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America is a great country

Patrick Crozier has some views on our cousins across the Big Pond

America is a great country. Yes, I know they never stop reminding us of the fact and it can become a bit irksome but it is still true and perhaps we should take the time to remind ourselves from time to time.

For starters America is a rich country. Not only is the average wage higher but the cost of living is lower. The average American has a bigger house, a better car and more consumer durables than just about anywhere else. Healthcare for the vast majority is excellent and an astonishing proportion of Americans attend college.

America is a land of opportunity – still. Just ask Anthony Hopkins or Catherine Zeta-Jones or Tracy Ullman or Jane Leeves or Henry Kissinger or Andrew Sullivan (he is a Brit isn’t he?) or Tina Brown (likewise?) or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Colin Powell’s dad. And that’s just the foreigners. America is a country where the “can do” attitude prevails and dreams can come true.

America has contributed massively to the rest of the world. From Hollywood movies to McDonalds to the personal computer to, well, closer to home, blogging. America has been responsible for 80% of the world’s rock music and 95% of its dance music. Oh, and ending two world wars. OK, so they weren’t decisive in the first (that was the Canadians and Australians) but I think we can credit them with the second. And then there’s the Cold War.

America is a free country. More than just about anywhere in the world American citizens are free from arbitrary arrest, torture and arbitrary punishment. The right to free speech is even enshrined in the constitution. And then, unlike most places, honoured. In America you can hold on to more of the property you have worked for than just about anywhere else and once the government has taken its cut you are more or less free to do whatever you like with it.

America is not without fault but even there many of America’s alleged faults are not faults at all. It is often accused of racism and racism certainly exists but racism exists everywhere. The Russians hate the Chechens, the Romanians hate the Hungarians and the Japanese hate everyone. What is remarkable about America is how little racism there is and how deeply its governing classes want to do something about it. The fact that so many Hollywood movies nowadays have a black in a leading or main supporting role speaks volumes for this desire.

People also complain about the crime rate but they are behind the times. With the exception of murder America’s crime rate is lower than that of the UK. That really ought to fill us with shame.

We Brits often get a bit snooty about American English but should we? I have this dreadful fear that my UK v US English competition will end in a US victory. US English does the job just well as our own version – it’s just that the words are different, that’s all.

People say that Americans are rude and pushy – just like the one out of Fawlty Towers. Some are for sure. But so are many Britons. And vast swathes of middle America contain some of the nicest, friendliest people you could ever want to meet.

It can be bruising to come face to face with the American corporate steamroller but is it really all that bad? American firms from Ford, to Oracle, to Mars and McDonalds have provided good jobs for thousands in Britain and millions around the world. Lest we forget, it was American money that built most of the London tube and the Ford Cortina MkII 1600E. And if American corporate dominance is such an issue, rather than getting angry, wouldn’t it be better to get even?

Actually, this is a general point. If we want to be as rich and as free as the Americans (and surely we do) rather than fume and rage, get snooty about things and bind up America in stupid international treaties wouldn’t the smart thing be to work out how they got that way and then do it for ourselves?

Well, wouldn’t it?

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63 comments to America is a great country

  • Whilst there are many thing that are done better or at least as well in Britain, I agree that the UK need to emulate a great many things that the US does far better, in fact the list is almost endless… but dear God, not the language!!!

  • S. Weasel

    You started it.

    The main principles are cheerful capitalism, English common law, minimum government interference and a certain natural inclination to geekery. (Hm. Are optimism, restlessness and curiosity aspects of geekery? I vote yes).

    To the extent any of us stick to those ideas, we prosper (they translated pretty well to Hong Kong, for example). To the extent we turn our backs on them, we fail (the US nearly self-destructed in the seventies, by losing track of nearly all those things, and we’re in danger of losing grip on a few of them again).

  • Bill Twist

    Speaking as an American, thanks. Not too often do you hear a kind word about the United States from overseas. But remember, what we have is in part based upon what we received from you. The fabric of America is in large part composed of British thread.

    And thanks for the SMLE’s. Damned fine rifle. I’ve owned two, still have one of them (Some of us American chaps still admire a decent firearm).

  • roy

    “Actually, this is a general point. If we want to be as rich and as free as the Americans (and surely we do) rather than fume and rage, get snooty about things and bind up America in stupid international treaties wouldn’t the smart thing be to work out how they got that way and then do it for ourselves?”

    Go for it! And keep notes so others in the world can copy them.

    We (in the US) really don’t have a “plan” that others can follow (this was one of our weaknesses during the Cold War; the Soviets could say, “We can take you from a feudal society to an industrial country in 20-30 years” ). The in the US “know” that it takes capitalism, democracy, certain rights retained by the population, a certain amount of personal independence mindset, etc, but we don’t have any blueprint for others to follow.

  • Thanks. Seriously, it is nice to hear people abroad say things like this. And I tell you what. A lot of us Americans are seeing what Britain is doing for us and we won’t forget it. I’m not sure exactly what I can do, but I do want to do something to show that we remember our friends.

  • Sekimori

    Holy shit. Actual common sense being bandied about on the internet…my gods man, have you no shame?!?!?!

  • Dave Wolfe

    “I have this dreadful fear that my UK v US English competition will end in a US victory.”

    It will if don’t learn to properly pronounce aluminum.

  • I second the comment above that a large piece of the fabric of our country comes from the traditions we inherit.

    Sometimes it still fascinates me that we fought two wars against each other just over 200 years ago and today our two nations sometimes seem like two peas in a pod.

