Monday, November 09, 2009

What kind of America are we?

It has become more and more apparent to me lately that there are really two general world views that determine how a person views the kind of country America is and should be.

The two views are incompatible. There is no "compromise" between them that doesn't move the country toward one or another from where it currently is. The country isn't split right down the middle on these two views, but it is pretty close. Maybe 45%/55%, perhaps just a bit wider.

Because there isn't any compromise possible between these two camps (and what I mean here is that any compromise necessarily moves in one direction or the other, so one side advances, the other loses) the two sides can't even really talk with each other. They have fundamentally different assumptions about the very meaning of America.

One side honestly wants to move America into the European welfare state model: high taxes, with some necessities provided by government for everyone and all necessities provided by government for some people. The private sector and voluntary arrangements between people are restricted in order to forward the social policies that the government has decided are important (workweek, vacation time, hours, working conditions, benefits, etc.)

This view believes the individual is subordinate to the group, and therefore the government's rightful role is often to limit and direct individual behavior in order to create a fairer, more just society.

Let's call this view the "collectivist" vision.

The other side believes the European welfare state model is not what America is and should be about. They believe that government should generally stay out of voluntary arrangements between individuals, and that is should definitely not have the power to attempt to create some vision of social justice through abrogation of these individual rights. At core, they belive that the individual is not subordinate to the group, that limits and directives on individuals is warranted only to prevent one individual from harming others.

Let's call this view the "individualist" vision.

What we see going on now is that President Obama is attempting to move this country rapidly in the direction of the collectivists. He wants government to take over automobile companies and banks and take a proscriptive role in health care and energy use.

So the question for this time is: Is America a collectivist country? Will the people support a President who wants to move us there?

I don't think so. I think the collectivist view is indeed shared a large minority of Americans, but it isn't the majority. And further - America is fundamentally NOT a collectivist society. It is not what our founding fathers created. Quite the opposite!

So a President can't just change the fundamental principles of our country through a legislative agenda.

People have said to me lately: "So what is so bad about the European model?"

Leaving aside the arguments about the structural unemployment rate it creates, and the lower standard of living, the problem with the European model is that it is inherently un-American in that it restricts the freedoms upon which our nation was founded.

Hey, if Europe wants it, have at it. I would argue that Europe accepts the welfare state model because its culture came of age in a fuedal system, where there was no middle class and where the people were literally in serfdom. They got whatever the Lord allowed.

The European welfare state is just the new Lord, and the European people have in their cultural core an acceptance of the notion that they are subservient to the Lord.

That is not how our country came of age. Our forefathers rejected this model. They fled the feudalism that limited their freedom, and at great personal risk forged a new nation here. They even fought a war to sever the ties to the fuedal government of Europe.

They founded a new country based on the primacy of the individual. A radical notion that rights are vested in the individual, and that it is the government's role to secure these rights. No nation on Earth had ever been founded on such a notion.

And look what happened! It unleashed the creative powers of the human spirit in a way that literally changed the world. For the next two hundred plus years, America was the engine that brought unimaginable prosperity to any and every corner of the world that wanted to follow its lead.

So why is it that we have some large minority of the people in America now who want to copy the European collectivist "serfdom" model?

I don't understand it. It is as if, 230+ years after our nation's founding, that many people now literally do not accept the fundamental premise of our nation's founding.

And one of them is in the White House.

I started this post by saying there are two visions for America - which I identified as the "collectivist" vision and the "individualist" vision. I acknowledge that many people are in the collectivist camp, and are trying like hell to move our country into this model.

I know this would anger folks who are of this view, but what they are doing is fundamentally un-American. The society they are trying to create is not what our country was created to be. If they want to change the founding principles of America in order to establish a European model, then they should have to acknowledge that they don't share the basic American founding principles and try to convince us that these principles are wrong and should be changed.

Make no mistake: the path Obama wants us on leads to serfdom. I predict the nation will reject it, because the enough American people have not forgotten - much less rejected - the core principles that made America the greatest nation ever to grace the planet Earth.


