In 1958, a novel describing the failures of American foreign policy made a splash. The problem, it said, was that Americans knew nothing and cared less about people in other countries. That book was The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, and during the Second Iraq War its message seemed very much on point. Back then the “ugly” Americans were neoconservatives, but today it’s the Left that either ignores lessons from other countries or preens in its chauvinism.
The 2020 American election was tainted by fraud. There’s fraud in every election, and it’s in everyone’s interest to police it, provided this doesn’t entrench on democratic rights. Right now the vote in Maricopa County, Arizona, is being recounted, which can’t possibly interfere with voting rights since they’re counting ballots that have already been cast. But so far as the mainstream media is concerned, Republican anti-fraud measures are fraudulent per se.
“Something spooky has been happening here in Maricopa County,” says the Washington Post (in a news story!). “Weird spooky, crazy spooky, this-has-never-happened-before-in-America spooky.” I should have thought that liberals would welcome anything that puts to rest Republican fears of a stolen election, and I expect that that’s what the recount would do. What’s really spooky is the effort to brand every effort to rein in election fraud as necessarily dishonest — that and the assumption that people in other countries are living in the Third World when they have to show a photo ID to vote. We should be so lucky to live under Third World election laws.
Pretty much every European country requires a photo ID before one can vote. The United Kingdom was the exception, but last month the British government announced that it had a concern for election integrity and will now copy the rest of Europe. Somehow I think those countries are still democracies.
Not so long ago it was America’s liberals who asked us to copy the institutions of other countries and conservatives who refused to do so. American exceptionalism referred to a right-of-center country with a free-market economy, as opposed to the Nordic socialism that liberals wanted to foist on us. But since then we’ve all moved on, and now it’s the liberal who resists comparisons with other countries and who if anyone is the ugly American.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on the right to abortion, and liberals are predictably furious. Should the Court overturn Roe v. Wade, don’t be surprised if Democrats propose court-packing. But were Roe reversed, the question would simply be returned to the states and resolved through democratic processes. For people in liberal states such as New York, nothing would change. In other states we’d see the kinds of abortion restrictions imposed by conservative countries. As for divorce, the number of marriage break-ups fell by 70 percent after China introduced a mandatory one-month cooling-off period.
Compared to other countries, our K-12 schools perform poorly on OECD standardized tests. Plausibly, a big reason for the difference between us and other First World countries is the greater choices parents have there, among state, private, and parochial schools. State monopolies, which aren’t very good when it comes to making cars, aren’t much good either when it comes to K-12 schools. Yet ostensibly free-market America paradoxically resists school competition.
No country has anything like our demented immigration system. And it’s not that “we’re a country of immigrants.” Other settler countries, such as Canada and Australia, have a greater percentage of foreign-born citizens, and yet they manage to screen entrants according to whether they’re likely to make native-born citizens better off. They’re more conservative than we are.
I could go on. Compared to other countries, our civil litigation system fairly beckons Americans to sue each other. And it’s not as if civil justice and regulations are substitutes for each other. They’re more like compliments. More of one and more of the other. Swedish style “socialism” looks good by comparison.
Donald Trump was evidently bored out of his skull at NATO meetings, but at least he didn’t want to push other countries around, apart from asking them to pay their way. By contrast, Joe Biden positively glowed when he boasted that he had made the Israelis agree to a Gaza ceasefire. As for our closest ally, Trump refused to shut down pipelines that are of vital concern to Canada, which gets short shrift from the Biden administration.
So it’s today’s liberals who seem unaware of the existence of a world outside the U.S. or who think other countries a little contemptible. Whatever you might call it, it’s not pretty.
F.H. Buckley teaches at Scalia Law School. His most recent book is Curiosity — And Its Twelve Rules for Life (Encounter).