent, kind of as a pre-emptive rebuttal to the example they present. I see this as parallel, in every way, to the right’s concerted denial of global warming, even as a possibility: because the only reasonable response to global warming would be inherently collective, they don’t merely “doubt” its reality, but pose it as a massive fraud perpetuated by those who want to increase state power.

    The antidote to Eurosneering, as greginak pointed out, is Europe. Spend any kind of serious time there, and you’ll see that these are successful societies. I still miss America when I’m there–and our crazy optimism, peculiar worship of the individual, and boundless ambition–but I think the actual experience of Europe confronts our triumphalism pretty profoundly.

    • The antidote to Eurosneering, as greginak pointed out, is Europe. Spend any kind of serious time there, and you’ll see that these are successful societies. I still miss America when I’m there–and our crazy optimism, peculiar worship of the individual, and boundless ambition–but I think the actual experience of Europe confronts our triumphalism pretty profoundly.

      Dude. This is awesomely correct.

    • The first counter-argument that came to my mind is the good, old-fashioned, “NATO Umbrella” counter-argument. The main reason that Europe can afford to buy so much butter is because the US bought so many guns on its behalf following WWII.

      Denmark had a great deal of Liberty to provide one heck of a social safety net because it had quite a great many funds freed up (not to mention human capital freed up) to engage in something other than “Peace Through Strength”.

      I’m also wrestling with an essay about the European Social Safety net with regards to such things as medical advancements and trying to figure out a way to do a meaningful comparison between countries and right now I’m thinking about using Nobel (non-Peace) Prizes (specifically Medicine) and wondering if those are indicative of anything.

      Here’s the count since the end of WWII for Northern Europe:
      Denmark 1
      Finland 1
      Norway 0
      Sweden 6

      To get back to the US having the same number of Nobel Laureates for Medicine, you only have to go back to 2006. If you want to exclude the “born in (not USA)” winners (and I can see why you’d want to), the count becomes:
      Denmark 1
      Finland 0
      Norway 0
      Sweden 5

      And you have to go back to 2004 to catch up to Northern Europe with the prizes that the US has won.

      How much of what Northern Europe has accomplished is because someone else did heavy lifting on its behalf?

      • Counting back from today may not give a good measurement, I realize. So I counted forward from 1945 and got to 1954 whether or not we count “born in (not USA)” winners.

        • Its certainly possible Europe could spend more on its people because we were there helping to defend them. We’d need to look at defence spending for the past few decades to get a better handle on that. I don’t think Noble prizes is a good yard ( or meter) stick. Our university system is excellent which has led to a lot of accomplishments here. Also we’ve had a lot of public funding for research here. I have no idea how much funding of research NE countries do. Wouldn’t it be better to look at Noble prizes per capita to create a more fair comparison. All four of countries you have here don’t have many people at all. Just a rough guess but all four of those countries don’t have as many people at as the LA or NY metro areas. I’d wonder why the Sweedes seem to kick butt but the Finn’s and Norwegians havn’t done squat.

          • I realized that there could be multiple winners in any given year. I mean, should two Americans winning the prize in 19## count twice as much as one Swede winning it in 20##? (Or vice-versa?) So knock one year off of Sweden… for a final count of:

            Denmark 1
            Finland 1
            Norway 0
            Sweden 5


            Denmark 1
            Finland 0
            Norway 0
            Sweden 4

            The US count becomes:

            48 since the end of WWII if you count people born elsewhere, 40 if you don’t (and if there was a team with at least one, I counted it… I didn’t count it if everybody was born elsewhere).

            US Population in 1946 was a little over 141,000,000. As of May 14, 2012, it was a little over 313,500,000.

            Denmark was 7,000,000 in 1945. It’s 9,300,000 today.
            Finland was 4,000,000 in 1950. It’s 5,375,000 in 2010
            Norway was 3,125,000 in 1946. It’s just under 5,000,000 today.
            Sweden was just over 4,000,000 in 1945 and just over 5,000,000 today.

            However you want to do math is something we can hammer out after a good night’s sleep.

          • Jaybird: Using current population figures, you get a Scandinavian population of roughly 25 million as compared to a US population of 313 million, so that’s less than 1/10 the size. With 40-48 American Nobel winners, the per capita equivalent for Scandinavia would thus be between 3.5 and 4.5, but there were instead between 5 and 7.

