Re: Standards

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Similarly, I always wonder what the ludicrous "I'm-only-in-favor-of-authoritarianism-for-as-long-as-the-world's-unsafe" people could be thinking. It seems to me that most of the authoritarian regimes that we (and they, in specific) worry about--China comes to mind--face much, much larger governing problems than we do.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:35 AM
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I think Dani Rodrick has much more interesting discussion of these issues on his blog. He's a pro-growth economist who thinks that the conventional wisdom on effective trade and development policy has wandered far from what the data show.


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:50 AM
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If only there was some way for workers to band together and negotiate for wages, working standards, etc., appropriate to the situation....


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:50 AM
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This is not the greatest nation in history. This is just a tribute.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:04 PM
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This is not the correct thread for the above comment. Shit.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:05 PM
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It's just a tribute.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:53 PM
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It's a tribute.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:53 PM
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No truly universal US suffrage yet - 100 million mostly poor under 18 do not get counted in voting.

Another US weakness - vacillating on immigrants and reasonable birth control.

In due course, we need open borders for trade in labor as we have for trade in bras, etc.

Once our top colleges and employers draw in the best and brightest from Africa, China, EU, Asia, India, other places will need to follow suit and allow free trade in labor.

Then Africa etc. start getting truly skilled managers, workers, entrepreneurs and development can be rapid (assuming reasonable steps - like China has taken - aimed at population control).

If Africa had the one child policy for 30 years or so, reducing population from say 900 million to 600 million, it could become as wealthy as China, US and India combined in say 100-130 years.

Africa is larger than the US, India, China and Western Europe combined. It has great natural resources and plenty of people.

It would no doubt develop good government if forced to have open labor borders, plus reasonable population control.


Posted by: cfw | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:06 PM
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--Okay, that didn't become funnier with repetition.

The original article is stunning in its unoriginality. Of course the socalled "Washington consentus" as preached by Friedman et all is hypocritical and nothing like the road to success --that's the whole point. America does not want another Japan or China.

On the other hand, neither is it a good idea to tell other countries "go ahead, make the same mistakes we did, we ended up well"...


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:15 PM
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I think there's an interesting contradiction about when different political factions in the US think it's a good thing to use state power to alter social and cultural practices that they see as a problem. Broadly speaking, there's one group of people who think that's a good thing within the domestic arena and a bad thing within foreign policy, and another group who see it almost exactly the opposite. I don't think that's simplistically a difference between liberals and some flavor of conservatives, either. It almost has to do with the kind of instruments of transformation that are favored.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:11 PM
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The original article is stunning in its unoriginality

Thanks! It is, you will note, a book review; generally, they're not supposed to be original.


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:15 PM
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Broadly speaking, there's one group of people who think that's a good thing within the domestic arena and a bad thing within foreign policy, and another group who see it almost exactly the opposite.

I don't think that's true. As I understand it, Rove explicitly set himself the goal of transforming US domestic politics through the use of state action in areas of policy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:21 PM
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10: Whom do you have in mind? To my uninformed mind, it seems more that nearly everyone is for state power when they think it will give them good (or optimal) results, and against it when they think it won't, and that there isn't a principled way of drawing an ideological line.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:23 PM
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there isn't a principled way of drawing an ideological line

Why wouldn't you say the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and other constitutional bars constitute the principled drawing of such lines, with most everything else (under broad rules of construction) permitted by the welfare and defense clauses, the elastic clause, the ninth amendment, and so forth?


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:27 PM
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I love it when Unfogged links to Eric Rauchway. He's the hippest public intellectual, man.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:38 PM
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Among the people supporting 'power abroad but not power at home' or 'power at home but not abroad', I do not think there is a sharp ideological line between those groups, i.e., I do not think you can describe some as 'liberals' and others as 'conservatives.'

