Why is this nation different from all other nations?

In a lovely pre-Thanksgiving column, Mark Steyn revisits the question of American exceptionalism  He explains why we live in a fundamentally stable society that doesn’t need to look to the UN for guidance, thereby distinguishing us from Europeans who have ancient castles, but endlessly changing political systems.  It is, as is always the case with Mark Steyn, a delightful read and one that really makes you appreciate America.

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Comments

  1. Ivan Ivanovich says

    In reading about the 16 Meyer’s-Briggs personality types, I would speculate that our immigrant ancestors were of the type who could not stay home and set out to find a new way. Those of the type less prone to risk-taking stayed in Europe.

  2. expat says

    At a party, I was once asked about the differences between America and Germany. Since this was not he time or place for a long discussion, I thought for a moment and replied that Americans tolerate chaos better. I now believe that I was onto something.
    I recall after 9/11 that New Yorkers were being laughed at for sealing their windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape. In some ways duct tape is really symbolic of America. We might want the perfectly conceived and executed, but in the end if we have to we’ll use duct tape and move on. Meanwhile the Europeans will be holding a conference to organize a commission to consider recommendations, etc., etc.

  3. Mike Devx says

    We self-correct better than any other nation on earth. I think we owe this to the genius of the Framers.

    I often convince myself that this country is headed to hell in a hand-basket, and then I realize that despite all the faults, I *trust* my fellow citizenry to (generally) do the right thing far more than I trust any other peoples.

    Despite all the O.J and Britnet coverage, despite all the sleaze, despite the frequent hysterical movements of-the-moment, we keep moving on, self-correcting, always more or less in the right direction.

  4. Ellie says

    Let’s say a group of humans decide to colonize Mars. Let’s suppose they are non-Muslim refugees from a world that has been over-run by the Taliban. They put at risk their lifes, their progency and their personal fortunes. They need to dicide how to govern themselves/rule their new land.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Jose says

    I agree with Mike D that *trust* in our fellow citizens makes the diffence.

    I recently read a book (Undercover Economist by Tim Harford) which explains that a nations prosperity is determined by the trust the citizens have in public institutions, such as the government, police and banks. Lack of trust results in people squatting in a shack on land they don’t own, no safe place to invest or store their business profits, and not reporting crimes because they know nothing will be done. If they have trustworthy institutions, they can buy property, build a home without worry that they will be chased out, and work to improve their lives.

    More recently I read an article breaks all that down to trust:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2174706/fr/flyout
    The article explains the “Stag Hunt” in game theory, which supposes that cooperation pays bigger dividends than indiviualism. It all boils down to this – if everyone can trust their neighbors, politicans, bank managers, bosses, and police, greater prosperity for all is the result.

    If this is the case, then the melting pot idea, resulting in a more homogenous society, is definitely a good thing for everyone. One can argue that people who can’t be trusted to conform to our societies norms threaten the nations health. Hmmm…

  6. Ymarsakar says

    Fascinating article, Jose. It brings up the topic of cooperative hunting, which I decided to name a certain kind of survival strategy, during some of the comments I posted here.

    I came across the realization that a system like the United States military is based upon not just cooperation but cooperative hunting through alternate means. Instead of deducing such things from mathematical games or formulas, I deduced it from human observation but primarily from philosophical deduction.

    It is a very important subject after all, because once you strip the veneer from the Left’s policies, all you get is the claim that they are the ones improving upon cooperation and thus the living standards of people all over. Whether such a claim, a philosophical premise to be exact, is correct or not relies critically upon whether the notion of a cooperative hunt can be created through Leftist policies or US Marine Corps policies.

    Given the mutual exclusivity of Leftist policies and the policies of good and excellent military institutions, one has to ask onself whether American civilians wish to emulate their military or whether they wish to emulate Leftist ideologies and spiritual fanatics.