  • Joe

    I’ve always thought that Great Britain was (and is) a great country. There is so much to admire about the British.
    Joe

  • Michael

    To steal a line from the inimitable Mark Steyn, we’re the land of free speech, low taxes, gun rights, private health care and imperial measurements!

    Thanks for the kind words.

  • Germaine

    Most countries around the world are for the most part compartmentalized whereas in the States, we are more or less in one big proverbial “melting pot”.

    I had a Korean co-worker who said that what she found most interesting about this country is that there are so many different kinds of people. She said the Koreans are a very homogenous people and there is little variation in their appearance whereas in the States, you can see people of so many different sizes, shapes, colors, heritages and philosophies. Variety is the spice of life.

    There are a lot of things about this country that I would like to see changed, but on the whole, it’s pretty good.

  • Thanks, lovely, much appreciated, especially the line about how so many Middle Americans are sweet and nice. Lordy, Middle America tends to take it on the nose too often — a seething, Lynch-esque cauldron of racism, repression and anything else you enjoy imagining. Yet I grew up there, and retain fond memories of my friends and neighbors and the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever known. A little boring sometimes, but is that so great a sin? And Republicans, each and every one of them.

    Why do you suppose it’s so rare to hear appreciative words about the States? Is it just that we’re #1 and that irks others? (Especially, it seems to me, sucn rundown, once-great countries as France and England.) Most of the Brits I run into seem to think it’s their duty — right? pleasure? prerogative? — to tell America what it ought to be doing and how it ought to behave. It never seems to occur to them to look at the States and think: hmm, a few flaws here and there, but generally peaceful, rich, and free — maybe they’re onto something!

  • My sister visited London with a small child a year or so ago, and I would like to pass along something she said about the trip: “Though Americans may be more polite, Brits are more helpful.” (This was after trying to deal with the multitude of items a very small child requires on public transit and receiving assistance from numerous anonymous Londoners.)

    I think we should always be willing to learn from our neighbors. While a smile may be nice, a helping hand is even nicer.

  • David R Beatty

    Thanks for the kind words; you’ve captured the essence of what it means to be an American. This American certainly appreciates it.

    … and I wouldn’t mind one bit if other countries captured that essence, as well.

  • Many foreigners fall for reflexive anti-Americanism. Some have a mixture of love and hate for the US. Others, though, find ourselves looking at America and falling completely in love with the country. This kind of foreigner (and I am definitely one of these) is likely to be more pro-American than most Americans. (Of course America has its faults, but the good things about it are simply so good.).

  • Scott

    Hey, Hose Monster,
    Read “Cousins Wars” (forget author’s name, but maybe Kevin Phillips), he posits the interesting theory that the English Civil War, Ami Revolution, and Ami Civil war were all of a single thread. Quite convincingly done.
    Also has interesting theory that modern voting patterns in the U.S. can be traced back to which of the original colonies that the first settler in a particular western (ne’ midwestern) state came from.

  • Nancy

    Good heavens. All that’s missing is a 500 foot American flag waving in the background while the MGM celestial choir wells and a nice looking family gazes, faces full of hope, into the middle distance…

    Sorry.

    I lived in London for eleven years, and left just a couple of years ago to live in Florida. Love the weather and the friendly demeanor, dislike the showy, phony Christianity, and the aggressive anti-intellectualism, if that’s a word; at least of this general area where I live.

    I asked my English close, personal friend recently what he missed the most about England. He sighed and said, “I miss subtlety.” I know what he means. I miss it, too. I also miss thoughtfulness – not in the sense of, “let me help you with that”, but in thinking before engaging mouth. Trying to see both sides. Again, there is precious little of that trait in the pick up truck South – at least compared to London. I miss people reading everywhere. So what if it’s the Sun and they’re only reading so that no one will talk to them. It was such a joy to go into people’s homes in London and see bookshelves (with books, not collectibles). I can’t get over how often one can go into an American home and not see a book, anywhere. That’s probably not nearly so true in the American Northeast, but is is here.

    I miss Cornwall! God, I love that place. Where else on Earth can you watch windsurfers gliding over the water toward you while above them, a castle built by King Henry VIII stands guard on a headland?

    I miss architecture. The Taco Bell strip mall culture here is utterly pervasive. I miss driving over Blackfriar’s Bridge at night, Chelsea Bridge anytime…

    Oh, well, I’m tripping now. My point is don’t get lost in bigger houses and all of that. It’s undeniable that life, generally, is easier, more efficient and more pleasant over here. It’s the things you can’t get your hands on, exactly, that are lacking.

  • Geo

    Well, I must say I appreciate hearing all the positive affirmation.

    Having been overseas for the better part of five years, with the last two in France, I miss the States more than I can express. Not because you can’t find all the feel-good things mentioned over here. I know you can. I’ve met some phenomenally cool people in France, England, Cameroon, North Africa, etc.

    No, what I really miss are those people that, because they are of my own culture, I can connect at the deepest levels without wending my way through the cross-cultural maze.

    It’s trite, I know, but our own homes are always the best, no matter where they may be.

    Of course, it would be really cool if Aix-en-Provence had a Wal-Mart and my kitchen were larger than a small broom-closet, but I digress.

  • Elizabeth

    I am very glad to be able to call my cousins across the pond – friends – as well.
    I will be extremely disappointed if you all roll over and willingly partake in an EU agenda which will do away with OUR England as we know it!