Charley B said...

Part of the concern for me is that the collectivist minority seems to be gaining some ground on garnering the support of centrists, the largest of any group.

The tactic by this socialist "collective" is to label anyone opposed to their way of thinking as selfish, discriminatory, or homophobia.

Centrists tend to remain at arm's length from those who are labeled such, for fear of being viewed negatively. This is a common and understandable human trait.

It seems to me that of those wanting to keep the American values once held dearest should embark on an unending campaign to dispell those labels. Those who would paint honorable people in a negative light are clearly of poor character shining a bright light on the side that is right.

A great example of this would the recent Tea Bag protests. Look how many "collectivist" efforts were made painting honest hard working concerned Americans as "right wing wackos" In fact, many protesters were a cross section from a wide political spectrum.

For me, the direction taken from here will be defined by the middle, who at this time in history are either completely and uttlery undecided, or in fear.

CB said...

Sorry......dispel...utterly, I was in a hurry

David Appell said...

> What we see going on now is
> that President Obama is
> attempting to move this country
> rapidly in the direction of the
> collectivists. He wants government > to take over automobile companies
> and banks and take a proscriptive
> role in health care and energy use.

Pure baloney.

Obama came into office with 50% of all health expenses in the country paid for by government.

Before Obama ever came into office, there was a huge S&L bailout, huge subsidies every year given to the US agricultural industry, bailouts of Chrysler, etc.

It was Bush was started the large bailouts of failed US financial firms and banks, in the fall of 2008. That's when this whole crisis started -- the question is why, and why have the policies of the Bush administration escaped scrutiny?

Massive tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies existed long before Obama. As did large programs for US citizens -- IRAs, Medicare, Medicaid, mortgage deductions, etc. etc.

To act like it's only now that it's Obama instituting "collectivist" measures is intellectually dishonest to the highest extent.

David Appell said...

Also, as you were very quick to rag on Obama in March when the stock market was down, you have yet to acknowledge the following:

Stock market during term:
Bush: -40%
Obama: +36%

Rob Kremer said...

I don't dispute that Bush policies had all sorts of elements that were of the collectivist variety. And I criticized them on this blog.

That doessn't refute my analysis at all.

David Appell said...

> Leaving aside the arguments
> about the structural unemployment
> rate it creates, and the lower
> standard of living, the problem
> with the European model is that it > is inherently un-American in that
> it restricts the freedoms upon
> which our nation was founded.

Which freedoms do Americans have that Europeans do not have?

David Appell said...

> That doessn't refute my analysis
> at all.

I honestly can't tell what your analysis is.

The government is taking steps to see that all Americans have health care. Do you object to that?

Will anyone who does not want be forced into the public option?

If so, who, exactly?

If there is no public option, how do you propose that Americans who are turned down by insurance companies obtain health care?

David Appell said...

Rob, if you are against government collectivism, I presume then that you decline to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your federal tax return?

Please let us know.

Anonymous said...

David is correct that the American government is already collectivist to some degree. That Obama is accelerating the process is also indisputable.

Kremer's analysis is correct. Obama didn't start the process towards collectivism but he is taking the economic crisis as an opportunity to rapidly increase it.

Europeans do not have the same free speech rights that we do.

They do not have the same rights to own firearms for personal protection.

They do not have the same property rights, although those rights in America are erroding.

Mr. Appell and others of his ilk simpy do not recognize a person's money as property. In his mind, a government should be free to take as much of it as the majority deems fit.

Again, Kremer is correct about the two mindsets that dominate in America. One is always giving ground to the other.

To point out that Republican presidents or congresses also give ground on these issues is not to negate Kremer's premise.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Rob. And the way the collectivists plan to win this thing is through enviro-activism... watermelon greens... green on the outside and red on the inside....

Just like you, David Appell

Ex-European said...