            Using 1945 figures, you get a Scandinavian population of roughly 18 million; with a US population of 141,000,000, that makes Scandinavia’s population about 1/8 the size of the US’. With those figures, then, the per capita equivalent would be between 5 and 6, which is pretty much exactly what they had.

            So this doesn’t really tell us anything one way or another.

          • Yeah, it doesn’t seem a good measurement but, like the guy looking under the lamppost, I don’t know where else I could look. Should I compare all of Europe + Canada to the US? Would *THAT* give us a meaningful comparison?

            It seems to me that there’s a disconnect somewhere but I don’t know how to look for it, let alone measure it. The Nobel Prizes seem indicative of… SOMETHING. I just don’t know what.

          • In all honesty, I’m not sure that comparisons with Europe, or at least stable European democracies, are ever likely to yield meaningful results. I think it can be useful to look at Europe (and perhaps vice versa) for the very limited purpose of saying that a given combination of results is possible, or for refuting absolute, generally a priori, claims. But I strongly doubt that cross-country comparisons can meaningfully tell us that policy X is better or worse than policy Y, nor that policy X will result in outcome Z.

            In other words, cross-country comparisons can tell us that it is at least possible to have single-payer health care without descending into a socialist hellhole, but they don’t tell us much one way or another about the likely outcome of single-payer health care were it implemented in the US.

        • I’m not sure the point you’re getting at. That their welfare state is illegitimate, because they don’t spend as much on military as we do? (No one else does).

          • Illegitimate? I don’t even know what that would mean in this case.

            I think it’s more that they were able to accomplish what they were able to accomplish because, for lack of a more elegant analogy, we provided infrastructure without which they could not have provided anywhere near as much as they did.

          • That’s a somewhat reasonable conjecture, but not an indisputable one. Intuition doesn’t tell you that, had they been forced to fend for their own defense, they would have been somewhat less over-the-top in their efforts to contain the Soviets, accommodated them somewhat more (which we determined was strongly contrary to our own interests, which led to our decisions), and pursued welfare states something like what they have? It does me. Mileage can vary on the question, is my only point.

            Beyond that, I wonder, do you think the European welfare state is what gets people like our Mark Thompson and Burt Likko to say they’ve got some good stuff going on over there which makes bashing the continent sound ignorant? Are you sure it’s not cultural practices that wouldn’t have been nearly as hemmed in as (you think) the welfare state would have had to have been had the U.S. not provided a defense against Soviet rollover in the fifties? Like, say, good cheese and fresh bread at breakfast?

          • Well, to answer your other questions, I’m sure that they’ve got some good stuff going on over there.

            My issue is with the whole “if they can do it, we can do it” implication which, I feel, ought to be countered with “they could do it because we didn’t do it”. If all we’re saying is that they’re doing a number of good things over there, then let me say that I agree. Good on them.

          • I think you have a good point, I’m just not sure how far it goes. In particular, I’m not sure it means we all couldn’t have done “it,” certainly potentially in a world where there wasn’t quite as clear and present a threat as the Soviet Union (which is I think a realistic enough counterfactual that it has nonzero evaluative weight in considering whether the Euro model has something going for it), and even in the world as it actually played out. You keep making your assertions to the effect of, “they could do it because we didn’t do it,” and I think that’s very plausible, but I don’t think it’s a demonstrated fact. There is more you could do to make that assertion less controvertible, and you don;t seem to be doing it. And, despite the fact that in the actual course of facts, the U.S. did grant that defense subsidy, it is nevertheless on you to make the argument about what the counterfactual would look like, since you are making the specific claim about it (i.e., that it wouldn’t include the lovely Eurowelfare states we have today, in the snese that they wouldn’t exist or tha they wouldn’t be lovely). Again, I’m not saying it’s not plausible on it’s face that that would have been true, but it;s also not a dead-lock cinch. It’s a question of a lot of things, including among them the numbers, which for all I know might not be a complete wipeout in favor of the argument you’re making.