    Nancy – I’ve had a hard time dealing with the “culture” shock of FL as well. One thing that helps is to be able to sit outside and take in the incredible smells of orange or lemon blossoms. Right now my jasmine is blooming and my honeysuckle graces my entire back yard. 🙂 If you haven’t been to St. Augustine, you will probably love it.

  • mCrane

    Thanks for the kind words.
    They are much appreciated. However, the one wrong note in this wonderful piece is the use of “governing classes”. There is no such thing; We Americans believe we govern themselves. Our leaders are there at our behest and are interested in improving our lives amongst ourselves. And we are not really interested in anything else. There is no “ruling class” that wants to take over the world. No “ruling class” who’s identity comes from extending its rule. We govern only for ourselves. I don’t think the rest of the world quite understands this; to them, a country this powerful must want to rule the world. Most American’s are baffled by accusations of our imperialism. We aren’t that way. And it comes from not having a “governing class”. And you British know that even if you don’t think you know it. Again, thanks for the kind words.

  • Snide

    Some Dutch supporter of Ba’athist Socialist Mass Murderers wrote in the comments above:

    NO WAR IN IRAQ

    But I guess you think murder, rape, torture and repression is just fine though as you clearly have no problem with perpetuating the system which does all those things.

    Moron.

  • I have to second and third and fourth those who are returning the love for the British. Guys, hopefully the last couple of years have brought it more into the light where it belongs, but I hope that the entire island knows just how much we LOVE YOU GUYS. Sure, American and Britain had some rough spots at the beginning, but there is a deep and abiding affection and admiration for Great Britain among the American people–even the Irish ones like me. I hope it comes through. You guys always stand with us when it matters, and we’re proud to stand with you the same way.

  • Thanks for the mad props for my country.

    If you want to know why we are so eff-ing insufferable, it’s because we do look at the rest of the world. We see you poor benighted ‘eathen with smaller houses, worse health care, more oppressive governments, lower paying jobs, and most of all, less access to “Democracy Whisky Sexy”, as it was put brilliantly by a liberated Iraqi this morning.

    We see all that, and assume that everyone else would like to have what we have, and we try to give it to them, or at least get them to go for it themselves. Democracy whisky sexy for all!

    I apologize if we’re pushy sometimes; but please understand we can’t stop being what we are, and that’s a nation of evangelists, preaching a religion of individual freedom, hedonism and quackery — and we don’t take well to heretics. I don’t know where crazy Uncle Sam got it from… might be from his eccentric British cousin.

  • T. J. Madison

    The U.S. experiment in limited government did indeed create a huge engine of economic growth and technological advance. The entire planet has benefited greatly from this.

    There’s just one small problem with this huge economic engine: the U.S. government over the years has siphoned enough resources off of the ever-expanding economy to build a literally unstoppable juggernaut of destruction.

    For the most part this juggernaut stays chained up, or fights with both hands tied behind its back. But if the U.S. government slides into fascism and the juggernaut is unleashed, the entire world will be crushed by its might. All will kneel and submit to the will of Washington, including our British “friends”.

    It’s not a critical problem at this exact second. But it will be an issue soon. Sucking up to U.S. power may have more survival value than many here realize.

  • mCrane

    As long as we have patriots like T.J. Madison to man the watch towers, our “government by the people and for the people” will never slip into fascism. We wouldn’t know what to do with it, anyway. Besides, it sounds like a lot of bother, if not a lot of paperwork. So don’t worry, and thanks!

  • Geir

    Are you serious? I really hope this is meant sarcastic… Then it would make sence! And no, I’m not an arab, and yes, I want Saddam removed, but what then? Are you capable of doing the right moves that benefit the arabs and the world in general? I strongly doubt your greedy hands will allow that.. Time will tell.

  • Chris Josephson

    Thanks. What a nice article to read.

    I’ve always believed the diversity of
    the ‘Anglosphere’ is an asset that should be exploited. Each country has strengths and weaknesses and we can learn from one another to make each of our countries better.

    We concentrate too much on the negatives. We all need to concentrate on what the others do well and see if we can learn from them.

    Couple of examples of things I’d like to see the US borrow from the UK:

    1. I never realized the Prime Minister had to face his peers and defend his actions the way he does.
    In requiring this, it provides you with a much better
    airing of views and requires the Prime Minister be well versed to defend his views.

    I’d like to see our presidents have to do something similar.

    2. Experience in urban/large civilian population fighting:

    The UK troops at Basra have been excellent fighters. They also know when to drop their guard (replace helmets with berets) and move comfortably among the people to help calm the civilians.

    The US troops don’t seem to be very good at this, so far. I’ve heard a variety of reasons given to explain this, but it is true the US troops are lacking some skills the UK has.

    I’d like to see an exchange program where a certain number of US soldiers train with their UK
    counterparts.

    Just a couple of examples. But, my point is that I wish our countries would recognize the good and bad in each and learn from each other.

    We could cooperate and not fear coorperation would cost the sublimation of national sovereignty or interests.

    Regards,
    Chris J.

  • Jenn

    What a great post, Patrick!

    It makes me very happy to read this, but also a little sad. It’s quite a lift because it’s so rare to see this kind of praise for my country–particularly from abroad. But I am also saddened because it reminds me that the most free and prosperous nation in the world is becoming increasingly un-free. This is a danger, not just to Americans, but to the rest of the world as well.