Congratulations Mr. Kremer,

I emigrated from Europe to America some years ago and this is one of the very few analyses that get it.

Ex-European said...

America has taken many steps in the collectivist direction since it was founded. As a result, the difference between the Europe early Americans escaped from, and the New World they created in America has been more or less shrinking. What is different now, is that we (and I speak as an American now) are about to cross the grand tipping point. That is the point where American Capitalism, and the prosperity advantage it gives America, is no longer sufficient to compensate for the not so great individual competence of American citizens (*). If America looses its capitalist/individualist advantage then its prosperity will descend to the level commensurate with the average competence of American citizens - and that is not very high, when compared to other nations.

After all, Americans should just do some elementary market research and think about one very startling coincidence: There are 200+ countries in the world, and America has consistently been the most prosperous one for about a century. What is it that makes America prosperous? Size? No, there is little correlation between size and prosperity, and, if anything, it is small countries that tend to be more prosperous. Resources? They no longer matter that much and besides many other countries have larger per capita resources than the US. Is it the great average competence of its citizens? No, I’m sorry to say, that is not either as I explained earlier.

It is simply greater freedom! Mostly economic freedom. America is different from all these other 200+ countries in one single thing: The Individualism that Mr. Rob Kremer points out!

So why is this a grand tipping point? Because as anyone who has ever worked in business knows, the relationship between competitiveness and prosperity is highly non linear. If your product is 10% less competitive than your competitor’s, you do not simply have 10% less market share. Your competitor obliterates you. So once that point comes, the point where America looses its #1 spot on the per capita productivity scale, things will unravel fast for Americans.

Americans seem to have no clue how difficult it is to be a Western European. How much more educated and competent you have to be, so that the collectivist society that you live in can squander a large portion of your competence and energy, as well as dull your incentives, so that the end result is a Europe comprised of “smart Europeans” which is less prosperous than an America comprised of “stupid Americans”, as Europeans would say (and they are right but not in that condescending sense).

In other words, Americans will not be able to compete, even just against the Europeans, if they adopt the same European collectivist governance. The more proficient Europeans will outcompete them.

The message of hope that Obama is flaunting is: “Hope! Hope that Americans can compete with the rest of the world under the same (collectivist) government”. It is a delusion of monumental proportions!

Perhaps the epilog to America’s collectivist turn during the Bush-Obama era will be: “A once dumb, free and prosperous people, thought that the secret to even more prosperity was to copy Europe – a continent where smart people squander their superior competence in collectivist schemes”.

There is still time to turn back. Let’s hope that Americans are finally slapped to their senses and realize what has been the key ingredient to their #1 prosperity.

(*) I am sorry to say that but it is not only my personal view and observation. Every standardized test that is at times given to measure individual competence across nations, comes to the same conclusion: Americans, as individuals, score in the middle of the pack behind almost all Western European nations. But they make up for it because they are free! Because, so far, they have been less subject to a collectivist government that squanders their abilities and stifles their incentives. But the tipping point is now close.

Me said...


You're so lost in the left's madness you can't tell the difference between providing health care and providing insurance.

This latest attempt by the left to expand the monster government under the charade of proviing health care is stuffed with a wide array of typical bloating.

The endless examples of your mad left pursuing greater levels of goverment dysfunction should be more alarming than it is.
Fools like you help to obscure the degeneration of the American way.

Of course you, like many left wing activists, also have no integrity at all.

Ex-European said...

Unfortunately, Mr. Kremer, what these people are doing is not simply “un-American”. It is simply suicidal for this country’s prosperity. After all something is not good simply because it is American. And that seems to be the fatal conceit American people believe in: That America will always be prosperous simply because it is America. They do not appreciate the fact that it is their unique difference from the rest of the world (individualism) that make them prosperous. So they come up with slogans like: “If France can provide “free” healthcare (as if it were really free) why can’t we who are more prosperous?"