            As to the other stuff, it’s fair to say that this welfare state stuff was a lot of what Snarky was talking about since he mentioned it explicitly, but I’d be curious as to what Burt and Mark had in mind in endorsing his general conclusion about Europe itself as the counterargument against Eurosneering – and whether your arguments have convinced them to reassess. What East Germans ate for breakfast is a fair question. Another fair question is how far Russia would really have pushed West if the U.S. had stood by, and of course how much European countries would have resisted – and what the effects on their economy and politics would have been. It’s probably also fair to point out that many of the countries that did fall behind the Iron Curtain at this point have established the kind of social programs Snarky, and re-established the cultural institutions and practices that I suspect Mark and Burt are more inclined to value (countries like Czech Republic, Hungary, etc.) It would also be fair for you to question whether the IC would even be lifted by now had America not pursued the kind of aggressive containment it did. But it would be fair for me to wonder whether it’s actually the case that by engaging in that foreign policy strategy in the Cold War, the U.S. actually did forfeit the ability to pursue a social model more along the lines of what was developing in western Europe during that time, or whether the reasons that we did not do that simply had to do with our political preferences and culture, and that in fact we would have been able to afford it had we wanted to and been committed to finding a way to make it work.

          • I would like to think that it goes farther than “if they could do it, then we could do it”.

            Now, if we’re just arguing that Europeans do better at breakfast and have better table wines, well… of course they do. We do better when it comes to suppertime and have better beer.

          • I’m not sure what you’re getting at in the first line there. The argument is that there’s something, maybe a lot, to like in their system, so Eurosneering is ignorant. That’s pretty much it.

            On the second, I haven’t spent enough time there to know whether I’d prefer it to here based on that kind of stuff. I liked what I saw. Apparently Mark and Burt did too.

          • It’s funny how “your happy and carefree life only exists because someone else guards you while you sleep, so stop complaining about taxes!” applies to American cities but not to European countries.

            Although there’s people who honestly believe that the Soviet Union was never any kind of a threat, so I guess there you are.

          • Well, Snarky (hey Snarky, it was awesome meeting you!) makes the point that one of the things about Europe is that it poses a threat to American triumphalism. Maybe, though often implied in there is the provincialism of believe that there is only one way of going about things and other ways are (such as the European way) are wrong, and that Europe’s actual okayness (if we dare to perceive it as such, so we don’t) threatens that view.

            I think there is something to that. I think some of it is in response to what I mention below, but some of it is the need to believe that nobody has it better than we do.

            For my own part, though, I sort of look at it all in a way similar to Jaybird. Which is to say my fear of looking too admiringly at Europe is not that we might adopt their policies and become more like them, but rather that we might adopt their policies and fail, becoming something worse than they are and worse than we are now.

            Of course, I’m not sneering at Europe (except periodically in a light-hearted ribbing manner, if that counts), so that may render this moot as far as you’re concerned. And I don’t view Europe as a threat to our own exceptionalism. But it is something that immediately comes to mind when people start exalting European policies. Despite the fact that, in some cases, I admire the European policy and in other cases I do wonder how we might adopt them over here and how it would work. Sometimes – not always, maybe not mostly – European appreciation comes across as “Europe Does X, We Do Y” as an argument in and of itself for X. That’s not something I am seeing going on in this thread, but it is something I see.

            (This is a big thing in anime circles, with regard to Japanese culture.)

          • Here’s the flip side to matters of taste:

            It’s okay to dislike things too. If something is worth admiring (that is not itself a moral good) then it’s also worth sneering at. Something something de gustibus.

            Example from America: The Carpenters.

          • I also think that MichaelD is right that counterfactuals can be problematic when we don’t know, for instance, what some of these countries would have done without our protections. To get on my hobbyhorse, it’s not unlike how people look at the donor/beneficiary map and assume that the beneficiary states would slide into third-worldism or have to massively increase taxes but not for Uncle Sam. The truth is almost certainly more complicated than that. Idaho as an independent entity might not spend money and have money spent the same way that Idaho as a beneficiary state does. Likewise, who knows what European countries might or might not do? It’s always free to speculate, but it remains speculation.

          • If you’d argued from the outset that it might well be just a matter of taste which is the better system (as I suggested was basically the reason we didn’t adopt theirs, rather than the need for someone to do the kind of defense spending that was done to make it either choice come out well at all), I’d have been quite inclined to agree.

            Now, as to sneering over matters of taste, I think it’s a matter of taste, or maybe there’s even actually a fact of the matter about it, whether that’s justified, and I differ with your judgment. I think it’s far more tasteful, and maybe even objectively better, to say, “You do it your way; I’ll do it mine; there’s something worthy in each approach, so let’s both respect and indeed admire what there is to admire in the other’s way,” if the question really is a matter of taste and there isn’t a fact of the matter about the superiority of one over the other, than it is to sneer across the table about those choices. That’s especially true when there really are things to admire in those choices, even though they differ from one’s own, but even when one thoroughly dislikes another’s choices, if one acknowledges it really is just a matter of taste, then I tend to think sneering is at best in really bad taste, and possibly just not a good thing to do.