    Fortunately, I believe that it is still in us to fight oppression. Aided by the blogosphere, liberty lovers in the US–and around the world–are hot on trails of tyrants. One day we’ll catch up and overcome.

  • Della

    America is a country which is better in a lot of ways than most countries, but most countries suck. Britain is a very rich country too.

    Point 1:
    The M25 is not Britains coastal motorway, a lot of people seem to be making comparisons between London and America which is just stupid, London has problems of its own and the vast majority of Britain is outside of London.

    Point 2:
    When you go to America you see a lot of showy wealth, and initially it is quite impresssive, but it doesn’t go very deep. In Britain the wealth is not shown off so much, but if you scrach the surface you see a very rich country.

    Point 3:
    America is not always #1. I find it really irritating that Americans say they are #1 in pretty much everything, even in areas where they’re plainly not #1. Britons on the other hand have been heard to say: “we don’t think were the best we know were the best” which is far better than the American position in my view.

    Point 4:
    Looking at what I would pay in taxes, in any state with a state income tax I would pay more. If you spend some time there you find there are tons of little nickle and dime taxes that really add up after a while.

    Point 5:
    Taxes in America seem to be even worse value for money than here. If you’re going to be taxed you might as well get VFM.

    Point 6:
    Cost of living. Where I am the cost of living is lower than comparable places in the US. See point 1. You can buy big houses like you can in some states in America.

    Point 7:
    British and American wealth comparison research papers I have read indicate that most sectors of these two populations have similar levels of wealth.

    Point 8:
    When Britons go to America they generally visit the richer places in America. When you travel from state to state you see big differences in wealth and land use in different states.

    Point 9:
    The unemployment rate is lower here.

    Point 10:
    In a lot of areas of America the weather sucks. Too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, tornados and hurricanes (which are terrifying), huge thunderstorms and the need to protect yourself from the sun when it does shine or get sunburn.

    Point 11:
    Britain has been going around for a long time like a bird with a broken whining about how lousy life is. That’s bullshit. British people should open their eyes and research the differences between Britain and most other countries, they will find that life is about as good as it gets here. It could be a lot better here, but that’s the reality just now.

  • Taxes in America seem to be even worse value for money than here. If you’re going to be taxed you might as well get VFM.

    Actually I am terrified of the idea of getting ‘value-for-money’ from the state… I believe it was Mark Twain who said “it is a good thing we do not get all the government we pay for”. I would be happier of the UK government took all my tax money and just flushed it down the toilet rather than actually screw things up by spending it on 75% of the things they spend it on.

  • Geir: if you have a coherent point to make, then kindly grace us with it. Try to make something other than bald assertions so that people actually think you have something worth listening to rather than just something to say.

  • Jenn

    Nancy,

    Your analysis really seems to be of rural and/or small-town US vs. urban UK (i.e. London). I don’t think this is a very effective way to compare or contrast the two countries.

    I also can’t help but find your “aggressive anti-intellectualism” label of the American South to be quite humorous. But, perhaps, in the future you might consider the following:

    1) Maybe it’s not that these people devalue intellectualism, but that they value other things above it.
    2) Have you really been in enough American homes to make an accurate judgement about the book-ownership of Americans? I have lived in the American South my entire life, and I’ve noticed books in the homes of nearly all of the people gracious enough to invite me over.
    3) Book ownership does not necessarily indicate that the books are being read. You may turn your nose up at “collectibles” on bookshelves, but, to many pseudo-intellectuals, books are nothing more than collectibles.
    4) It’s interesting that you’re comparing the Southern US to the Northeast when it is well known in America that Florida is the Southern state with the largest number of Northeastern transplants.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down intellectualism; I personally find it to be a very satisfying pursuit. But your assessment seems to be made with an air of pretension.

    Americans are generally intrigued by British culture, and can actually relate to and appreciate many aspects of it. But we are really put off by what we see as snobbery coming from the English and other Europeans. I say this fully realizing that we are perceived as arrogant. And we have many other faults. But is the condescension really necessary?

    One other question: How is it that you’re able to gauge the authenticity of the religious beliefs of Floridians—or anyone else, for that matter?

  • Chris Josephson,

    Your remark about the British troops being able to ‘move more easily’ among the Iraqi civilians is well taken. I had formed the same view but wondered if that was just my own perception or the result of seeing it through the lens of the British media.

    Apparently not though and it is intriguing. Perhaps it something to do with Britain’s colonial past. I realise that sounds so anachronistic now but in fact traditional methods of ‘winning hearts and minds’ to embed themselves in military culture and that may be the difference.

  • Jeffersonian

    I’m gratified by the kind words of the piece and the courteous criticisms of the comments. It’s what makes this site so enjoyable to return to again and again. Kudos to Perry, David, et al. for their efforts.

    We have something special here in America, but I think that the world would be a boring place if everyone copied it. Oh, I’m all for human rights, the rule of law and free market economics across the board, but those are relatively neutral institutions that rest lightly on indigenous cultures. I wouldn’t trade the British character to see every avenue in the UK lined with strip malls and Taco Bells.

    One last thing: If you every say we’re pushy and rude again, I’ll kick your ass, pal. 😎

  • “wouldn’t the smart thing be to work out how they got that way and then do it for ourselves?”

    The vast majority of Americans wish the world would do just that or, optionaly, STFU.

    I’ve heard it said from time to time that the US could learn a thing or to from other countries. We do. If we really want to learn something from another country we just hand out visas to their best and brightest. If we really wanted to get back at France we could just hand out a 100,000 cartes vertes to French scientists and engineers every year.

