Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tyler Cowen's America

Tyler Cowen:

Here is a compendium of my anti-American attitudes:

1. The number of Americans in prison remains an underreported scandal, as well as the conditions they face.

2. Problems of race relations are underestimated, to this very day.

3. For whatever reasons, smart American women seem to be more insecure than are Western European women. Yes that's a vulnerable overgeneralization and I will take some lumps for it in the comments but I still think it's basically true.

4. I could not live in rural America and be happy.

5. America faces a massive current and future problem resulting from the apparent uneducability of a large chunk of its citizens. While I do favor school choice, it's not just government education which is at fault; many better school systems around the world are government-run.

6. Gun owners may well be happy, but it is not a culture I relate to.

7. The American culture of individual freedom is closely linked to the prevalence of mental illness and gun-based violence in this country. We can't seem to get only the brighter side of non-conformity.

8. America is the worst offender when it comes to factory farming and the treatment of animals.

On the brighter side, America has a decent economic track record, the Solow model does matter (try living and earning in countries with poor Solow indicators), America remains the world's leading innovator, and most Americans -- at least those not in prison or on drugs -- can expect a bright future. It's not as if I'm pushing the future economic prospects of Suriname.

I also believe (contra the blogging progressives) that America is fated (for better or worse, but in my view not worse) to remain predominantly captured by corporate interests and that America does a better job absorbing and elevating immigrants than perhaps any other country.

Many Europeans fear deep down that America will have a permanently higher growth rate and that the European way of life will, sooner or later, be forced to disappear. Right now I would bet against this proposition, as I see a new Europe revitalized by intra-EU immigration. But there is still, say, a 30 percent chance it is true and polemics against Uncle Sam are in part a reflection of that deep insecurity.

Bottom Line: America has its faults, but for most it's still a great place to be.

1 comment:

thinking said...

Bravo to Tyler Cowen. What he illustrates is that it is not anti-American to have criticisms of the country; on the contrary, it is a source of our strength that we can both love our country, be proud of its accomplishments, but still recognize the need for improvement.