Click on banner ad to support JWR

Jewish World Review May 4, 2000 / 29 Nissan, 5760

Ben Wattenberg

Ben Wattenberg
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


America, the bulldozer -- GOLLY, a long, front-page story in the New York Times says that Europeans not only don't like us Americans, they don't like us more than they used to not like us. Should we change our ways?

As is common in these matters, the most intense pain is felt in France, a nation once regarded as important.

Its bookstores are full of anti-American titles, like "No, Thanks, Uncle Sam," "American Totalitarianism," "The World is Not Merchandise" and "Who Is Killing France? The American Strategy."

(If France is road kill, at least it's going down in a blaze of good titles.)

The current anti-American litany has lots of golden oldies, and a few newbies. The Times story says that the French, and Europeans generally, think that Americans turn away poor people when they need medical care; that we have too many guns and use them; that we are racists; that we are ruled by profit-first laws, enforced by brutal policemen; that we don't know anything about Europe and don't care to; that we corrupt European youth with our movies, television and music; and, alors, that we still use the barbarian death penalty against people who kill other people (hence the American word "guillotine").

Of newer vintage, Americans are said to force-feed Europeans with genetically modified hamburgers, that we use our electronic surveillance systems to spy on European industries for competitive advantage, and that smart young Europeans are headed for Silicon Valley and other hot tech spots in America, creating a "European Brain Drain." Most important is that since the end of the Cold War, America is the only remaining super power, far too super powerful, and set upon ruling the world by imposing its crass values upon it.

Purportedly, these feelings come not just from the usual snotty elites, but from the vast European public.

Polls are cited showing that only 30 percent of the French think there is "anything to admire" in America, that 68 percent are "worried" about America's status as a super power and that 63 percent "did not feel close to the American people." Polls in other European nations are said to show similar tendencies with somewhat smaller numbers. (The surveys sound fishy, as will be noted.)

There are some very interesting aspects to this. Many, maybe most, of the negatives clearly echo complaints made by Americans in America. Many Americans -- right, left and center -- think American society is too materialistic. (I am not of their number, although I surely believe that the best things in life are not things.) Lots of Americans think we're too involved in the affairs of other countries. Lots of Americans believe that our entertainment culture has gone over the edge. And, of course, Americans, just like Europeans, mostly like American movies.

And there are some mysteries. If Europeans don't like us, why do so many of their best and brightest want to come here? If they don't like us, why do they like American music, movies and television more than their own? (More than half of the best-selling novels in France are translations of American books!) If they don't like American-style democratic market capitalism, why are European businessmen aping it now with a vengeance? I suspect rank-and-file Europeans, munching their Big Macs, are much less concerned about America the Bulldozer than are the chattering classes. When asked, they may well say they are "worried" about America's super-power role, but I bet the pollster didn't ask whether they liked it better when there was a second super power, the Soviet Union, on their case, with tanks pointed West.

There is also arrogance and sadness. Imagine: Europeans, now going through an anti-immigration spasm, with a blood-soaked, genocidal, 20th-century history on their hands, complaining about racism in pluralist America! A decent moratorium on such criticism should last at least a century.

Europe, revered ancestor of Western culture, is fading from the global center stage. The European Total Fertility Rate is 1.5 children per woman, which is almost 30 percent below the rate required to "replace" a society over time (2.1 children are needed). Under current U.N. projections, Europe is destined to lose 100 million to 150 million people in the next half century.

Aging, anti-immigration, below-replacement, welfare-state societies are in for a rocky ride. Who's supposed to pay the freight for the elderly? Why should America be egged on to emulate unsupportable European social policies? Perhaps it's they who ought to be looking this way.

The European governments could try to reverse the allegedly dreaded "Americanization," but not without limiting liberty. To their credit, these are not governments that can tell their people what to read, hear, watch or eat. To the credit of their people, they want the liberty to pick and choose from the global culture.

Just as we do.

Ben Wattenberg is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the moderator of PBS's "Think Tank." You may comment by clicking here.

Ben Wattenberg Archives

© 2000, NEA