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I do sometimes wonder if the jibes about Americans not having a sense of irony are correct

I have been re-reading Mark Steyn’s amusingly-written prediction of America’s coming Apocalypse, noting those parts where his predictions seem to be on course (debt, rising bureaucracy) and those which suggest there’s more vigour in that country than the doomsters suggest (fracking, the continued innovations of its businessmen and women, etc). I am not on the same page with Steyn about everything – he is more of a social conservative and culture pessimist than I am, but most of his points hit home or at least are a spur to change course. There is a laugh-out-loud paragraph on every page and this one in particular, on page 75, caught my eye. Steyn writes about the “stimulus” programme of the Obama administration:

“What sort of jobs were “created or saved”? Well, the United States Bureau of the Public Debt is headquartered in Parkersberg, West Virginia – and it’s hiring! According to the Careers page of their website: `The Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD) is one of the best places to work in the federal government. When you work for the BPD, you’re a part of one of the federal government’s most dynamic agencies.'”

“Most dynamic agencies”.

Have a good weekend.


17 comments to I do sometimes wonder if the jibes about Americans not having a sense of irony are correct

  • Mr Ed

    I had thought that the Bureau of Public Debt would have been staffed mainly by hamsters, turning their wheels (with some impressive gear ratios) to keep the US Debt Clock ticking upwards, but that is a private clock. Anyway, look at the figures, it is certainly dynamic, but as a use of energy it does remind me of this.

  • pete

    When I worked at the DWP I noticed that many permanent staff talked constantly of their fear of losing their jobs.

    Part of those jobs was telling claimants the official line that there were many employment opportunities around, and that if they failed to grasp any of them their benefits might be stopped.

    These staff knew full well, as everyone else in the area did, that there were no jobs around, and that’s why claimants couldn’t get them.

    Corporate claptrap is universal, not confined to the US.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Mr Ed.

    As for Mark Steyn, J.P. – I share basically all of his opinions (if anything I am more gloomy).

    However, I hold the sort of place in my heart for the Republican Party that other people hold for football teams (Association or American football).

    In spite of Alisa, quite correctly, reminding me that the Republicans have utterly failed to do anything good at the Federal level since the Clinton Administration – when they forced Mr Clinton (a rather half hearted Progressive when under pressure) to accept a balanced budget and welfare reform – although the balanced budget in part came from defence cuts and the Credit Bubble policy of the Federal Reserve.

    Progressives (including Mr Clinton) are experts at creating programs that start small – that seem to be hardly an expense at all, yet grow out of control (years after they have left office).

    Take the Federal bureaucracy itself.

    It was not always the dysfunction thing it is now – with absurd wages and benefits and filled with contempt for the law.

    What changed it?

    An Executive Order by President Kennedy unionising the Federal bureaucracy.

    Another executive instruction (this time from the FCC in the early 1960s) gave a de facto monopoly over the content of entertainment shows to handful of television people (no outside companies allowed to pay for shows they had editorial control over).

    This was, ironically, called ensuring “diversity” (when it did the opposite) and “editorial freedom” (Orwellian indeed).

    Still – back to the topic at hand.

    Is there any hope?

    There seems like none.

    But there seemed like none when Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp were shot in the back.

    It is not quite over yet.

  • Watchman


    Chin up – things do get better. Despite government we are a hell of a lot wealthier than the Earps and their contemporiries, we have wonderful technology which government by its very nature is unable to regulate and control, and, particularly unlike the Earps, despite the best attempts of the extremists justice is more accessible and less corrupt than at any time in history.

    I always identify with Matt Ridley’s approach to the future – being rationally optimistic.

  • Kathryn Bishop

    Steyn is not an American writer – he’s Canadian and spent many years in the UK

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Kathryn Bishop
    October 9, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Steyn is not an American writer – he’s Canadian and spent many years in the UK

    Very true. On the other hand, he is the spiritual heir of H. L. Mencken, and you can’t get a lot more ‘American’ than that.

