Le Divorce

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New at Reason: How serious is the rift between the United States and Old Europe? Cathy Young, currently yodeling her way through the forests and villages of Germany, counts the ways.

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  1. Hmm, so its an article full of platitudes. 🙂

  2. In my opinion this whole issue has been over-analyzed, analyzed to death, etc.

    Having spent much the last month in France I can tell the fine folks here that the US or Iraq were not the main topics of discussion; Le Tour was, followed quickly by the strikes, and now the fires near St. Tropez.

    As far as similiarties are concerned, well, France is a hell of lot more like the US than it is like China. The biggest differences are generally small, though important. French people dress more formally than Americans, and they act more formally when dealing with strangers – which is why Americans tend to appear to be rather rude to French people. The most common stereotype of Americans in France as far as I can tell is not that Americans are war-mongering thugs, its that they are loud-talking and rude.

  3. Croesus,

    You didn’t say where in France you were. My experience was that by and large the provencial French were quite agreeable, while the Parisians were stereotypically French.

  4. Jarrod,

    I was in Paris for a week, and the rest of the time in the Central Massif. I have spent many years in Paris. It is a far more friendly city than New York for example, if one understands the customs and doesn’t act like a jackass. The problem with Americans when they go overseas is that they expect other people to accept their rudeness.

  5. I recall on my first trip to Europe I was sitting in a hotel restaurant north of Paris and one of the other tables was occupied by a half-dozen load-mouthed cowboy type Americans. I was somewhere between being fascinated by the cartoonish show and wanting to crawl under a rock.

  6. there is a very real chance that Cathy Young has talent, insight and the gift to share it. But this article does nothing to advance this brief–I would accept this from an eleventh grader about to undergo a semseter abroad, not an adult libertarian traveling where individualism goes to die at the altar of the state.

    Think freedom fries is stupid? oooh, what a pair she has, how dangerous life is on the libertarian edge. To be fair, she did marshal the rhetorical artillery and acknowledge the possibile legitimacy of a beef between our respective governments.

    tell me again—you can get paid for this stuff, right?

  7. Jarrod,

    Americans and Chinese have on thing in common – get them in a group, and their conversations turn loud. 🙂

  8. “Hmm, so its an article full of platitudes”

    Exactly!

  9. rod-

    FWIW, I thought it was a well-written article, with some ideas that run counter to the overblown hyperbole about the other side that each side seems to endlessly spew.

    And yes, “freedom fries” is stupid…

  10. Rod Boyd,

    Boy, and I thought I was a tough audience. 🙂

  11. Brad S,

    Well, the problem is that nothing which she wrote is new to me, or Rod either apparently. The caricatures are exactly that, caricatures. That’s not really at inciteful.

  12. “But those who mock American jingoism should consider the French government’s campaign (which was underway long before the current conflict) to purge the French language of English words such as ‘computer’ and, most recently, ‘e-mail,’ replacing them with clumsy French equivalents.”

    I don’t consider them clumsy; at least the abbreviated versions. As to the campaign, I do not see it as jingoism (as the author implies), it is merely an attempt to defend and modernize the French language. But yes, you are right, this effort is old – it started in the 17th century under Louis III.

  13. “Freedom fries” are irrelevant. More disturbing is that we in the US now refer to our country as the “homeland”. I’m waiting for them to officially announce that Guantanamo Bay will henceforth be called The Bay of Love & the already euphemistically named department of defense will be renamed the ministry of peace:)

  14. I agree with the remarks about a collection
    of platitudes. This is not Cathy Young’s
    best work by any means. Things she has
    written for reason in the past on gender
    issues have been very good. She has the
    rare talent of being able to explain academic
    papers in clear English without trivializing
    their content. She also takes controversial
    positions on a number of gender-related issues.

    That said, I must complain about one of the
    bromides in this piece in particular. Why
    anyone lets Euros get away with their attitude
    of cultural superiority is beyond me. Just
    go over there and watch their television.
    There is stuff on both British and German TV
    (which are the countries I am most familiar
    with) that make Nick at Night look like a
    Harvard seminar (but maybe not a Chicago
    seminar :))

    Euros are basically good folks. Like Canadians,
    they are just more willing to trade security
    and stability for freedom and progress than
    most Americans are.

    As we used to say at Chicago: De gustibus non
    est disputandum.

    Jeff Smith

  15. A rather boring article out of date a few months ago — maybe — well written enough to get an honourable mention in IHS’s student journalism competition — circa 2002…I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hopes she gets into Columbia — but really is she trying to get this published in USA Today or something? Not reason material at all IMHO.

    SPUR

  16. Jeff,

    Well, making stability and progress as mutually antagonistic is rather humorous. Or security and freedom for that matter.