    This is the fundamental choice people must make. Thus all the talk about who are the racists and how to treat institutional racism is nothing but a smoke screen laid down by the Left in order to prevent people from truly thinking about the philosophical foundations behind the political policies forwarded.

    That is why the stag hunt is so important, and the fragility of the happy, cooperative hunt is so worrying. Britain is not about to collapse into anarchy, even if the experience of Northern Rock’s depositors is profoundly unnerving. But the episode is a reminder of how many conventions in our society—from lining up to showing up for work—only succeed because everybody expects that they will. That cannot be taken for granted.

    The idea of a hunt is prototypically anti-Leftist in that the left does not see social cooperation as a hunt. To the Left, it is not about the hunters winning and thereby feeding their familes with the deer losing by dying. Ophiucus gave us a great example of standard Leftist thinking. While the Left may or may not recognize the power of competition, they would far prefer that competition be undermined in favor of international cooperation. Why is that so? For the simple reason that the Left doesn’t know how to win in a test of pure strength when the outcome is either life or death. I know, simplistic, but it is true.

  7. Ymarsakar says

    The critical point is this segment of the article.

    There are two rational outcomes to the stag hunt: Either both hunters hunt the stag as a team, or each hunts rabbits by himself. Each would prefer to cooperate in hunting the stag, but if the other player’s motives or actions are uncertain, the rabbit hunt is a risk-free alternative

    Factionalism, what we know as tribalism or also amoral familism, is represented in the need to look out for one self above anyone else. For factionalism, it is about furthering the cause of your faction, since your faction will bring about your personal elevation. Each legion favoring their own military commander for ROman Emperor is an example of factionalism. So was the pro slavery Democrat party in the Civil War, when they favored their own members over the benefit to the entire Union. Slavery was good enough for the party elites, so why rock the boat? It wasn’t good for the nation as a whole nor was it good for slaves either, but that did not really matter to the party elites.

    For amoral familism, it is about furthering the economic interests of your family. Which in turn will increase your own wealth and prestige. The Arabian culture focuses much on this type of survival strategy in its society. Every tribe is after all, simply an extended family.

    The Left promises that they will further cooperation. Cooperation should then lead to a better life. So let us go back to the beginning where I noted the critical segment.

    Each would prefer to cooperate in hunting the stag, but if the other player’s motives or actions are uncertain, the rabbit hunt is a risk-free alternative

    While each person would like, in an ideal situation, to benefit the most from any kind of transaction, the individual also must calculate the risks involved.

    The key part is that the methods by which the Left uses to instill cooperation also decreases security, independence, and mutual interest. Instead of trying to bind disparate people into one unified whole with a unified purpose, the Left seeks instead to pit one faction against another to derive personal benefits. This is shown in the example of how the Democrats decided that the war in Iraq was a chance at achieving political dominance once again.

    THe lack of independence weakens the chains that bind a society, given that the strength of a society is based upon the strength of the weakest individual in that society. Too many weak links and the society itself becomes weak. Independence fosters strength and good judgement. Dependence fosters weakness and guillibility. The latter is death to a society’s ability to cooperate and prosper.

    Thirdly, the narcissism created by welfare goes against creating mutual interest, since why should anyone work for others when they don’t need to?

    The risks the Left creates are too high. What is interesting is that the Left sees what the military is trying to accomplish in Iraq as bearing too high a price and risk. This is simply another example of why Leftist philosophy is incompatible with De Oppresso Liber.

    One is right, the other is wrong. Both cannot be right. Although both can be wrong. The difference is, the military in trying to actually create a cooperative society is able to change their methods that have failed in the past. The Left cannot change, for cooperation was never the final objective in the first place. Some of them in positions of power do indeed realize that multiculturalism is the complete opposite of creating cooperation and unity of purpose. Yet it does not bother them.

    The reason, in the end, is very simple. The Left plans to agree to a cooperative hunt and then murder their partner after the deer has been killed and when most of the work has been done by the partner. The Left then gets both shares and the tools of the murdered partner. The Left then can go rabbit hunting at no risk to themselves, their families, or their ideological faction.