  • Dale

    Patrick –

    Thank you so very much, as it is easy for an American to feel alone in the world these days.

    And on the language thing, our differences are perhaps best distinguished by your liberal use of the word “indeed”, as in, “Indeed, that’s a huge honkin’ pickup truck.” 😉

  • Dan

    Nice tribute to the good of the U.S.A.

    There is bad news though… we aren’t done yet.

    So if you expect to surpass us, get cracking!

    One of the U.S.A.’s greatest strengths has always been that we (as a whole) are not at all shy about making good ideas our own. That applies to our English also, it must be among the most promiscuous of modern languages.

    Turn about is fair play. Steal our good ideas, improve on them, then let us steal the newer versions back.

  • David Mercer

    Only nit I’d pick with these very good comments (aside from the one liner Idiotarian post), is the bit about us not having a ruling class.

    Gerrymandering has given us one. Less than 30 out of over 450 House seats in the last federal election were considered competitive. Once you get elected to the House, you effectively get to keep the seat forever unless you royally screw up or were in a competitive district in the first place. All that wonderful soft money and gerrymandering put together make House mambers nearly unseatable, and also make it practically impossible for minor parties to ever get seats, let alone for one of the dominant 2 parties to get dethroned.

    And I understand the upsides to the 2 party system that winner-take-all voting nearly always gives you, but right now we’re left with 2 statist parties who are nearly indistinguishable from each other except for a few hot-button issues.

    The day that a third party candidate is allowed to participate in a televised debate is the day I’ll believe that we’ve actually engaged in some meaningful political reform.

    But thanks for all the kudos, it does get dismal sometimes not hearing more posts like this one!

  • Matt W.

    David, I agree with most of your post. I can’t speak for the Republican party as a whole for the past few decades (mainly because I only became deeply interested in politics after around 1999.) But anymore MOST republicans don’t seem to be statist. Sure you have some nitwits who support censorship or the drug war, but Republican economic policy is on the whole anything but statist. I realize i’m giving a biased view, but all I see coming out of the Democratic party is knee-jerk reactions to the war and round condemning of the Presidents Tax Plan (Which if I needed more reason to like him, I got it, even if it was castrated by the democrats). I say this because I used to consider myself fully libertarian (and I still am on most things). But it seems to me that most republicans anymore are merely libertarians with hawkish foreign policy. The exception to this of course is the religious right, but they can go over and play in the sandbox at the funny farm for all I care. And ditto along with everyone else, hopefully Britains closer association with the U.S. will effect their domestic policy to move away from the socialist EU trend, and more towards a system like our own (Minus the NEA and Welfare of course)

  • Liberty Belle

    I was brought up mainly in the US and I lived and worked in Texas for 16 years and I adore America. Liberty and independence are in the air one breathes, and it’s bracing. To an American, the future is full of possibilities, and they’re all do-able. They say that America’s an optimistic country because it was the optimists who sold up their meagre possessions and embarked on a long and dangerous voyage to start life anew in a country they’d never seen. The spirit lives on.

    Speaking of ruling classes, whenever I hear even educated – in fact, I think it’s only the educated who use this term – people refer to “our political masters”, I cringe. When are the British going to grasp the point that the voters are the political masters and Blair and his ilk only (temporarily) occupy the positions they do at our pleasure. They are the mendicants, not us.

    Finally, Perry – shame on you for being so snooty about the American language! It’s the most vigorous language in the world, which is why all its catchphrases and new words and new usages of old words are taken up with such haste by the Anglophone world. American English sizzles. It’s like Elizabethan English, effortlessly inventive, full of vitality, generously welcoming new coinage. OK, they leave the final ‘i’ out of aluminium, but even that’s typical of a country in a hurry. Saves time.

  • Simon Austin

    I agree with much of what you say however this statement is utter rubbish

    “America has been responsible for 80% of the world’s rock music and 95% of its dance music”

    Get real

  • Yes, America is a rich country.

    Per capita GDP:
    US $31,932
    UK $22,241
    Spain $17,596

    (source: 2003 Index of Economic Freedom)

    England may not be as rich, but had things turned out differently in 1588…

  • Matthew Kirk

    Kind words indeed ! I have to take a small issue with the “80% of the world’s rock music” comment though. More like 80% of the worlds crappy rock music. Let’s face it, American rock music, in its present incarnation, really stinks. Bunch of cacophonic, overly-produced-built-for-radio tripe. What American rock music fails at is inspiring a musical/cultural shift. Here’s the theory:

    Starting with The Beatles ( or more precisely Lonnie Donnegan/skiffle bands ) every ten years or so the British kick the American music scene right in the ass.

    The Beatles pretty well started it all (ca. 1959-1969)

    The Who turned pop groups into rock bands (1965-1976)

    The Sex Pistols/ punk rock turned it all on its head (1976-1980)

    New Wave/New Romantics/Neo-mod (bands like The Jam, Duran Duran, Culture Club) made it permissable to dye one’s hair pink (1978-1985)

    Cool Brittania (bands like Oasis, Pulp, etc) gave rock music a new look and sound, which is still being copied by American counterparts. (late 80’s to present)

    Point being is that the Brits have an enormous musical influence over American rock music.

    And for that, gotta say Thanks, Mate !

