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April 7, 2002

And now, from David Brooks, the Order of Stakhanov Deploying my null-A-trained double brain, I divine that many bloggers will be linking to and agreeing with—or arguing with—this piece by David Brooks.

Me, I read every word, and it’s an important and interesting argument. I also think Gary Farber has a good point here: “Is it so indivisibly wonderful that Americans have the shortest vacations and longest working hours of anyone on the planet? It does wonders for the GDP, but for the individual? Y’know, that person American ideals are supposed to be all about, rather than the collective?” Indeed. [01:13 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on And now, from David Brooks, the Order of Stakhanov:

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 03:11 AM:

So our enemies abroad hate the middle class.aaUnfortunately, so does the Republican Party.aaWe're fucked.

Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 07:13 AM:

You know, I still don't hate the US, nor do most or even many Europeans do so. aaIt's just that too many USAnians are quick to confuse criticism of US actions (or even US governmental actions) with hatred of the US.aaOr the rejection of some, by no means all, of theavalues USAnians hold high as a rejection of themselves.aaYep, I don't believe that monetary succes is everything, or that the country with the bestaeconomy is necessarily the best place to live in.aaDoesn't mean I want to destroy the US and all it stands for. I just wish its more negative aspects could be toned down or eliminated.

Hal ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 07:15 AM:

Well, an interesting thing is that I had occasion to be reminded of the the term "bourgeois" for the first time in forever, when I read Harper's re-print of Curtis White's essay, "The Middle Mind". One may find an online version at:aahttp://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no9/white.htmlaaAnyway, what occurred to me, as I read, was that the essay is a classic, 1960's class-based screed, with the word "bourgeois" search-and-replaced in Word with "the Middle Mind".aaThe funny thing, of course, is that almost all such writing -- whether White's essay, or Brooks', or Ye Olde Boomer Classics -- tends to be rooted in either envy or self-loathing. And that's even before we get to discussing how bourgeoisophobia is the root of just about all Modernism, whether in visual arts, architecture, "literary" writing, what-have-you.aaInteresting stuff, to be sure.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 10:50 AM:

Answering Martin Wisse:aa"You know, I still don't hate the US, nor do most or even many Europeans do so."aaNot really at issue. The idea that lots of Europeans "hate the US" is not a position taken here at Electrolite.aa"It's just that too many USAnians are quick to confuse criticism of US actions (or even US governmental actions) with hatred of the US."aaMaybe so, or maybe not. I've seen this kind of claim a lot lately. Sometimes it's being said in order to cloak truly bigoted remarks. And sometimes it's being said in defense of reasonable comments to which someone has overreacted.aaHow can we tell the difference? Amazingly enough, we have to judge each case on its merits. The existence of anti-American bigotry doesn't relieve Americans of the obligation to listen to reasoned and deserved criticism. Just as importantly, the existence of overdefensive Americans doesn't excuse hatefulness, demogoguery, or simple intellectual laziness in critiques of America and Americans.aaBy the way, a very similar two paragraphs could be written about the common claim, also often ventured by Europeans, that "You people always confuse criticism of Israel's policies with criticism of the Jews." Indeed, sometimes people do confuse the two -- and, alternately, sometimes "criticism of Israel's policies" is used as a smokescreen for anti-Semitism. How can we distinguish the cases? Well, not without looking at each individual case.aa"Or the rejection of some, by no means all, of the values USAnians hold high as a rejection of themselves.aa"Yep, I don't believe that monetary success is everything, or that the country with the best economy is necessarily the best place to live in."aaOf course, neither do I. I don't even think David Brooks thinks that, and he obviously values "monetary success" more highly than I do. To Brooks's credit, he actually bothers to make reasoned arguments for doing so. Martin Wisse's response doesn't partake of any such effort; all Wisse does is attribute to Brooks an exaggerated and indefensible opinion.aa"Doesn't mean I want to destroy the US and all it stands for. I just wish its more negative aspects could be toned down or eliminated."aaOn the face of it, this is a statement that could just as easily be made about Belgium. Or cabbage.aaEverything has "negative aspects"; everyone can claim that they merely want to see those negatives "toned down or eliminated." What's at issue is the messy particulars. Brooks's claim is that the specific qualities many people dislike about Americans are in fact our good qualities. He may be wrong and he may be right, but this kind of overgeneralized handwaving doesn't even begin to address the questions. It's just attitude.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 01:55 PM:

I am suspicious of anyone who invokes "elites"aand "intellectuals" quite as frequently as Brooks does. One of the spin tactics of the right for some time now has been to mobilize the power of American inferiority complexes and deep-seated anti-intellectualism by demonizing certain sorts of criticims as intellectual elitism. It is so very comforting to be able to dismiss an entire continent's thoughts and observations by lumping them all together and claiming that they are blinded by their hatred for your virtue. That Brooks makes some important points within that framework doesn't change the fundamentally propagandistic nature of his agenda, I think, just serves as a testimony to his rhetorical skill in leaving the reader forced to go to some trouble to disentangle argument from emotional manipulation.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 02:13 PM:

An excellent point from Ulrika.aaFamous libertarian Virginia Postrel has a couple of recent posts on her weblog that nail this kind of right-wing victimology for what it is. She still doesn't use permalinks, but they're the posts headlined "Blog Bull" and, more recently, "Victimhood Politics."

Mary Kay Kare ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 02:40 PM:

It was a very interesting article. And, I think, one especially likely appeal to Americans. It's sort of infamous how we all consider ourselves middle class. I was reading it with a generally approving eye and much virtual head nodding. Then I encountered his kind words about the current administration in DC. Opinions so at odds with mine that I have to wonder whether my critical faculties were adquately deployed. *Then* I begin to wonder if I'm suffering from the liberal version of Clintonphobia. Maybe, maybe not; but I still think the Usurpers have their own reasons for declaring War on Terrorism and it isn't, mostly, to protect us.

Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 03:03 PM:

To me, the article fails to fall into the "more mistakes than words" category only because it contains so many words.aaFirstly, it's not the American bourgeoisie who evoke the hatred (or envy) of the rest of the world. The American bourgeoisie is virtually invisible to the rest of the world. It's Madonna, Bill Gates, George (W) Bush, and the rest of the American upper class.aaSimilarly, it's not the Israeli bourgeoisie, who are even more invisible than their American counterparts. It's the Israeli military-political complex who are disliked, for reasons right or wrong.aaTo say that the European Union has lost its imperial confidence is simply laughable. The European Union was born out of the ashes of WWII and has never had a shred of imperial confidence. Some individual European countries did, and have largely lost it. And the UK and France have by no means "renounced military valour".aaIf there is a single thread in European and Arab dislike of the US and Israel, which is questionable, it's not a reaction to the bourgeoisie in those two countries, but a reaction to their overwhelming military superiority and the attitudes that go with such superiority.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 03:36 PM:

What attitudes would those be, Mike?aaI probably disagree with as much as I agree with David Brooks's piece. (I certainly don't share his fondness for the Administration, but he is, after all, an editor of the Weekly Standard.) But what I'm enjoying about watching this particular Grape Fizzy hit certain glasses of milk is this: what it reveals about what, in the view of some folks, does and doesn't need to be spelled out in polite conversation.aaMy current favorite along these lines is the discourse, or non-discourse, between Gary Farber's comments on Brooks and Charlie Stross's comments on Farber and Brooks. Gary had several rather pointed disagreements with Brooks, but you won't find that out from Charlie's response. Instead, all you discover is that Gary's response made Charlie "groan". Charlie's own criticisms of Brooks are pretty cogent themselves (though I'm unconvinced that the American imperium's lack of regional proconsuls is as bad a feature as Charlie appears to think). But from the way Charlie kicks off, you'd think Gary had written some kind of adoration of the author of Bobos in Paradise--rather than, indeed, saying several of the same things Charlie said, and in fewer words.aaAll too frequently, this is the message Americans get from Brits and Europeans, even the ones who insist they're our friends: it's not even necessary to argue with us; all you need to do is roll your eyes and allude to the well-known things that Everybody Knows about the general stupid awfulness of Americans and our brutish power. Goodness, yes, it makes you groan, so much so that you don't even need to be specific; just a nudge and a knowing glance is enough.aaYou know something: fuck that. It's your problem. It's not ours.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 06:14 PM:

Mike, could you elaborate about "the military-political complex" you see in Israel? I think you're pretty off base in pointing onein Israel, a tiny country where one thing that I think can be fairly said is that the MKs are pretty representative of the people who elect them, and where the leadership winds up pretty representative as well.aaEvery Jew serves in the military, and so do a great many Arabs (voluntarily). aaAnd, of course, Israel has historically been one of the most socialist and left-wing countries on the planet, certainly before Likud finally achieved power in 1977, but even to a large degree up to now, probably the most so if one excludes the former and couple of remaining communist nations. Which hasn't, of course, in the least prevented the international left from completely turning to regard Israel as a unique international vile pariah, somehow. aaI'd like to hear more about this "military-political complex who are disliked": who are they, and why are they so disliked? aaThis "overwhelming military superiority and the attitudes that go with such superiority" of Israel": obviously it's a bad thing, or it wouldn't be so disliked. What should have been substituted for it, Mike? I'm completely serious in really wanting to understand what you think about this.

Neel ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 09:03 PM:

Gary Farber wrote:a> Perhaps I'm mindlessly against efficiency uber alles, but is it soa> indivisibly wonderful that Americans have the shortest vacations anda> longest working hours of anyone on the planet? It does wonders for thea> GDP, but for the individual? Y'know, that person American ideals area> supposed to be all about, rather than the collective?aaVery broadly speaking, there are two different ways that richacountries organize themselves: in the European way, or the USaway. Both of these are, broadly speaking, democratic welfare states;athe difference is in the levels of government spending -- somewhataover 30% in the US, a bit over 40% in the EU. I'll call these thea"European" and "American" models, but be aware that there isaconsiderable variation within the EU (eg, Belgium and Ireland haveavery different economies).aaNow, let me note some numbers I'll refer to in the rest of the post.aIt so happens that per-capita GDP in the EU is about 2/3 of the incomealevel the US. The EU's labor productivity is about 87% of the USalevel. Finally, the workforce participation rates in the EU and US area63.3% and 66.6%, respectively. (All this is as of 2001.)aaPer-capita GDP is going to be labor productivity times hours workedaper worker times the workforce participation.[1] Hours worked andaworkforce participation are set by the labor market, and laboraproductivity is set by technlogy and capital investment.[2] So if theaEU had a US-style labor market, we'd expect to see per-capita incomesathat are about 87% of the US level. Instead, we see per-capita incomesaof about 67% of the US level -- a material productivity difference ofa20% of US per-capita GDP per worker.aaPart of that difference comes from longer hours worked, and part ofathat difference comes from more people being able to find jobs in theaUS. Now, the longer hours in the US are set by the market: you could,aif you started a new business, offer lower pay for a shorter, Europeanastyle work year. The fact that no one does this is a sign thataAmerican workers prefer to have cash in hand than more freeatime. European voters have chosen to elect representatives who havealegislated other policies.[3] While this is legitimate, I think it isamistaken.aaWhat isn't a matter of taste is the different levels of workforceaparticipation. The 5% difference between the US and EU levels ofaworkforce participation does not fall uniformly on the populace; itareduces employment among the least-skilled and most poorly-educatedaworkers first, because their labor is (duh) the least valuable and theafirst to get cut. A 3.3% tax is in the modern world a middling-shading-ainto-medium sized tax: but this one's payments are denominated inawhole individuals and those individuals are precisely the least ableato cope.aaEven if I did not have a moral and aesthetic preference forafree-market solutions, I would find it hard to justify trapping theaweakest members of society on the dole in order to legislate myselfasix-week annual vacations. And it's *not even a sacrifice* onaAmericans' part: we are *paid* for the extra time we work vis-a-visaour European counterparts.[4] So the American labor regime seems likeaan indisputably obvious win to me, if not indvisibly wonderful.aaUnlike Brooks, I don't see this as a conflict between the muscularaProtestan-work/Jewish-mercantile ethic, and decadent and effeteaContinental ethereality. I see it as, hmm, a lesson in how differencesain democratic governance structures can produce different policies.aBloodless, yes, but then (pace Burke) my heart lies with theaeconomists and the calculators.aaA postscript: this was originally intended to be a 2-sentence reply,abut trying to cram enough facts to provide useful context bloated itato its current length. I'm still not happy with the amount of contextaprovided, so feel free to ask me questions so I can elaborate.aa-*-*-*-aa[1] If you are wondering, per-capita GDP and per-capita income have aavery close relationship, since you can't pay workers more than theawealth the economy generates. In 2001 the EU's per-capita income wasa67% of the US's, which is almost exactly the same as the ratio of theatwo areas' per-capita GDPs.aa[2] This is not exactly true. Labor productivity will decline whenaworkforce participation rises, because the least-skilled people willafind jobs last and so drag down the average. If I were writing anaacademic paper I'd have to measure this, but for an email I'll ignoreait. (I think it's safe to ignore since this effect should favor myaargument, so I'm not stacking the deck by ignoring it.)aa[3] The vehemence of the political opposition to liberalizing theaEuropean labor regime suggests to me that many European workers wouldamake the same tradeoff, too, if they had the choice.aa[4] Let me take a moment to attack zero-sum notions of how economiesawork. What I am saying is that because Americans tend to work more andaare paid more, there is more work available for the least-skilled. Itais *not true* that there is a finite amount of work and that if youaget a job you are taking it away from someone else. It's surprisinglyaeasy even for people who know better to fall into this mindset, andait's pernicious because it encourages policies that involve hurtingaother people. The steel-tariff debacle is the latest instance of thisalazy, idiotic worldview.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2002, 06:12 AM:

Actually, I'd like to apologise to Gary -- or ataleast tip my hat to him. Blame clumsy first-draftawording: what I meant to convey by saying aI was groaning over Gary's blog was along thealines of "oh bugger, here we go again". I didn'tamean to imply that I thought Gary himself was off-course. In other words I Was groaning over the content, not over the author's attitudes.

Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2002, 11:19 AM:

Patrick's last paragraph in his response to me serves nicely as an answer to the question in his first paragraph.aaGary, meanwhile, seems to have seriously confused popularity and morality when he says "obviously it's a bad thing, or it wouldn't be so disliked". This seems to be a fairly common American misapprehension, if I may be permitted to grossly oversimplify America's complex and diverse culture when responding to an article that grossly oversimplifies Europe's considerably more complex and diverse culture.aaTo answer some of Gary's specific points:aaThe traditional substitute for overwhelming military power is extremely effective diplomacy, at which the US is quite successful when it can be bothered. Switzerland is probably the most successful practitioner of this tactic, historically. Another option, which Japan has practised quite successfully for the past 50 years is to build up one's military forces but to eschew utterly the use of those forces outside one's own borders, and that would probably be Israel's best tactic -- although it would take two decades before anyone actually believed it.aaTo elaborate on Israel's "military-political complex", it seems (to an outsider who has not studied the issues closely; but nearly everyone is in that category) that Israel is far more likely to deploy military force outside its borders in order to achieve its political goals than is almost any other country on the planet. A large part of this, of course, is due to its unique political situation -- remember that we're discussing "Reasons why Israel is unpopular" not "Inexplicable things that Israel does" or "Things that Israel is doing wrong".

Chris Grealy ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2002, 04:03 PM:

The link to Brooks didn't work here, but is it really true that (North) Americans have the shortest vacations of anyone on the planet? Perhaps this is intended hyperbole, but I have a friend in highly industrialised Japan who gets on the train at 7am and doens't get back til 8pm. And Japanese only get 5 days vacation per year. There are many workers on the planet who don't get vacations - period. There's more to life than just (North) America.