    This is called parasitism and it is a very successful survival strategy. For the parasite. Those truly interested in cooperative hunting must always be aware of the risks inherent in it. Choose your allies well.

  8. Ymarsakar says

    My first comment needs some clarification. There was some discussions here over the relationship of socialism to nazism and how nazism related to communism. The Triangle of Death I called it.

    So, while there are some members of the Left that would indeed betray their hunting partner in order to gain personally, most members of the Left are simply the source of such betrayal and breakdown rather than the actual players.

    For example, socialism in Italy and Germany created the unstable conditions necessary for Nazis and fascists. The same occured in Cuba, Iran, and Russia. So here’s the short of it.

    Leftist policies, whether National Socialist, Democratic Socialist, or just Communist, force people to cooperate. Instead of people seeing the risks inherent in a partnership and freely choosing to be part of it, the Left would rather that people be forced into cooperation. Slavery, is after all, prefered by the Left over free choice. If you believe, as the Left does, that international cooperation will create a better world, then can you truly afford to let sentiments against slavery upset this goal?

    When people are forced into partners, they really just want to get out of it. But they want to get out of it the winner, not the loser. So because the Left has forced people into cooperation that wouldn’t have done so freely and because the Left also increased the insecurity, mistrust, and fragmentation present in the environment, the hunters automatically are motivated to looking out for number 1 and only number 1.

    The individuals in question now want to get out of the partnership because it is just too risky and it provides no benefit to the hunters. Each hunter then has to make an individual choice about breaking the partnership, but they also must consider feeding themselves. Thus the logical choice is to betray the “other” partner. Such obvious examples of Rwanda and the Holocaust under “international cooperation” should be enough to describe to you the scenario.

    The Left believes in a top down hierarchy, in which the aristocrats decide what is good and the bottom of the pyramid gets to implement the wishes of their superiors. This means that they have power to force someone like the Shah of Iran to make reforms and go easy on the Islamic Jihad, but such a top down hierarchy does not have enough power to make people continue to cooperate. What people will do is what happened in Iran. The more violent party wins out because they were ruthlessness enough to do what was needed to win over the other partner or partners.

    THe military, which I mentioned before as representing the best of cooperative hunting survival strategy, believes in a bottom up hierarchy of command. The military, represented by Petraeus’ COIN fighting philosophy, tries to form the foundations first and make sure that they are solid. Then the military tries to get people to cooperate. De Oppresso Liber is, after all, a SF belief enforced by Special Forces unconventional warfare methods. Bush tried to do it the Leftist way when he went to the UN and in 2004-5 but the strategy has changed from a top down hierarchy of “showing an Iraqi face to replace US troops” to “demonstrating American leadership by leading Iraqis from the front, not the rear”.

    The Left will never lead their people from the front. Aristocrats have better things to do than die in wars after all. That is what peasants are for.

    Imagine how the Left would have handled being on Flight 93 on 9/11. As a last thought experiment, simply consider whether the people on Flight 93 would have agreed to cooperate from a solid bottom up foundation if they had believed in Leftist notions that cooperation comes through negotiation and working with people like terrorists and dictators.

    Without the assurance of victory or of security for them and their families, people simply will not cooperate. The Left can make them seem like they are cooperating but the Left is doing nothing but weakening the foundations of civilization. This is why the Left believes in freedom of action more than taking responsibility for those actions. This is why the Left believes more in freedom for terrorists than security for Americans.

    The Left believes freedom, prosperity, and cooperation comes from sharing. Even if that means sharing with people who can’t be trusted and who are a danger to you and your family. The US military believes that order and law must be maintained in the US and in the world for Americans to live their lives in the way that they wish under those laws. That is why US military members can look at the domestic insurgency here in the United States and say with a straight face that this is part of what they are fighting for. The military believes in security. The Left does not. At least, the Left doesn’t believe that people need security in order to be made to cooperate.

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