So, Americans, rather than blindly rush to copy their less prosperous competitors and bemoan on NPR with phrases like “How come we do not have a nationalized healthcare system when most developed nations do” perhaps they should ask that maybe, just maybe, the reason why they are the most prosperous amongst 200+ nations is exactly because they have, so far, had fewer such collectivist schemes and, as a one of the consequences, the relationship between high value work and reward is not blunted.

Look, I’m not going to go tire you explaining that Americans, as individuals are less knowledgeable and competent than Europeans. There are numerous and diverse studies done, some on a revolving yearly basis, on the subject of individual competence across nations. The overwhelming majority of these studies show that there is nothing exceptional about the Average American. He always scores in the middle of the pack, behind almost all Europeans. But he more than makes up for it because he is free. Yes, free from being forcibly recruited to serve communitarian goals.

So the equations of prosperity are:

America: Mediocre people + free market individualism = most prosperous nation.

Europe: Very competent people + collectivism = mediocre prosperity.

New America: Mediocre people + collectivism= ?? (any guesses?)

And unfortunately, the hasty changes are likely to be irreversible. That is because when people hit the skids, get in trouble, they turn to collectivism. Then, as collectivism brings down prosperity, a vicious cycle starts. More collectivism, loss of prosperity, cries for more collectivism and so on. Witness that in how New York and California address the loss of revenue that comes from productive individuals leaving their states: by raising taxes. Witness the public’s reaction to a government intervention induced financial crisis: more government and more regulation. In doing that, they are also prodded by politicians whose inherrent incentive is to propose collectivism as a solution. That is what their job is, to manage collectivist schemes. Collectivist scemes increase the demand for politicians. The dominant incentive is as simple as that.

And to think that one of the main pivotal events that turned America towards collectivism was 9/11. Who says that terrorism does not work? Americans bit that bait like any “Introductory Manual for Aspiring Terrorists” said that they would: It would start them down the irreversible vicious cycle of collectivism and loss of prosperity. Those 20 terrorists did more to catalyze America’s self destruction than most hostile foreign powers could have.

Rob Kremer said...


I agree with everything you say here. Thank you for adding you extremely thoughtful analysis to this thread.

And: I am glad you came to America! You are more American than an awful lot of folks here.

Douglas said...

Hello all:

Excellent summary of why crafting public policy these days is so difficult. One should also consider the moral component of where we seem to be headed. Might review an essay I wrote for The Oregonian as a Community Writer some months ago. Here is the link:
Doug Olson
Pacific City, OR

David Appell said...

Ex-European: it is hardly clear that America is the "most prosperous" nation, nor have you defined that.

Because we have a high per-capita GDP is not the sole indication. China and other companies are growing much faster -- should we imitate them? It's well-known that GDP is a shallow measure of a countries prosperity.

Does it not matter that 1/6th of Americans have solid access to health care?

Does this sound like prosperity to you?

"The United States ranks 31st in life expectancy (tied with Kuwait and Chile), according to the latest World Health Organization figures. We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the United States is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland.

Canadians live longer than Americans do after kidney transplants and after dialysis, and that may be typical of cross-border differences. One review examined 10 studies of how the American and Canadian systems dealt with various medical issues. The United States did better in two, Canada did better in five and in three they were similar or it was difficult to determine."
(N Kristof, NY Times, 11/4/09)

Statistics for minorities in the US are even worse.

We put more people in prison than any other country. We have 1700 juveniles in life imprisonment -- no other country has even one.

The median wage has barely budged in 30 years.

Where is all this prosperity?

Anonymous said...

"Where is all this prosperity?"

What's wrong David? No Mortgage interest to deduct?

MAX Redline said...

We rank 37th in infant mortality

I assume that doesn't count abortion, David - add that in and we're number one.

Does it not matter that 1/6th of Americans have solid access to health care?

I've noticed that you tend to use the term, "health care" as though it was somehow equivalent to the term, "health insurance". In any case, your statement is wrong.