  • Matthew Kirk

    Kind words indeed ! I have to take a small issue with the “80% of the world’s rock music” comment though. More like 80% of the worlds crappy rock music. Let’s face it, American rock music, in its present incarnation, really stinks. Bunch of cacophonic, overly-produced-built-for-radio tripe. What American rock music fails at is inspiring a musical/cultural shift. Here’s the theory:

    Starting with The Beatles ( or more precisely Lonnie Donnegan/skiffle bands ) every ten years or so the British kick the American music scene right in the ass.

    The Beatles pretty well started it all (ca. 1959-1969)

    The Who turned pop groups into rock bands (1965-1976)

    The Sex Pistols/ punk rock turned it all on its head (1976-1980)

    New Wave/New Romantics/Neo-mod (bands like The Jam, Duran Duran, Culture Club) made it permissable to dye one’s hair pink (1978-1985)

    Cool Brittania (bands like Oasis, Pulp, etc) gave rock music a new look and sound, which is still being copied by American counterparts. (late 80’s to present)

    Point being is that the Brits have an enormous musical influence over American rock music.

    And for that, gotta say Thanks, Mate !

  • Chris Josephson

    David Carr:

    Not just you. I have been following the battles UK forces have taken part in because, long ago in my family’s history, we had members who fought with the Black Watch. I became very impressed with the way the British troops (not just the Black Watch) conducted themselves. The approach they took was much better, in some situations, than the US troops.

    I agree it may be due in part to your experience in colonizing other countries. Whatever it is due to, its a better approach than the US has. I’ve never regarded the UK as some sort of second-class partner. The US is stronger, as is the UK, when we act together.

    Each contry has strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, the strengths and weaknesses aren’t identical, so the US and UK together are better than either alone.

    General:

    It’s sad to see what started as a positive post could get some responses that have the maturity of 2 year olds: “My country is better than yours because…”.

    We all have flaws and failings in our countries. Perhaps we can focus on the good things in each country that could benefit our own?

    Regards,
    Chris J.

  • But not as great as Britain. It’s now recognised instinctively as part of our name.

  • Nancy

    Jenn-

    I don’t know whether you are still following this thread. You seem to have read a bit into the few lines I wrote about this part of Florida. My point was, having lived in England for awhile, I came to appreciate not only the physical beauty of, particularly, the South of the country, but also what I perceive to be the greater level of interest in intellectual discourse and debate. Conversations which the English would regard as healthy debates are often interpreted by Americans as just plain rude. (As an aside, I agree with Chris that if American Presidents had to defend their assertions the way that British Prime Ministers do, instead of lecturing to respectful silence, American politics would be a lot more interesting. I was once lucky enough to be given a visitor pass to watch Margaret Thatcher shred Neil Kinnock in the House of Commons).

    As to the presence of books, I did write American, not Floridian. I have lived in five other states, and I’ve noticed this in American homes “across the board” since I was a teenager, not just now. I take your point about apples and oranges, but I’ve generally lived in rather large population areas, and still I couldn’t help but notice the greater prevalence of books in London homes. You’re right, however, in that a great many of them may be unread!

    I will say also that in those five states and in London, never once has anyone asked me whether I go to church and if so what church is it, while making sure to comment that he or she goes to church on Sunday, which has happened repeatedly since I moved here.

    You write that you have lived in the American South all of your life and you seem sensitive to it, so you have felt the need to defend it before. You’re also correct in that there are a lot of Northeasterners here, and that wouldn’t be the case if it didn’t have anything to offer.

  • djohn

    I am a born American,and the one thing about GB that I like is watching your House of Commons(hope this is right).Firing off questions and answers and the booing and yeaing its fun to watch.Ours is so boring so prim and proper , I start going to sleep.

  • For starters America is a rich country. Not only is the average wage higher but the cost of living is lower.

    The MEAN wage may be higher, but the MEDIAN wage isn’t. A relatively high number of extremely high salaries inflate the mean. America has a larger number of poorly-paid workers.

    Healthcare for the vast majority is excellent

    And also the world’s most expensive – 14 percent of GDP and growing faster than almost anywhere else. Not to mention 15 percent of the population uninsured, and many more underinsured.

    and an astonishing proportion of Americans attend college

    Yes, but a SMALLER proportion graduate from high school.

    America is a land of opportunity – still. Just ask Anthony Hopkins or Catherine Zeta-Jones or Tracy Ullman or Jane Leeves or Henry Kissinger or Andrew Sullivan (he is a Brit isn’t he?) or Tina Brown (likewise?) or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Colin Powell’s dad

    A handful of celebrities is hardly an indication of overall immigrant success. And after Sept. 11 America has been having a strong nativist, anti-immigrant backlash.

    America has contributed massively to the rest of the world. From Hollywood movies to McDonalds

    I’d hardly call those POSITIVE contributions.

    America has been responsible for 80% of the world’s rock music and 95% of its dance music.

    This is circular reasoning. Those are American styles; of course they are produced in America. Just as 90% of the world’s African music is produced in Africa and 90% of the world’s salsa music is produced in Latin America.

    Oh, and ending two world wars. OK, so they weren’t decisive in the first (that was the Canadians and Australians) but I think we can credit them with the second

    The war with Japan, maybe, but the bulk of the war against Germany was handled by the USSR.

    And then there’s the Cold War

    During which America would not hesitate to back any repressive dictatorship as long as it was (or claimed to be) anti-communist. Even if it was worse than the communists were. Guatemala, Chile, Angola, El Salvador, Indonesia, Somalia come to mind. Not to mention brutal direct interventions abroad, like Vietnam.