I think the Bill of Rights is a great set of principles (except for the 2nd as the wording needs a mulligan), but that's not what I was talking about.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:40 PM
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Hipper than Michaél Bérubé?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:41 PM
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#11: would've been nice if you've pointed out how unoriginal these books were then.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:44 PM
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Who is the least hip public intellectual?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:48 PM
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Krauthammer.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:49 PM
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#11: would've been nice if you've pointed out how unoriginal these books were then.

Maybe Chang's book isn't hugely original if you reduce it to, "Washington is wrong." But it adds value in the details of argument, the proliferation of examples, the lively prose, and the aptness to current policy debate.

Gray's book draws heavily -- as Gray himself, in correct scholarly fashion, admits -- on various religious histories. Nevertheless, he's doing us all a service by applying these ideas to current events, looking at how neoliberalism and neoconservatism shade into each other, and positing alternatives.

Both Chang and Gray are drawing on their own earlier work. And maybe that's unoriginal too.

But perhaps it's not a disservice to devote a few column inches to saying "this idea may be old, but it's correct" -- after all, plenty of column inches go to "this idea is counterintuitive and cool (even if it's probably wrong)."


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:18 PM
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Who is the least hip public intellectual?

Laura Sessions Steeppes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:28 PM
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He's the hippest public intellectual, man.

Gosh, thanks.


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:29 PM
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I believe your line there was "Golly, that was swell of you."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:31 PM
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You have to imagine "Gosh" as Goofy would say it.


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:33 PM
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Who's the most public intellectual with a hip ailment?


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:48 PM
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That's a different kind of hip, SB.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:49 PM
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What are the hippest ailments?


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:55 PM
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Bone cancer of the hip.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:00 PM
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Is there nothing you wouldn't bone?


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:01 PM
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Rockin' pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:03 PM
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Uh, heatstroke!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:06 PM
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Broken rib.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:12 PM
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Asperger's.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:27 PM
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35

Title insurance would go a long way in helping the "third world" develop. Once you have a reasonable certainty as to the title of real property, good things can happen. There was a book about it, but I didn't read it.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:28 PM
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Presumably that book would be The Other Path by Hernando De Soto (the economist, not the conquistador).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:35 PM
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37

Teo, don't you mean The Mystery of Capital by same? From what I recall of Path, Mystery was a much more direct argument along those lines.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:38 PM
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That's the one! The point being that if you (and a lender) know that you own a piece of property you are more willing to improve it, and are able to borrow against its value for the costs of the improvements.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:39 PM
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Martin: Cause, you know, the only measure of a book's worth is whether no human mind has ever thought the thoughts contained with that book before. Basically, I think in honor of Martin, all of Eric's future commentaries on books should be:

1. It's been said before.
2. Someone has said it.
3. This is unoriginal.
4. Total shit: I read something a bit like this once.
5. Garbage: I thought the same thing this morning.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:43 PM
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37: I've only read Path, which is very specific to Peru; Mystery is presumably a more developed and generalized version of the theory.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:02 PM
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39: Not only that, but Eric should address all his future columns to people who already know everything Martin knows.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:09 PM
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I remember reading a (no doubt stunningly unoriginal) book review somewhere that pointed out that even if the US has been a model of democratic government for people hoping to democratize other countries, most countries have favored political institutions that resemble British (or European) rather than American ones: Parliament + Prime Minister rather than Congress + President, for example. (The review was of a book or books about the American Revolution, by the way.)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:19 PM
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most countries have favored political institutions that resemble British (or European) rather than American ones

There's a book that notes in the first chapter,


... unlike Britain, which ... seeded the globe not only with its governmental system so that Westminster could regard itself unblushingly as the Mother of Parliaments but also with the Anglican Church and British banking and a hundred greater and lesser cultural institutions like cricket, the United States has lent the world neither its system nor its habits of government.

And it then has a footnote to scholarship making or documenting similar claims, so one may properly evaluate the stunningness of this unoriginal remark.


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:32 PM
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all of Eric's future commentaries on books should be

One might uncharitably amend this to say, "many scholarly reviews of books now are," but one isn't that uncharitable.