In point of fact, most Americans have "solid access to health care"; moreover, most employees are covered by health insurance plans. Even fast food joints and mini-marts provide that benefit.

There is no need to get government any more deeply involved in America's health insurance and health care providers than it already is.

You cite an article in the New York Times as somehow proving your ideology? That's just sad, David.

Statistics for minorities in the US are even worse.

Now, that's scary. Are you telling me that homosexuals in the USA are 12 or 13 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Ireland?

Or are you just defining the term along racist lines?

We put more people in prison than any other country.

That's actually hard to get a grip on. Russia seems to have abandoned that whole "gulag" thing, where people were worked to death - but we can't really say that with any degree of certainty. China just shoots them. Singapore deals out canings. Saudi Arabia chops off heads or other body parts..

We put offenders into a place with free medical care, free food, access to libraries and classes, free cable television, exercise equipment, and much more. A country that lacked in prosperity could not - and would not - afford such care for their inmate populations.

Are you just trying to branch out a bit, now that your favorite topic, "Man-Made Global Warming" has been accorded the status of a religion?

Roadrunner said...


Since you're so anti-abortion, will you quit the G.O.P., since their employee's abortions are covered under their medical plan?

MAX Redline said...


Dang, nice to see you're still lurking about. You should pipe up more often; it's rather fun to shoot you down.

At some point, you should try reading for comprehension. It may be difficult, but you should be up to the challenge. I have great confidence in your ability to learn - though I admit that I'm not sure why.

Attributing to me views that I have not stated just makes you look silly. But hey, the look suits you. Go with what works for you.

Let's recap, RR - try to stay with me on this. In response the diatribe by our local Man-Made Global Warming expert's attempt to present some really stupid material, I said I assume that doesn't count abortion, David - add that in and we're number one.

Now, it would be fascinating, RR, to see exactly how you derived from the above statement your conclusion. Feel free to enlighten, as I don't believe that anything in the above commentary demonstrates a pro-abortion nor an anti-abortion stance. It is a neutral and factual statement, and nothing more.

Roadrunner said...

Max, your anti-abortion stance is telegraphed by your comment about not counting aborted babies in the infant mortality statistics.

There's also this post you made on your blog:

You commented "No problem. Easy enough to get rid of."

So, with a little deduction and research, it appears that you are, in fact, anti-abortion.

You know, Max, there is this thing called the internet (that enables this discussion), and you have this thing called a blog, which has archives of your old posts. It's clear that you're anti-abortion.

I was born at night, but it wasn't last night.

So, tell me, are you going to drop out of the G.O.P.

Anonymous said...

Roadbat, obviously you are anti-life.

Fortunately, you live in Oregon, where you can do something, legally, to walk your walk.

So, tell us, when are you going to drop out of the human race?

Roadrunner said...

Actually, anon 1:50, I'm pro-life (I have opposed our recent wars-of-choice, am against the death penalty, support universal health care, environmental protection and workplace safety. Many so-called pro-lifers oppose policies that actually help people to live longer, fuller lives), but I also support the right of women to control their own bodies.

Max clearly doesn't, but thought he could attack me on the basis of his vague comment above.

Roadrunner said...

It appears that Max has turned chicken since he's been caught out. I'm not surprised.

MAX Redline said...

Actually, Roadbat, I've been involved in this little thing known as work. I understand that the concept is entirely foreign to you, but it is something that many of us do in order to earn (I know, another foreign concept) what is known as a paycheck. This means that we can buy stuff, rather than depending upon government to hand us what it deems necessary.

Max clearly doesn't, but thought he could attack me on the basis of his vague comment above.

Actually, roadbat, a brief perusal of the above comments makes it rather clear that I did not attack you; it was you who initiated the attack. Granted, in your world, you're an important induhvidual who is always under attack by somebody else, but your perception clearly is not grounded in reality.

Your accusations notwithstanding, it is apparent to anyone who cares to examine the evidence that it is you who has initiated personal attack, and it is you who have continued to attack during my brief absence from this blog.