  • John Galt III

    Mark Steyn was born in Canuckland and went to school in Her Majesty’s country.

    He lives, however, in New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die” imprinted on its auto license plates) and he has become an American citizen. I am sure he has lots of guns at home – great feeling by the way – I have 5 and a concealed carry permit. You Brits need them badly. Your police could care less about you it appears.

  • Alisa

    Progressives (including Mr Clinton) are experts at creating programs that start small – that seem to be hardly an expense at all, yet grow out of control (years after they have left office).

    Why don’t you mention programs created by Clinton then, rather than digressing to Kennedy? However and speaking of the devil, I’d happily take the very progressive Kennedy over the even-more progressive Bush (either father or any of his sons). But then, I’m not a sports fan, and so have no idea what it means to hold a place in my heart for a political party – silly me, I only care about actual policies.

  • Snag

    Steyn is not an American writer – he’s Canadian

    Is Canada no longer in America?

  • Alisa

    …and why does it even matter? For example, despite some disagreements with Paul Marks, he is better versed in the US political culture than many US residents, and has even never set foot there. Steyn has actually been living in the US for many years, so my guess is that he too has a clue – again, disagreements notwithstanding.

  • Laird

    Even if Steyn weren’t a naturalized US citizen, we have a long history of foreigners explaining our country to us. See Alexis de Tocqueville.

  • Joseph S

    John Galt III, “……your police could care less about you…” That’s good to know, unless younactually meant that our police could NOT care less about us, which, unlike the Americanism does make some sense.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Australian cops are wonderful! We have the best police that money can buy!…

  • Julie near Chicago

    Joseph, you have hit a nerve. I remember when “I couldn’t care less” came into common usage here, and the “n’t” was NOT dropped. After awhile people did start pronouncing it as if they had adenoids (“I could’t care less”) and the next thing I knew, the “t” had also departed. So although seemingly at least 3/4 of my countrymen don’ spikka American so good no more, please know that it wasn’t always thus. 🙁 At least, not with regard to that particular utterance.

    Ever since I first started hearing that, I’ve always wanted to respond, “Then why don’t you?” In fact I did run it past the Young Miss a couple of times, but all I got was the glare I always get when I dare suggest an improvement to her English. (Although in fairness, lately I haven’t heard her pronouncing it as though she had a code id her doze.)

    As a native American speaker, it annoys the daylights out of me, and apparently it’s annoying to persons around the globe since two people, including your own good self, have commented on it here in the past week.

    Anguishedly Yours,


  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Yes, Canada actually is located in North America. The use of the term ‘American’ came from an imperial enthusiasm in early American History, when they hoped to rule the whole of North America, and used the term ‘American’ in the hope of manifesting reality through visualisation. (If you say it, it will happen!)
    Perhaps the whole of North america could be called Canada, and the USA becomes South Canada, whilst the original Canada becomes North Canada?
    Still, imagine the hassles if the USA HAD conquered Canada- you’d have had the French for neighbours! Those surrender-monkeys would have been one of your states! Quelle horreur!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yeah, Nicholas, and then it would be the entirety of America, including les Québécois, who “could care less.”

    And this would help how??

    Just give quiet thanks that you’re in Oz and not in Kansas, Toto. :>(

    PS. “Manifesting reality through visualization?” Have you been reading Shakti what’s-‘er-name?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    No, Julie, but wasn’t a movie based around the concept of ‘If you build it, they will come?’. Baseball ghosts turning up for one last game?
    And I am grateful to be living in Australia. We are not too far from Tahiti! Where the Frenchies might let off atomic bombs, if they choose to resume testing….
    And China is a closer neighbour to us than to you South Canadians. I do wonder if they’ll try to claim Australia as a part of the Chinese ‘protectorate’, by claiming that some long-forgotten sailor found the place first.