October 5, 2004
Political Philosophy Passage of the Moment
Though historians seldom allude to it, the American Dream is largely a European creation transported to American soil and frozen in time. [...] The American Dream emphasizes economic growth, personal wealth, and independence. The new European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and interdependence. The American Dream pays homage to the work ethic. The European Dream is more attuned to leisure and "deep play." The American Dream is inseparable from the country's religious heritage and deep spiritual faith. The European Dream is secular to the core. The American Dream depends on assimilation: We associate success with shedding our former ethnic ties and becoming free agents in the great American melting pot. The European Dream, by contrast, is based on preserving one's cultural identity and living in a multicultural world. The American Dream is wedded to love of country and patriotism. The European Dream is more cosmopolitan and less territorial.
--Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream in the Utne Reader. (The printer-friendly version is probably easier to read even on-screen.)
That "frozen in time" aspect has really started to bother me lately, especially when I hear arguments based on the "intentions of the founding fathers". The world has changed over 200 years, and while the durability of the union (along with the fact that the constitution does have an appropriately stodgy amendment mechanism) indicates that change shouldn't be taken lightly, it seems amazing that people putting forth that argument want us to use a time before the end of slavery and the start of woman's suffrage as an ultimate reference point. I also dig that "secular to the core" aspect, along with "live to work vs work to live" USA/Euro split.
The author doesn't claim that Europe is perfect, but its constitution and outlook, less unbridledly optimistic than the American and with a strong sense of interdependence, might be more attuned to the modern world where barriers to long distance communication and trade have dropped in so many ways. Also the author seems to be asserting a new bipolar USA vs. Europe outlook without consider how, say, China is doing, not to mention the rest of the world.
Link via MetaFilter, which had some conversation about it. I'd love to hear what some of the readers here think of it. (I suspect LAN3 might disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in the essay...)
Campaigning of the Moment
Now THIS might be chutzpah of jaw-dropping proportions. Bush wants to give an anti-Kerry speech....but it's not clear if it's going to be nationally televised or not. If so, this would be Bully-Pulpit-Bull of the most disgraceful kind. Admittedly, some liberals are getting very uptight about this but it might be a big bowl of nothing.