  17. “Euros are basically good folks. Like Canadians,
    they are just more willing to trade security
    and stability for freedom and progress than
    most Americans are.”

    Jeff: It’s fine to pity the Euros. But Canadians are more free than Americans. We have reached this state of liberty by striking down our American-style laws and electing politicians to gutless (or wise?) to replace them. No pot laws, no abortion laws and no m+f marriage laws. Don’t get me started on the freedom of speech – our porno is is as nasty as the Danish. We own as many guns as you (although we don’t seem to shoot them at each other as often) and our government’s incompetent attempt to build a gun registry will be complete by the turn of the century. Besides (arguably) lower taxes where do you get off saying you are freer?

  18. Canadians do not get to own as many guns as they want, or the type of guns they want.

    While I applaud the disobdience directed against the latest attempt at gun registration, the average Canadian is still far behind the average American in gun related freedom.

  19. True, Americans have a broader selection of weapons to choose from, but Canadians are hardly disarmed and cowering in their igloos.

  20. Croesus:

    I don’t fault the French for wanting to defend their language. I love its elegance and conciseness and regard anyone who can’t at least read it as culturally deprived. However, I think that the reason that their defense of it seems so quixotic to anglophones is that English has borrowed immensely from many other languages (especially including French) over the centuries and seems to have been greatly enriched by it. In fact, the borrowing continues today without any apparent cultural damage.

  21. How about the freedom to not have to jump the border everytime you want medical work for more than a scrapped knee?

  22. Okay y’all are right. Americans are more free ’cause they have more kinds of guns and cannot get health care without cash in hand.

  23. Canada ain’t a libertarian paradise, but the US ain’t either. You pull out gun control, I pull out the war on the drugs… For christ’s sake, you folks are still in a tizzy about which consensual sex acts to prohibit and what the state can do to protect the church’s monopoly on marriage. No wonder you harp on the same two topics again and again… If you want to go on believing you are freer, be my guest.

  24. As a Canadian, I can say our increased “freedom” vis-a-vis the U.S. is a small part fact and a bigger part fantasy. It seems to me that, yes, Canada probably can be seen as preserving, say, the liberty to smoke pot, have abortions, or marry as a gay in a way more in line with libertarian principles.

    But no, it is a lie that Canada is more free than the United States. Our limited choice of weapons is an odd choice of debate… one could easily point out that Canada is overall less free in any number of ways, starting with the way that official “multiculturalism” (i.e., the institutionalization of ethnic groups as competing clients of the state) and socialized health care (not as “free” as some think!) was institutionalized into a new constitution in 1982, with an amending formula that means it is virtually impossible to roll back.

  25. Ironic, that — Germans and French “bristling at the rising tide of vulgarity” inspired by American culture.

  26. you know, Croesus, i agree with you for the most — i don’t think most of the people who make these anti french comments have a single clue about being “in europe”, let alone france. that kind of ignorance is enough to drive one batty.

    i am half austrian, mother from salzburg. i grew up speaking the dialect and can play the “fly on the wall” there. i can do the same in denmark, where i lived for five years and have been to often throughout my life. i do consider myself to be 100% american, however, and identify completely american.

    were the french able to recognize you as an american or at least foreign? just wondering.

    because i met several europhile americans when i was over there (1994-1999) and the euros loved them, because they put down america at every turn and confirmed whatever stupid, incorrect, out-of-context, or any other negative stereotype the europeans had about americans (right, Joseph?)

    and, in your zeal to defend the language laws, you have not been actually credible. i looked up and posted the quebec laws after you denied their 1) enforcement and 2) actuality. so, considering that the legal stuff is off, and your experiences are contrary to mine in france and with the french, it’s a drag to read these francophilic comments about how the defnese of the french language is not as bad in the us. That’s strange because it is contrary to everything else we’ve been able to find. and you never answered our calls for some proof. (ditto the comment that the french language laws “weren’t enforced”. look up the charter for Arte and look up the case against georgia tech — those speak otherwise)

    each time you mention that americans act like jerks and we deserve the treatment because of boorishness, i think of the several groups i’ve had to endure with french people who behaved worse than any french stereotype you could imagine. and no, not all were from paris. strasbourg, tours, auxerre… however, such experiences should be discounted because of some strong francophilic tendencies?

    each time there was some sort of group work with the french students, the danes (what prono, beaver?) would moan and groan about it. the swedes and norwegians were on board with the gloom on france attitudes, too.

    again, i agree with you wholeheartedly that most of the morons who are anti france have no idea about france and the culture etc. but you’re dealing with a culture that’s regarded in the pages of profil.at, berlingske.dk, aftonbladet.se, nrk.no as being foppish, whiny, arrogant, and non-cooperative. you’ve got a lot of defending to do, there, and none of those cultures share the US versions of anti-frenchery.