Neel ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2002, 04:36 PM:

In 1999 the average American worker worked 1978 hours per year. Australians, Canadians and Japanese worked about 100 hours/year less, the British worked 250 hours/year less, and the Germans worked 500 hours/year less. (Source: UN ILO) This is part of the reason that per-capita incomes in the US are so much higher than in the rest of the developed world: Americans work longer hours and are correspondingly paid more.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 02:38 PM:

While Neel's comments about national productivity and hours worked are interesting, they are incomplete, in that they assume that one hour worked is pretty much like another. (Except for the comment about less-skilled workers.) People aren't machines, and you don't get the same results from 4PM-5PM on Friday that you do from 11AM-Noon on Tuesday.aaIt's long been my contention that at a great many workplaces, most of the time there's only about three to four hours of work for most people to do in a given day, and the rest of the workday is padding. That's part of why within a given country productivity tends to increase as the workday gets shorter. aaAccording to the United Nations International Labor Organization's "Key Indicators of the Labor Market 2001-2002", while Americans do work longer hours than Europeans, we're not as productive per hour as some European countries. Here's some intersting data (Figure 18a, middle column, resorted by numerical value):aaValue added per hour worked, 1980-99 growth rate:aPoland 3.84aTurkey 3.72aIreland 3.7aFinland 3.0aGermany 2.55aGermany, Federal Republic of (Western) 2.5aNorway 2.4aHungary 2.14aJapan 2.3aBelgium 2.1aDenmark 2.1aFrance 2.1aUnited Kingdom 2.1aSpain 2.0aAustria 1.9aItaly 1.9aPortugal 1.9aAustralia 1.6aGreece 1.4aSweden 1.4aCanada 1.3aSwitzerland 1.22aNetherlands 1.2aUnited States 1.2aNew Zealand 0.75aCzech Republic 0.15

Neel ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 03:51 PM:

Um, those numbers you quote are average productivity growth /rates/ between 1980 and 2000. aaIn terms of actual GDP-per-worker-hour, the EU average is at 87% of the US level, and no EU country is as productive (though some are quite close). So it's not true that Americans are less efficient than EU workers. (See Figure 18b in the ILO webpage Avram quoted.)aaSecond, measuring between 1980 and 2000 averages over two different productivity growth regimes in the US. This is a bad idea because it conceals what is really happening. From after WWII until the early 1970s, annual productivity growth in the US was in the 3% ballpark, and then suddenly it dropped to about 1%. For about two decades labor productivity was stagnant, and then it mysteriously started growing again in the early mid-1990s. Now, growth theory suggests that labor productivity in developed economies should converge to the same level, because technological and managerial improvements can be rapidly communicated between them. And this is indeed what we observed until the mid-1990s -- the European econmies (generally less efficient than the US) had faster productivity growth (they were catching up). aaWeirdly, however, since then the US's productivity growth has dramatically exceeded the EU's. No one knows why this is happening, but this is really major economic news. It's worth at least a long article on its own, and probably an academic conference or three. aaA final comment -- you can't conclude that productivity goes up as the workday is shortened. The problem is that when regulations that shorten the workweek are passed, labor force participation declines, as unskilled workers find it harder to find any work at all. This drives up the average output per worker hour, even though the economy as a whole is operating less efficiently. (This is easier to visualize if you take the extreme case. Imagine that everyone except the most productive worker -- call him Stakhanov -- lost his or her job. Then the average labor productivity would be ridiculously high, but the economy would be utterly screwed up.) To see how much this is hurting you, you need to look at the workforce participation rates as well -- a low workforce participation indicates that there are a lot of people who can't find work.aaActually, that wasn't final after all. Here's my real final comment. :) If you want to sanity check productivity numbers, use the following equation:aaper-capita-GDP = GDP-per-worker-hour * hours-per-worker * workforce-participation-rateaaIf things don't add up fairly closely, then you know that one of your numbers is screwed up.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 04:54 PM:

Urp. My error detector should have been triggered by Poland's number. aaMid-90s, hm? Right about when the Internet started to really take off, which it hasn't in Europe to the same degree. Or, rather, Europeans aren't as likely as Americans to access the net via desktop computers in their homes (I don't know about offices), and are more likely to use net-capable cellphones.

Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 06:02 PM:

I think Avram has been misled about net-capable cellphones, which have been a dismal failure in Europe. What is insanely popular is text messaging, which isn't carried via the Internet at all (except in some special cases).

Neel ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 07:06 PM:

Avram: Your guess about the Internet is the popular one among economists, too. US investment in IT has ran at about twice the EU level for the past decade. It's controversial, though, because US investment in computerization was much higher than the rest of the world in the 70s and 80s, too, and then the benefits weren't apparent. Another candidate is Wal-mart. No, really: Wal-mart has one of the most sophisticated and efficient logistics operations in existence, and huge swathes of the American retailing industry have been forced to upgrade in order to survive. It's pretty much upended the old view that there isn't room for major productivity improvements in the service sector. aaBut the bottom line is that no one really knows where productivity growth comes from, and this is kind of scary since it pretty much determines an economy's long-term growth pattern. Personally, I'm hoping that the answer is computerization, because Moore's law means that the EU economies will be able to catch up relatively easily.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2002, 11:18 PM:

"Gary, meanwhile, seems to have seriously confused popularity and morality when he says 'obviously it's a bad thing, or it wouldn't be so disliked'. This seems to be a fairly common American misapprehension, if I may be permitted to grossly oversimplify America's complex and diverse culture when responding to an article that grossly oversimplifies Europe's considerably more complex and diverse culture."aaThe problem with these British people is their inability to recognize irony and sarcasm, clearly. aaMan, I can't believe Mike took that as a straight comment. aaOn substance: "The traditional substitute for overwhelming military power is extremely effective diplomacy, at which the US is quite successful when it can be bothered. Switzerland is probably the most successful practitioner of this tactic, historically. Another option, which Japan has practised quite successfully for the past 50 years is to build up one's military forces but to eschew utterly the use of those forces outside one's own borders, and that would probably be Israel's best tactic -- although it would take two decades before anyone actually believed it."aaTruly, we're from different planets. Possibly Mike didn't notice that, for instance, Germany didn't invade Switzerland in WWII because a) the Swiss bent over backwards to favor Germany in their "neutrality" and b) having Switzerland be obstensibly "neutral" was useful to Germany. If anyone else care's about Switzerland's opinion about much of anything, beyond keeping their money safe there, I'm unaware of it. aaJapan's "quite successful practice" was, of course, not a choice, but was mandated by the Occupying Powers, and the Constitution that Douglas MacArthur wrote for them, and the policy forced on them by America of staying under American military protection. If Mike is deluded that, say, the Kurile Islands would still be Japanese absent American military power, well, again, different planets. aaRegarding Israel "eschew utterly the use of those forces outside one's own borders," why, yes, we all certainly would be better off with Iraq being a significant nucelear armed power, and for that to have been the case in 1991. After all, "diplomacy" could have taken care of everything. Just like, you know, it did in 1991. Or at least could have. Just like South Korea could have stayed independent through "diplomacy." aaAlso it would have been for the best for Israel to, in 1967 and 1973, have been sure not to have used military power outside then extant borders. Uh-huh, yup, sure. Diplomacy could have solved everything! aaI wonder why "diplomacy" didn't prevent WWII? It's magic, after all. All you have to do is invoke it, and it cures whatever ails you. aa"The traditional substitute for overwhelming military power is extremely effective diplomacy." Of course, it was through use of this diplomacy that Hungary was able to remain independent of the Soviet Union from 1945-1991. Also Poland. Also East Germany. Also Bulgaria. Also Estonia. Also Latvia. Also... well, you get the idea. Oh, yes, diplomacy is certainly an adequate substitute for military force. History teaches this clearly. aa"to elaborate on Israel's 'military-political complex', it seems (to an outsider who has not studied the issues closely; but nearly everyone is in that category) that Israel is far more likely to deploy military force outside its borders in order to achieve its political goals than is almost any other country on the planet. A large part of this, of course, is due to its unique political situation -- remember that we're discussing 'Reasons why Israel is unpopular' not 'Inexplicable things that Israel does' or 'Things that Israel is doing wrong'."aaThe fact that Israel is only a few miles across is, of course, irrelevant. The fact that that "unique political situation" -- i.e., being surrounded by lots of people interested in commiting genocide, but let's be every so delicate in not saying so -- is also irrelevant. No, it's *Israel* that is to blame for having been the victim of masses of nations seeking to wipe it out of existence. But Mike isn't blaming the victim.aaOh, yeah, he is. aa"To elaborate on Israel's 'military-political complex', it seems (to an outsider who has not studied the issues closely; but nearly everyone is in that category)" aaUm, what? Is Mike saying that the millions of people both in Israel and around the world who actually aren't clueless about Israel don't exist? What does "but nearly everyone is in that category" mean? aa"...remember that we're discussing 'Reasons why Israel is unpopular' not 'Inexplicable things that Israel does' or 'Things that Israel is doing wrong'."aaI'm not following the moral logic here, either. If Israeli actions are right and explicable and justified, they, in a just world, wouldn't be unpopular, would they? At least, those who didn't approve of them would be -- what's the term? -- oh, yes: "wrong." aaLastly, I note that Mike still completely sidesteps answering my question: he said it's not the Israeli bourgeoisie, but "It's the Israeli military-political complex who are disliked, for reasons right or wrong." I implicitly pointed out that there pretty much isn't such a thing, disconnected from the citizenry, and that, although I didn't say so, he is making a nonsensical distinction, albeit one that is on safer ground of not appearing to say that Jews who don't want their country wiped out are disliked for that reason, which is what appears to be the truth. I asked Mike to explain. Mike's response is "that Israel is far more likely to deploy military force outside its borders in order to achieve its political goals than is almost any other country on the planet. "aaAside from the fact that that "goal" is to not have everyone killed, and the state wiped out -- dampened impudent -- I'm at a loss to understand how this defines an "Israeli military-industrial complex" separate from "not the Israeli bourgeoisie, who are...invisible." I'm at a loss to follow how it even connects to what he said. Can someone reconstruct this for me? aaWho, by the way, are "the Israeli bourgeoisie" invisible to? Are the British bourgeoisie similarly invisible? What does this stuff mean?

Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2002, 05:35 PM:

I'm sorry Patrick, but David Brook's screed just was yet another "bash the Europeans" article to me.aaIt argues an absurd position to "explain" why weasupposedly "hate" the US (and Israel, can't forget Israel). It's slightly more subtle then the old standby of all French being antiamerican, unwashed intellectual snobs, but only just.aaIt seems intended to appeal to the wzarblogger crowd, the "rah rah USA!" crowd rather then to get any debate going, on a par with that stupid "welfare causes terrorism" piece of a few months back.aaIt was silly, xenophobic, greatly annoying and stupid. aaI don't need to engage his arguments, there is nothing to argue with.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2002, 12:15 AM:

"I don't need to engage his arguments, there is nothing to argue with."aaWhich is, of course, why Martin Wisse troubled himself to post five paragraphs on the subject.aaI think David Brooks is probably as full of shit as not, but at least he feels compelled to explain his views -- to argue for them. What Wisse has posted, above, isn't remotely an argument; it's a set of unsubstantiated assertions, complete with a snotty-but-deniable shot at Israel. Wisse's only really clear position is this: A bunch of Americans that Wisse doesn't like are ignorant Yahoos. Man, they suck, dude. aaI don't like David Brooks' right-wing sympathies, I think he oversimplifies, I think he makes too much of One Big Idea, I think he underestimates just how awful some of the early-nineteenth-century bourgeoise really were...but, you know, I prefer what he writes to the kind of thing epitomized by the above post by Martin Wisse. I prefer it because, even when wrong, it's smarter, more interesting, more honest, and--you know something?--more humane.aaDavid Brooks is making an argument, one that can be--for all his polemical self-indulgence--addressed on its merits, on the facts. Martin Wisse isn't making an argument: he's performing his superiority. I'm impressed. I'll be impressed for a long time to come.

Mike Sherwood ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2002, 09:43 AM:

Yeah forward to the 2 day working weeka DMS