EuroConservative
Promoting Values of Life, Traditional Culture, International Savvy, and Social Justice
Your Subtitle text
Home Page
EuroConservative advocates principles generally associated with the Christian Democratic parties and movements of Europe:

A
Culture of Life - valuing human dignity from conception to natural death.

Social justice - esp. following the teachings first brought to light in the encyclical Rerum Novarum (Of New Things) promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.

Conservation of natural resources - including policies designed to promote recycling and efficient use of energy.

Free market values - with the restraint that capitalism must be placed at the service of humanity, and not vice versa.

Private proptery rights.


EuroConservative rejects:

Marxism

Social Darwinism

Nationalism and Racism,
whether linguistic, biological or other.

Consumerism

On the definition of "Conservative"

American and European understandings of the concept of "conservative" can differ significantly. It is our belief that the European definition is closer to the etymological origin of the term, which comes from the Latin conservare, meaning "to keep, preserve." Thus, the liberal-left bumper stickers often seen in the U.S., "Conservatives, what are you conserving?", are right on the mark. Far too many American "conservatives" do justice to the notion that "conservatism" means raping the environment and ruining cultural heritage through unbridled, rapacious forms of capitalism. European-style conservatives put far greater emphasis on preserving, for instance, local tradition, rather than allowing the unchecked expansion of gargantuan corporations such as Walmart and McDonald's. (That said, European conservatives are not anti-capitalist, but they generally are anti-communist.)

Why America is Not Unequivocally
the “Greatest Land on Earth”

 

“You live in the greatest land on earth—how dare you attack our commander-in-chief in time of war!” says Sean Hannity as his eyes narrow and his right hand clenches, with the exception of his index finger. He is pointing at the guest on the Fox interview/debate program Hannity and Colmes, a guest who has had the audacity to question Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. This was a typical scene from the mid-2000s.

 

In a similar vein, the July 2008 issue of Townhall magazine decided to run a cover theme “Celebrating America’s Strength: What Makes U.S. Great.” Executive editor Chris Field opines in his letter to his publication’s readers, “Conservatives hold that no country in the history of the world has done more for mankind than the United States....” When he writes that “conservatives hold” this view, presumably he is referring only to American conservatives, as there is certainly room for argument on that point in the minds of many other conservatives the world over. (Or did Americans invent conservatism, too?) Field continues that while the Right does not believe the U.S. to be perfect, “we do believe that America is the best there is—by a long shot.”

 

Well, I’m one conservative who holds enough of an open mind, and has spent enough time abroad, to understand that that point is debatable. That is, there are indisputably many great things about American, but are we really all that great? The best--BY A LONG SHOT!!?? While I disagree with far-left, post-modernist, quasi-Marxist ideas about the United States – and the West more generally – being the root of all evil, I understand that there are many great things about other countries, and that America has its faults. True, American conservatives like Field will concede that America has some shortcomings, but their obsession with American greatness renders it rather difficult for them to come to terms very seriously with those faults. The blemishes on American life remain for them something in the farthest peripheries of their vision; they are essentially blinded to just how deep, numerous and pervasive those faults can be. People in this country need to do some serious soul-searching, and the all-too-common attitudes represented by Hannity and Field make remedies to our problems nearly impossible.

 

So, I point out a few of America’s major problems as an antidote to the idea that the United States is the greatest land on earth, “by a long shot.” If America is so unequivocally the best there is, one might well ask why we have:

 

1        the world’s highest divorce rate

2        the highest rate of infant mortality in the industrialized world

3        life expectancies that lag behind all of Western Europe and Japan

4        constantly poor rankings in terms of our school children’s knowledge of crucial subjects

5        the highest incarceration rate in the world

 

To their credit, the contributors to the July Townhall issue do confront some of these issues, but ultimately only to argue that the measurements are unreliable. On point 2, Michael D. Tanner points out in his article "The Doctor is In: When they get sick over there, they come here" that high abortion rates in other countries, especially as applied to fetuses that stand lower chances of survival, tend to artificially lower infant mortality rates. Put another way, more babies are brought to term in the U.S., often low-weight babies who would normally stand a low chance of survival, thus raising infant mortality rates. Tanner makes a "for example" comparison with Cuba, in part, it seems, because he wants to poke a stick in Michael Moore's eye over SiCKO, due to the film's fawning view of the Cuban health care system. Criticism of Michael Moore may well be - and usually is - well-placed, but let's make a tougher comparison to the U.S., please. Let's take Germany, which in recent years has had abortion rates similar to those of the United States (even a bit lower in most years, see http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/index.html#US) and has an infant mortality rate approximately 2/3 that of the States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate_(2005) and http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004393.html).