    while these ignorant bastards sound like noam chomaky-types for europe, it really sounds you’re taking on the bill bennett here…

    respectfully,
    Eric “HV”

  27. Canadians are more free than Americans. We have reached this state of liberty by striking down our American-style laws and electing politicians to gutless (or wise?) to replace them. No pot laws, no abortion laws and no m+f marriage laws

    I’m not a pothead and I don’t knock people up. I do, on the other hand, earn money, require good medical care, and care about my right to self-defense. Canada confiscates more of its residents’ income through taxation, forces its residents to go to a foreign country (the USA) for good, prompt medical care, and is a much more hostile environment for firearms ownership than most of the United States.

    There are many kinds of freedom. The freedom to retain the fruits of my labor, and the freedom to prolong my life, are more important to me than the freedom to get high, or the freedom to marry a person of the same gender (since, well, I have no desire to do either). There are many ways in which the United States could improve, freedom-wise (don’t get me started on them), but for me, Canada is far worse. Were I an unemployed gay pot-smoking Arab I might possibly feel otherwise, of course. 🙂

  28. To clarify my offhand comment about Canada,
    a couple of points:

    1) I lived and worked and paid Canadian taxes
    for seven years. They are way above US
    taxes. Let’s add up marginal income and
    sales taxes in Ontario, where I used to
    live and in Maryland (not a low tax state,
    particularly the People’s Republic of
    Montgomery County) where I live now:

    Ontario marginal income tax rate: 46.5
    This is the top rate, includes federal
    and provincial rates, and starts at
    about $70K Canadian, which is not much.
    Add in the VAT (called the GST in Canada)
    and provincial sales tax, and you have
    15 percent more, or 61.5 percent.

    In Maryland, my marginal tax rate in
    Montgomery County (they vary by county
    here) is about 35 percent, with a sales
    tax of about 4 percent. That’s 39 percent.

    As my advisor used to say, by a theorem
    of Hausman (economists will get this obscure
    joke): 39

  29. Jeff, unless I’m confused about the numbers, your math is wrong. You can’t just add together income tax and sales tax… you only pay sales tax on your net income, not your gross. So if you’re paying 40% income tax, and 15% sales tax, you’re only paying 9% of your gross income towards sales tax… right?

    Andy

  30. At least in France people eat and smoke without fear of the PC Health Patrol. 🙂

  31. Eric HV,

    I am a Franco-American – a dual citizen in other words. I have a Provence accent.

    Well, I don’t know anything about Quebec’s laws; I do know that the few attempts to enforce language laws in France have met with failure (sometimes in court). According to the law only 25% of the content of radio stations was supposed to be non-French, but if you listen to French radio that is clearly not being followed. After all, France loves Stevie Wonder. 🙂 Its also been a flop in the field of advertising.

    As to certain European countries disliking others, well I have found that the Dutch loathe the Germans, and that Germans and Poles also have a lot of animosity. Then there is of course Berlusconi. However, I never claimed that Europe was one big happy family.

    French Radio: http://www.comfm.com/live/radio/?c=fr

  32. Jeff: I think your math may be a litle off, but I agree with you about taxes.
    I also agree we are more trusting of government, (although we have a long history of hating our leaders, whether left or “right” wing) we do expect more of government. I guess I just get my back up when people say we aren’t as free as Americans. It all depends on your particular interest. Using your tax numbers, I am 38.5% free of taxes, you are 61% free. We’re still both tax slaves.
    I agree with the libertarian argument on guns, but I admit, it just doesn’t concern me as much as other libertarian issues. I do like to do some other things which are a whole lot more tolerated up here, so I feel pretty free. Not free enough, but I give up certain liberties when I visit the US. I live in Montreal, where smoking is still legal and prostitution doesn’t exist because we have escort services and Pussy Corps.

  33. I think everyone on earth is full of shit, though in a psychologically rational sort of way.

    It’s just terribly convenient to make the lower class, the bottom of the social hierarchy, people who you will never meet who live on the other side of the world. It just provides so much utility as to be effectively irresistable.

  34. Oh, not to mention the general ignorance of Anthropology (ie, a study and appreciation of cultures other than one’s own), Psychology, and the overestimation of the homogenity of groups to which one does not belong, and even the anthropomorphisation and personalizations of things (such as governmental systems and nations) that are neither like humans nor persons of any kind. That doesn’t help either.

    For examples:
    – Iraq being refered to as if it was inhabited only by Saddam Hussein and his family.

    – France being referred to collectively when the French government is primarily what is meant (I doubt some poor housewife just trying to raise her two children the best she can was much in favor of selling weapons and support to Saddam or his ilk), or dealing with french people as though they were a single, amorphous entity who all had the same opinion.