There's a point here, probably worth making explicit, about the role of book critique. It's probably trivially true and obvious that for a given book A, a review in a scholarly journal might properly say, "everything important in book A was said [by me in my dissertation] in 1973," while at the same time a review in a publication like TNR.com might properly say "everything important in book A is highly germane to current political debate."

It's maybe less trivially true and less obvious that for a given book A, a scholarly journal might legitimately say, "even though much in book A resembles claims made in now-forgotten book B of 1973, book A tests those claims against subsequent data and shows that claims made in book B bear in generally unappreciated ways on current scholarly debate."

But it's still kind of true and obvious, isn't it?


Posted by: Eric Rauchway | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:40 PM
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All I know is I want book reviews to summarize the book so I don't have to read it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:49 PM
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All book reviews, like all scholarship, should be so dazzlingly new as to make footnotes not applicable.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 7:02 PM
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I remember reading a (no doubt stunningly unoriginal) book review somewhere that pointed out that even if the US has been a model of democratic government for people hoping to democratize other countries, most countries have favored political institutions that resemble British (or European) rather than American ones:

I'm pretty sure I read that stunningly unoriginal review (in the NYTimes, about a year and a half ago?), which I found quite interesting, as I recall, despite its failure to rewrite the laws of gravity, or to disclose its discovery of the cure for cancer. Or maybe I just read one of its stunningly unoriginal copycats and imitators? ...

Anyway, the point seemed to be (whether that point had initially been made by one author or several, or by one or more reviewers of one or several authors, or by who knows how many commentators on who knows how many reviewers of who knows how many authors...?) that while, in aspirational terms (soul-stirring speeches and the like), the world has long looked to America, in technical terms, in terms of the actual mechanics of the thing (rules and procedures and all the rest of that boring shit), the world has long since learned to turn its (often reluctant) eye toward Mother Britain. Which works for me, but mind you, I don't claim to be an Original.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:15 PM
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It shouldn't surprise us that the historians have taken the charge of unoriginality so hard. But I'm with Martin; if historians were all that, they'd tell us what's going to happen.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:22 PM
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If historians were all that, and a bag of chips, they'd give me a bag of chips.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:29 PM
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I wouldn't count on it, SB. They'd share the bag of chips among themselves.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:30 PM
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Forthcoming: All That And: A History of Chips


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:34 PM
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They would take bites out of the chips and then offer them to non-historians.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:34 PM
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"Wanna chip?" they'd say. "It counts as new, to a historian."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:35 PM
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This half-eaten chip very relevantly confirms a centuries-old theory of vegetable oil.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:43 PM
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We can't identify the chip as "half-eaten" until all potential eaters of chips are dead. This is all laid out quite clearly in Danto's Narration and Knowledge.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:45 PM
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"What is the theory, you ask? It's a bit complicated, but in rough outline, it's that potatoes fried in vegetable oil are yummy. What, you knew that? But did you know the details?"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:48 PM
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We can identify the chip as "half-eaten" as soon as the instant historian(s) have consumed precisely half of the chip, as they are taught to do in grad school.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:49 PM
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Revisionists suggest the frying oil may well have been lard.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:50 PM
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Theory? We examine preserved chips in archives.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:50 PM
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"Theory" in the sense of "body of propositions held to be true". Not "Theory" as in "Potatontology".


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:52 PM
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"Oh look, half-eaten chips. This was an advanced civilization."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:52 PM
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"Oh look, half-eaten chips. This was an advanced civilization."

This sounds like archeology. Or maybe ancient history.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:54 PM
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Carbon-14 dating tells us the chips were made from potatos uprooted between the years 1400 and 1960.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:55 PM
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Anyway, I don't know why I used "we" in 59. I haven't filled out the official form(s), but I'm essentially out now.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:56 PM
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I believe that the proper explanation for a discovery of half-eaten chips must make reference to the conditions found on the veldt.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:57 PM
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True, veldt is a good environment for growing potatos. Cool and dry.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:58 PM
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For instance: a tension between the dearth of deep-fryers and the bounty of potatos.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:59 PM
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I believe that the proper explanation for a discovery of half-eaten chips must make reference to the conditions found on the veldt.