 

Tanner also points to the number of pioneering medical inventions and innovations that have originated in the U.S. in recent decades, the number of non-Americans who come to the U.S. for treatment, and the leading role played by American companies in the pharmaceuticals area. He notes that "U.S. companies have developed half of all new major medicines introduced worldwide over the past 20 years." Well, as I said above, we have a lot of great things in America, and, in this case (without even checking Tanner's statistics) I will concede that the U.S. performs all out of proportion to its size in terms of what it produces. But then, so does Switzerland, a country of a mere 6 million with one of the best and most famous pharmaceutical industries in the world (see http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS128966+14-Mar-2008+BW20080314

). As the authors of Leading Pharmaceutical Innovation: Trends and Drivers for Growth in the Pharmaceutical Industry put it in their preface, they chose to study Switzerland because "Switzerland assumes a unique role in pharmaceuticals worldwide. Nowhere else is the pharmaceutical industry's importance for the national economy as high as in Switzerland..., and Swiss life science companies represent a surprisingly wide spectrum of the worldwide pharmaceutical and biotechnical industry within a relatively focused geographic area." Readers may notice that I'm not making a careful statistical comparison here, and neither does Tanner make close comparisons on every point. He is right to note that on many points statistics can be misleading, or at least not terribly revealing. Sometimes only apples and oranges comparisons are available. And of course (not to mix the fruit metaphor) I'm cherry-picking a bit to point to countries like Germany and Switzerland, which are at or near the top in many areas of technology and business in Europe and the world.

 

With the apples-and-oranges problem in mind, as well as issues of cause and effect, Tanner's reaction to the life-expectancy argument (my point 3 above) is somewhat understandable. Noting that many cross-country measures of health care rely in part on life expectancy data, Tanner opines, "In reality, though, life expectancy is a poor measure of a health care system. Life expectancies are affected by exogenous factors such as violent crime, poverty, obesity, tobacco and drug use and other issues unrelated to health care." Fair enough. But the knife cuts two ways, actually several ways, on this matter of life expectancy. It is nearly impossible to fetter out all the possible causes of mortality, and, therefore, using mortality alone would be a foolish measure of a health care system. But it is difficult to imagine a better measure of OVERALL QUALITY OF LIFE than life expectancy. A "happiness factor" would be great, (some studies have been done on this--in one I read about recently, Iceland took top prize), if it weren't for the fact that happiness is nearly impossible to quantify reliably. But average life expectancy can be reliably measured, even predicted (just ask anyone who knows life insurance about mortality tables), and the factors that go into determining length of life, cover, well, just about all aspects of life. Finally, factors like violent crime, poverty and obesity are all present to shameful degrees in contemporary American life.

 

Violent crime is, of course, related to my point 5, the incarceration rate, but in a way that most Americans don't think about--heavy sentencing for non-violent drug offenders, many of them small-time dealers, has actually not reduced crime rate but created a new under-class of criminals. Sentenced once, they become hardened in prison and thereafter remain basically unemployable due to their felony record and are left to a life of crime. Poverty is also a notorious problem in America, with its huge gap between rich and poor.

 

Obesity is a notoriously American problem, but one of the articles in the July Townhall seems to suggest that obesity is an indicator of affluence, and, granted, it is in some ways. But the business of being overweight is problematic, since weight problems are not usually the result of a quality diet taken in excessive quantities, but rather the result of a monotony of low-quality, processed foods high in unsaturated fats and carbohydrates. As has been pointed out frequently in recent years, Americans tend to suffer from obesity because they often substitute quantity for quality. Another problem, I submit, is the advertising and marketing juggernaut which keeps Americans, especially poor Americans, eating an unhealthy diet (for some recent offenders see http://www.aolhealth.com/diet/basics/bad-fast-food). Yet another factor is our fast-paced lifestyle which leaves little time for healthy food choices. Italians, for instance, live a slower, saner pace of life--indeed, often taking those 2-3 hour lunch breaks which Americans consider so "stupid"--and they eat better in terms of quality and live on average two years longer than Americans.

 

When it comes to pace of life, one might also consider the paucity of vacation time that Americans have. Germans, to take one example, have six weeks of vacation time per year, as opposed to Americans' 2-3 weeks. The result? Germans actually have a higher rate of overall productivity. Maybe there's something to the idea of coming back refreshed from vacation. There’s also something to the notion that people ought to have a decent amount of time to spend with their families—and no doubt the workaholic nature of American life contributes significantly to its high divorce rates.

 

To sum up, there are many great things about the United States of America: innovation, volunteerism, friendliness, and self-motivation, just to name a few. And, even with its current economic woes, it is likely to maintain a standard of living which is still above most – but not necessarily all – other Western countries, by most – but again not necessarily all – economic measures of well-being. But when you factor in matters like life expectancy, infant mortality rates, time spent with family, and divorce rates, one can easily argue that at least some other countries have it better than Americans do.

Web Hosting Companies