    – One comment by “E-dee” (phoneticallly spelled) on Fox News, stated that she is “tired of false friends of the United States”. Countries don’t have friends, nor do they have a morale sense – they aren’t human, just great big collections, groupings, and categories of humans. The nuances of friendship and loyalty only occassionally (or rarely) manifest themselves on an individual level, and are utterly missing from modern reality or the historical record. Countries don’t have friends, they never have, and they never will – just temporary allies, acting together according to common interest.

    – The temporal sensabilities of humans are also generally suspended in collective identity situations, such that “we” can include people who died thousands of years previous, and “you” can be similarly directed at people they do not even approve of, much less have even met (again possibly having died thousands of years before they were born).

    Us vs Them is a mighty persistant trait of humans. One might be forgiven for thinking that the drive comes first, and the reasons only manifest themselves later as justifications. But of course, the reason why one believes something is not proof that it is actually wrong.

  35. Correction: The sentance “The nuances of friendship and loyalty only occassionally (or rarely) manifest themselves on an individual level, and are utterly missing from modern reality or the historical record.”

    Should have read as follows:

    “The nuances of friendship and loyalty only occassionally (or rarely) manifest themselves on an individual level, and are utterly missing from modern reality or the historical record as they relate to the relationships of entire countries.”

  36. Andy is correct about adding the taxes – I was
    just trying to keep things simple (or I would
    have looked up the exact rates for Maryland)
    and doing it all the way right does not change
    the main point – those Canadians pay a boatload
    of taxes, especially when you recall that they
    have essentially zero military expenditures.

    That said, a low key drug war (especially in BC)
    and less fuss about other victimless crimes is
    nice. But is it worth 10K or 20K a year?

    Jeff Smith

  37. That said, a low key drug war (especially in BC) and less fuss about other victimless crimes is
    nice. But is it worth 10K or 20K a year?

    Money is freedom. Canada lets you keep less of it, end of story.

    A better way to look at it: is it worth working as a slave for the government for several hundred hours a year? I mean, you do have the added benefit of getting to die of a brain tumor because the wait for a single MRI is three weeks instead of three hours, but hey — at least you got to die in service to the State, right?

    Canada should seriously consider changing its national motto to “freedom is slavery”. 😉

    This is a silly argument anyway. The ratio of Candian immigration to the USA, to American immigration to Canada, is around 10. As a proportion of our populations, it’s around 100. So either Canadians don’t like freedom, or what the USA has to offer is a hell of a lot more important to Canadians than the things they call “freedom”.

  38. You just don’t get it, Canuck; paying $400 a year more in taxes is a ghastly intrusion on individual liberty, while losing teeth, living in pain, and getting fired for taking too many sick days (because you don’t get regular medical care) is the only one can truly be free.

  39. Dan: Maybe we just don’t like what you consider to be freedom. I feel plenty free up here, pal. And if I pay more in taxes, I’m cool with what I get for that money. Better health care, better education, better access to (more affordable) post-secondary education. You know, unimportant stuff like that.

  40. merci bien.

    (i was never claiming the happy family thing, either. but for all of the boorish americans in cafes, there are boorish frenchmen in meetingrooms, so the “bring it on themselves” can apply equally. as for anti french sentiment in europe, at least those people have visited france and have a clue about its culture, unlike most of the foxnews listening yahoos who criticize sans being there.)

    respectfully,
    E “HV” A

  41. Yes, we are taxed more. No, we’re not allowed to own a fully automatic assault rifle. Yes, there are times when you have to wait for certain medical procedures ( non life threatening ones, at least). SO WHAT! More of our citizens have access to healthcare, requiring the occasional (yes, I said occasional) wait. We can still waste an intruder with a (legally owned) Beretta, or the 12 gauge shotgun we keep securely stored at home. But best of all, we can travel internationally and not have foreign citizens look down their noses at us ( whether justifiably, or not ). There is a lot to admire about my neighbour to the south. But you have your warts, too. I prefer Canada, others up here prefer the States. It’s all good. Relax. Breathe

  42. Oh, and Dan, the reason I say better healthcare is that yes, you may have to wait a few weeks for that MRI, but:
    a) At least you WILL get one without having to open your wallet to prove you have either the insurance or the cash to pay for it.

    b) There’s no HMO bean counter looking over the doctor’s shoulder wondering if all aspects of your treatment are really necessary.

    But there’s one simple reason I put up with the extra tax load here. When my daughter gets sick, I don’t worry about paying the bill. I just do whatever it takes to make sure she gets better. That’s reason enough for me. ’nuff said.

  43. “Money is freedom.”

    Wow.

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