    More than just about anywhere in the world American citizens are free from arbitrary arrest, torture and arbitrary punishment

    After Sept. 11 this has started to erode. Arbitrary arrests without charge are being made of suspected terrorists, and there are reports of beatings in POW camps.

    In America you can hold on to more of the property you have worked for than just about anywhere else

    You mean “the property your employees have worked for”; since minimum wages and labor protections are generally weak.

    and once the government has taken its cut you are more or less free to do whatever you like with it

    And this differs from most of the rest of the world how?

    how deeply its governing classes want to do something about it. The fact that so many Hollywood movies nowadays have a black in a leading or main supporting role speaks volumes for this desire

    What is it with constantly taking Hollywood as a barometer? This is silly. Besides, it has nothing to do with the “governing classes”. There are no legislated quotas for black actors.

    People also complain about the crime rate but they are behind the times. With the exception of murder America’s crime rate is lower than that of the UK. That really ought to fill us with shame.

    We Brits often get a bit snooty about American English but should we? I have this dreadful fear that my UK v US English competition will end in a US victory. US English does the job just well as our own version – it’s just that the words are different, that’s all.

    People say that Americans are rude and pushy – just like the one out of Fawlty Towers. Some are for sure. But so are many Britons. And vast swathes of middle America contain some of the nicest, friendliest people you could ever want to meet.

    It can be bruising to come face to face with the American corporate steamroller but is it really all that bad? American firms from Ford, to Oracle, to Mars and McDonalds have provided good jobs for thousands in Britain and millions around the world. Lest we forget, it was American money that built most of the London tube and the Ford Cortina MkII 1600E. And if American corporate dominance is such an issue, rather than getting angry, wouldn’t it be better to get even?

    Actually, this is a general point. If we want to be as rich and as free as the Americans (and surely we do) rather than fume and rage, get snooty about things

    bind up America in stupid international treaties

    I suppose you mean the land-mine ban, the nuclear-testing ban, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Kyoto treaty. Yep, gotta love them land mines and nuke tests. And, of course, children’s rights mean parents will be arrested for spanking. And I suppose global warming is a myth too.

  • Oops…hadn’t correctly edited previous comment. Much of the original post is still there, unitalicized. My bad.

  • Well Tyrone, it woulds be fair to say I do not agree with most of that… I will not engage in pointless exchanges of statistics to correct your factual errors as I doubt you would either believe them nor really care, but what it boils down to is that much of what you think is wrong with the USA is exactly what we Samizdatistas like about it. To put it bluntly, for all its MANY flaws, the US state is less intrusive than that of most other nation-states… there is simply less government in many areas of US life and hense it is manifestly more wealthy (unfortunatly that is not true in some aspects of US life, for example its is state regulation and the shitty US system of litigation without a ‘loser pays’ rule which causes US healthcare to be so damn expensive).

    If you cannot see that the US is manifestly richer in its middle classes than just about anywhere else by just living in the USA*, then I would suggest you clearly only see what you want to.

    Contrary to what you think is wrong with the USA, those are not bugs, they are features.

    *= I lived in the USA until a few years ago and have done so for nearly 35% of my life so far… I may decide to do so again in the future.

  • Mike

    Nancy —

    I think the problem is that you may not understand the American style of conversation. I would never, for example, baldly ask someone whether they go to church, or which church. I would do what other Americans which you have encouncered have done. I’d mention my church, then give you an opportunity to mention yours (or not, depending). This is a more indirect style of conversation than you may be used to, but it is common here. We don’t want to give offense, so we sort of tiptoe our way into conversations, sounding the other out with indirect questions and comments on our own experiences. There is such diversity here that one can never make assumptions about the other’s experiences, especially in large urban areas. So we talk about ourselves. You’re supposed to talk about yourself in turn.

    We also, in general, don’t see debate as a spectator sport so much. This might tie in with the boring nature of our Congress, as mentioned above. I agree with those who say we need Question Time in our government. Except we’d need to import some Liberal Democrats for the other two parties to take turns bashing.

    Your countryman, John Keegan, has been travelling in the US for much of his adult life, and said in one of his recent books (“Fields of Battle”) that he still hasn’t figured us out. We’re a weird bunch.

  • Jenn

    Nancy,

    Perhaps I did read misread your post. However, I do think you’re using as example a conspicuous element of our culture that does not accurately represent the US, or the South, as a whole. In the US, I think that debate—interesting and meaningful—is more likely to occur in private discussions and forums than on the public stage. I’m not sure why this is, and I don’t think it has always been the case. I get the impression that it really started evolving this way in the mid-20th century. Personally, I do see this as an aspect of our culture that could use improving.

    You mention in your most recent post that American Presidents would make our politics more interesting if they had to “defend their assertions the way that British Prime Ministers do.” I agree with this. As “djohn” pointed out above, the debate that goes on in the House of Commons (I, too, hope I have this right, as I need to be better educated about the branches of British government) seems infinitely more spirited than what goes on in the U.S. Congress. From time to time, I’ll catch it on C-SPAN. The first time I saw it, I was riveted. I was especially impressed by the involvement of the Prime Minister in these sessions. I would love to see an American President debate openly and make statements that are unscripted.

  • Jenn

    David Mercer,

    I think I agree with your interpretation of an American ruling class. Though I’m not sure using the word “class” is the best way to define it.

