Now for a political/cultural note. Stop here if you are easily offended, or easily offensive. We have a feeling that saying we agree with Rupert Murdoch might be seen as terribly inappropriate by some people, like belching in front of the Queen. Yet we do agree, at least on this sentiment he expressed last night at the inaugural American Australian Association dinner (we were not invited), “In the coming century America will find Asia more important than ever – and its alliance with Australia more useful than ever.”
America will need in Australia in ways America does not yet realize. We’re sure of this. It’s why we moved here, to investigate the future. During our investigations we’ve found that Americans and Australians have a lot in common, based on what we’ve seen so far. We speak the same language, for the most part. We love our sport. And we are free to speak our minds, despite what you read in the press.
Indeed, we believe the Big Media—including Murdoch’s own—is generally responsible for creating and perpetuating useless national myths about countries and their people, including the anti-Americanism Murdoch warned against last night.
Are Australians anti-American? Not any that we’ve met. And though we’re sure they’re out there, they can’t be any more anti-American than some Americans we’ve met. It’s true, when traveling and living abroad, we get our fair share of guff from people who don’t like George Bush, or think everyone in America is fat, carries a concealed weapon, shops at Wal-Mart, and worships the Christian God.
Frankly, we don’t have a problem with any of those things. Fat is a sign of plenty. Armed societies are more polite. Wal-Mart has great bargains. And you could do worse than trying to love thy neighbor as thyself each day.
The great thing about a free society of 300 million people is that you’re bound to find people doing things with their freedom that you find immoral, offensive, or just plain stupid. The important thing, as Milton Friedman says, is that they are “free to choose,” and that you are not free to make it illegal because you don’t like it.
Are Americans arrogant? Sure. But a pride is a sin that knows no boundaries. We’ve met arrogant Japanese… arrogant (and pungent) Frenchmen, and arrogant Chinese. The list goes on. Pretty much everywhere we’ve been the last four years (17 different countries) we’ve met people arrogant about their culture, their race, their God, and their football.
America is no exception. And in that sense, it is not, contrary to what some Americans might think, exceptional. Where it might have one distinguishing characteristic is that you are still entirely free to be ashamed of the actions of your government and say so, without being ashamed of your country. In America, people like Michael Moore get rich and famous for being ashamed of the culture that made their riches and fame possible.
But that’s exactly the point. The people of a nation and its government are different things. When they are too closely tied together in the minds of the press or the world—then you get perfectly reasonable and intelligent people saying perfectly irrational and stupid things about places they never been and people they’ve never met.
We are proud to be American and don’t pretend to be Canadian when we travel (although we would be proud to be Canadian too, if we were Canadian.) We are not always proud of our government, our neighbours, or, frankly ourselves. But we don’t confuse the actions of a man with the character of a nation.
“But Americans deserve ridicule and scorn,” we are told, “because they voted for George Bush and he’s killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.” Or, as Colorado fake-indigenous person and publicly-funded Professor Ward Churchill might say, Americans are all “little Eichmans” for supporting the world’s most dangerous and truly “evil” regime.
We can’t really say what we think of this. Markets and Money is a family publication, after all. But it does confirm our suspicions about voting.
It doesn’t make a man morally superior for voting in a good government or voting against a bad one. The things that really make a place free, civil, and law-abiding happen every day at a local level, not at a Federal level. A man’s obligation to his country or his neighbours does not end at the ballot box. It begins when the sun comes up and, really, it never ends. Voting is an attempt to subcontract your moral and ethical obligations and then be publicly self-righteous about it, we say with elitist self-righteousness.
We are far too modest to tell other people where they are going right and wrong. We can hardly figure out things our self. We wish they’d extend us the same courtesy, and modesty, and butt out. And we are honest enough to admit we are now discussing things that have nothing to do with finance, and, probably, things which we really know nothing about. We admit it. But the Markets and Money is free!