          • …And indeed sneering is ignorant if it’s done without pretty fulsome knowledge of what the choices being sneered at even are, what the reasons for them are, and how they are actually experienced by those who make them and have to live out the results.

          • I think it’s really hard to draw a line between “Our tastes are different” to “my tastes are superior” because we often thing of our tastes as judgments, rather than merely value-neutral preferences.

          • Just as an aside to Will – I’ve ignored the other side of your point, maybe the more proper object of the term Eurosneering, i.e. Europeans sneering at Americans, only because I don’t have a good sense of how much it happens and what forms it takes. But it definitely happens, and I think you’re right to say that this is a mutual cycle where condescension breeds resentment, and resentment, feeling like weakness, creates ways to feel strong, and so finds reasons to condescend in return. And that’s basically what’s going on here. Obviously, there can’t be any doubt that Europeans have a history of looking down their noses at Americans, whether in current relations, or as more of a legacy of Old- vs. New-World attitudes.

          • As to the other stuff, it’s fair to say that this welfare state stuff was a lot of what Snarky was talking about since he mentioned it explicitly, but I’d be curious as to what Burt and Mark had in mind in endorsing his general conclusion about Europe itself as the counterargument against Eurosneering – and whether your arguments have convinced them to reassess.

            Already working on it. Actually, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to do a post on this subject for awhile. I know the point I want to make and the examples I want to give, but not how to make it all coherent.

          • To re-use a word from above, ignorance is not an illegitimate position when it comes to matters of taste.

            Being a jerk is not necessarily a matter of taste, of course. If folks are being jerky to someone else, that’s a matter of morality… but if I’m sitting in my home thinking about how stupid vodka is and how stupid drinks are that are supposedly better the less you’re able to taste it, that’s what matters of taste are *FOR*. Having opinions about. It’s okay. There aren’t wrong ones. Even the completely unfounded ones aren’t wrong.

          • No, it’s not illegitimate. One can sneer while ignorant. But it can be silly while there is nothing so “wrong” with it that it’s illegitimate (or definitively “wrong” in some other way).

            We can all have different opinions about sneering while ignorant, but in all cases it remains sneering while ignorant.

          • I’d also insist that sitting at home thinking is not sneering. At the very least a sneer is a facial expression that is made in such a way that it would convey contempt for someone of something to someone who might be in a position to see it. And I think there has to be a person around the sneerer who could potentially (though might not in the event) be in such a position. More specifically, I think the kind of sneering that was being discussed here was a verbal act of some kind – something written or spoken publicly enough that someone who doesn’t share the view of the thing being sneered at might hear or read it. Sitting at home thinking thoughts or having opinions about Europe doesn’t, in other words, fit the description of what we’ve been talking about this whole time in terms of sneering.

  7. A quick trip to Wikipedia shows the four Nordic countries have about 28 million people. The NY metro area has around 20 million and the LA metro area have about 15 million

  8. European history is shameful. That’s why I reject their snootiness toward the US. They were cruel to each other, even more cruel as colonizers. Their late-20th century social democrat success was built on back of the Pax Americana, and is now collapsing as economically and socially unsustainable.

    They have no standing to look down on anyone, especially America.

    It wasn’t until a year or two ago, re-studying Europe’s history on my own, that it dawned on me that Euro-America [the white part, I suppose] has unjustifiably romanticized European history—it warrants far more disdain than admiration. Part of it is due to “our” European lineage, that Europe’s history is in some sense [white] America’s; I also think Europe gets some deserved admiration for developing and transmitting Western Civilization [as we call it, and which is still superior to the others].

    Perhaps what sealed the deal was a quote from Justice Scalia [in rejecting international law as a basis for American jurisprudence] that

    The men who founded our republic did not aspire to emulating Europeans, much less the rest of the world.


    • “This” then, means that we don’t want to emulate the Europe of 1787 and earlier? I’m okay with that but what, exactly, does that have to do with 2012?

      And do you think that Euro-America (of which I count myself a member) romanticizes European history more than than we romanticize American history? Not even close, buddy.

Comments are closed.