    In addition to gerrymandering, ballot access obstacles are huge contributors to the perpetuation of the two-party machine. Here in NC, we have some of the strictest ballot access laws in the U.S. (I believe we may be 49th). Because of this, many of our candidates for the state General Assembly go unchallenged. It’s embarrassing that there are places in the US that offer as many choices on the ballot as do places like Cuba and Iraq. If it weren’t for libertarians, this problem would be much worse. We’ve greatly reduced the number of unchallenged candidates. In NC, we’re also beginning to break down ballot access barriers with some success. I have to say that other third parties—Greens, Reforms, Natural Law, Socialists, etc.—have really had only a very minimal part in these efforts.

    I believe I have read on Samizdata before that the UK doesn’t have these kinds of ballot access problems. There certainly seem to be more political parties actively involved in the British political process.

  • Larry

    UK and USA, friends forever! Add my thanks for the kind words. We are mostly loud, cantankerous, obnoxious Brit (whether literally or figuratively) descendents. Maybe we have a more adventurous spirit because our forbears gave up everything to come here.

    Nancy and Elizabeth, you don’t have to come to Florida from another country to get culture shock. Their interests are different, like huntin, feeshin, piccups, dawgs and church on sundys and wensdy nights. I’ve acclimated to the rednecks. Some of my best friends….The dam bugs and humiditystill bother me.

    Geir, our primary aim is to protect our own interests. AFTER THAT, I hope we make the right moves to benefit Arabs and the world in general. I think this president will do what he says. You and Tyrone need to get out more, maybe read a little. Then, the grownups might let you participate in reasoned discourse.

    Chris, we do exchange training with UK armed forces. We have a lot to learn. They’ve been the best fighters nearly forever.

  • Russ Goble

    Haven’t read many of the prior comments, I’m sure I can’t add anything that hasn’t been said. I fear having a pissing contests about this. America Rocks. That’s all I know. Whether it rocks more than others. Well, I’m just not that definate about that, but I suspect we rock more than most.

    Thanks aplent for the kind words from the author.

    One note to my British counterparts. Perry, especially. American English is better for one simple reason: Fewer unnecessary letters. Colour? Coloeeeeerr? Come on. Ditch the “u” and get on with it. Ha! Thanks again!

  • One other redeeming quality about America – you can say this without getting arrested:

    “In case any of you are of a fragile disposition and easily offended, please go for a walk round the lake and come back when I have finished. If there is a black, vegetarian, Muslim, asylum-seeking, one-legged, lesbian lorry-driver present, then you may be offended at what I am going to say, as I want the same rights that you have got already”

    On the bright side, the UK doesn’t – quelle horreur!criminalize religious sects.

    Doing well in some areas, needs work in others.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    I think Americans (like me) have two basic advantages:

    1) We are all descended from people who were innovative enough to want to try to make a life in another country; and,

    2) When they got off the boat they stepped onto a huge land full of undeveloped natural resources.

  • Now if we could repeat that formula in space…

  • crl

    “I think Americans (like me) have two basic advantages:

    1) We are all descended from people who were innovative enough to want to try to make a life in another country; and,
    2) When they got off the boat they stepped onto a huge land full of undeveloped natural resources”

    To be blunt, this (Point 1) doesn’t take some Americans (Black Like Me) into the equasion. BUT (point 2) I’m still glad to be here and to be part of America and the oportunities it *does* offer me and others like me. So fundamentally, Theodopoulous Pherecydes, I think I’m agreeing with you! (I miss London, though! Nostalgia…)

    And with that extremely bad segue, 🙂 I’d like to ask a question in reference to the Brit vs. Yank debate styles — it was a retort I got often in discussions with my British colleagues that Americans were MORE argumentative than Britons. I would get accused of “arguing like an American” if I quoted a study, for example (or of being “anti-Islam” when I said — direct quote — “I don’t trust any conversion, religious or otherwise, that takes place in jail.”). To this day, I don’t understand what I was doing wrong, if I was doing anything wrong — it seemed to me that they were winning arguments based on who and what I am as opposed to what I was saying. (For example, my intro above SHOULD have led into a big American-racism bashing session: “You’re American, you’re black, you’re (insert religions/political preference here); why are you saying yadda yadda yadda?” this has actually been said to me on numerous occasions.)

    Is that just a university thing? Is there some special trick that I should learn or bad habit I should modify before getting into any more discussions? (I’m not being snide.)

  • edmund blackadder

    i just returned from fighting saddam with my american cousins (and aussie brothers) where some of us joked that the yanks are like the borg; they try and assimulate everything they touch and can only think collectively.

    the yanks are far too trigger happy, dont get me wrong, theyre great people and they looked after us well if we needed it, but culturally they seem to be too readily caught up in hollywood hype. they mallett everything with maximum firepower, when a soundly planned deliberate attack or just a sniper pair would have done. in doing so they killed too many innocents and seriously undermined the coalition hearts and minds campaign.

    i know theyre top nation, but they need to take a leaf out of our book. culturally, the auzzie soldier, has much more in common with the brits, and it shows. like the US troops, they do not have the operational experience of the brits, but theyre trg system is still recognisably british, as is their attitude to operations. the Aus/NZ East Timor experience is a good example of this.

    we are better soldiers than the yanks because our operational doctrine and training system is better. we dont do ‘born to kill’.

    the brits one big weakness is comms. ours are a disrace and it impedes our operational cycle.

    the yanks other big weakness are MREs, i wouldnt feed them to our cat.

    thier hummvees also kept breaking down,….. thank god for landrover.