In your world, you have "caught me out". Since I did not immediately reply to your incredibly insightful analysis, this means that I have "turned chicken". As usual, reality is at odds with your self-important worldview.

As your god would say, "let me be clear about this". I do support abortion under certain conditions, and I agree completely with your view that women have the right to control their own bodies.

Where we differ, apparently, is in the definition of "control".

At its fundamental level, women are in control of the conditions in which they choose to engage in sexual intercourse (excluding rape - and I believe that abortion is warranted under those conditions). If, however, a woman chooses to engage in unprotected intercourse, and if that choice results in pregnancy, then she should live with the result of her choice. As should the child.

I realize that the very idea that decisions have consequences is difficult for you to understand, but it is part and parcel of living responsibly in the real world.

Now, I suggest that you return to the topic at hand, as I will not reply to further efforts to distract attention from the original conversation. You jumped into a discussion between Dr. Afpel and me, and seized upon one of several issues that Afpel raised.

Let me help you along, roadbat:

I've noticed that you tend to use the term, "health care" as though it was somehow equivalent to the term, "health insurance". In any case, your statement is wrong.

In point of fact, most Americans have "solid access to health care"; moreover, most employees are covered by health insurance plans. Even fast food joints and mini-marts provide that benefit.

There is no need to get government any more deeply involved in America's health insurance and health care providers than it already is.

Try to stay on-topic, roadbat. I know it's difficult for you, but I have every confidence that if you apply yourself, you can manage it.

Roadrunner said...


I didn't attack you, unless you consider pointing out your anti-abortion stance, and pointing out the G.O.P.'s hypocrisy on the issue an attack.

You now admit that you are against women having the option to choose abortion, and your language suggests that you see it as a way of punishing women for their sexual behavior (with no language about men "having to live with" their behavior).

And, you know what? Women who are using birth control get pregnant. Women who are planning on having a child get pregnant, then have a pregnancy that threatens their life or their health.

Things are already uneven when it comes to the consequences of pregnancy. A woman will deal with it one way or another, a man may not even know about it. A man can impregnate a woman and totally abandon the situation, and he'll likely suffer little or no consequences. A woman can be charged with murder.

And, here's a little tip, Max, you might be more successful in swaying people to your side if you learned some manners. In my public school, I learned that calling people names was bad form. Apparently you've not learned that lesson. People might give your ideas more credence when you start acting like an adult.

MAX Redline said...


Since you're so anti-abortion, will you quit the G.O.P., since their employee's abortions are covered under their medical plan?

It appears that Max has turned chicken

Frankly, RR, you're in no position to give me a tip about much of anything; least of all manners. Your comment is laughable.

Your decision to cherry-pick a line does, in fact, constitute an attack, and I believe that many here see your behavior as such. You have no knowledge regarding my party affiliation (if any), yet you choose to leap to assumptions. You have little knowledge of anything about me, yet you choose to leap to conclusions.

I have not "admitted" anything. Quite the contrary, I have clearly stated a belief that in some circumstances, abortion may be warranted. Yet you presume to lecture me on the subject of what you have chosen to postulate as my beliefs.

And, you know what? Women who are using birth control rarely get pregnant - most often, such results are an artifact of failing to use it, then claiming surprise.

And you know what? I've not suggested that the "partner" should escape his responsibilities - that's what child support payments are all about.

And you know what? I've seen too many pretty little women who are willing to hop into bed without protection because when the inevitable "accident" happens, they can just trot down and have the inconvenience removed. Oddly, RR, contrary to your scenario, the women are never charged with murder.

I chatted with one such woman recently. She was pretty, she was smart, she was engaging. In her late twenties, she's also had around a dozen abortions. She can't go on the pill because she smokes, or so she claimed.

So she has sex, and she has abortions. And she sees nothing wrong with that.

One last thought, RR - how many people do you figure you've "swayed to your side" with the manners you consistently display? Uh huh.