In times of plenty, it generally led to longer life and more opportunities at reproductive success if, in times of plentiful potatoes and vegetable oil (two resources that tend to co-occur), one fried up many chips and half-ate them, rather than frying up many chips and eating half of all of them, because others would be less likely to steal and eat your own half-eaten chips for fear of GERMY GERM GERMS.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:59 PM
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Everyone already knew that, Ben.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:02 PM
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Chips are the legacy of colonialism.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:05 PM
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Everyone already knew that, Ben.

Yes, but it's now been confirmed by an unimpeachable source.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:06 PM
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Northern Europe's access to plentiful, high quality potato chips -- so many that they would discard them half eaten -- was a major factor in their domination of the new world.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:07 PM
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Uhh...


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:08 PM
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so many that they would discard them half eaten

ogged was making a point about historians' notorious regard for their own profession.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:10 PM
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47: Mark Renton's views notwithstanding, the English were the demonstrably the best people to be colonized by. Insitutionalism is a damn useful national trait to have, which half accounts for what pisses me off about Bush the Younger.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:12 PM
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Save it for your blog, Pedantplate!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:12 PM
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SB understands.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:12 PM
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But he didn't need to make that point again, if its subject is notorious. Perhaps ogged is a historian.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:12 PM
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As, perhaps, am I.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:13 PM
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Further 47: Not to mention who has the "football" of choice.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:13 PM
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It's not just a question of colonizer and colonized; not every country that's set up a parliamentary system has done so under British influence.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:17 PM
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True! But the ones that have done so not under British influence eat many chips.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 10:19 PM
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Ah, I found the review. From the end:

In order to ease some of this sense of foreboding and to get a better perspective on our present constitutional system, perhaps we need to play down some of the creative imagination of the American Founders. We Americans are used to celebrating the Founders as insightful leaders, with a special responsibility for creating our constitutional system. But I think we overdo our praise for the Founders and miss the real sources of our constitutional achievement. The success of our political system cannot be located in the thoughts and deeds of men who framed the Constitution over two hundred years ago, great and creative as they might have been. Instead, it lies in the entire historical experience of the American people over the past two centuries. Ultimately our system works because we continue to respect the laws and conventions that we have collectively created over the past two hundred years, including some things that many of the Founders strenuously opposed, such as judicial review and political parties.

Moreover, it is important to emphasize that we are not the only people who have created constitutional democracies that have promoted and protected individual liberty. That metropolitan bastion of establishment in the eighteenth century, Great Britain, despite its overrefined, self-centered, age-old, and arcane entanglements and commitments, managed to muddle through into constitutional democracy without ever experiencing moments of imaginative creativity, without ever constructing a written constitution, without ever separating the powers of government, and without ever abandoning its belief in the sovereignty of Parliament.

No doubt American democracy from the beginning has had a powerful impact on the world--as a beacon of liberty and as an asylum for those seeking a better life. But as a constitutional model the United States has hardly been very successfully emulated. Indeed, if we are to compare the influence of constitutional structures on the world, it is Britain's parliamentary system of democracy that has had by far the greater resonance. Ultimately even our own system of constitutional government owes most of its stability and respect for liberty to its English heritage.

The most important fact about the Founders may not have been the creativity of their imaginations but their Englishness. The English had worked out a respect for the law and a semblance of popular self-government, however flawed by modern standards, long before the Americans. Whatever innovations Americans made to their English heritage, and they were undeniably considerable, their ultimate success in governing themselves and protecting individual freedom owed more to their colonial experience as Englishmen than it did to their constitutional inventions in 1787. From decades of experience they had acquired an instinctive knowledge of English liberty and the English common law, and this inherited and inherent knowledge, this long experience with English political culture, was what ultimately enabled them to succeed as well as they did in establishing new governments.

If the Founders' success were due simply to the new political institutions and divisions of power they created in 1787 and 1788, then presumably these inventions could be transplanted anywhere; but we know from experience that this is not possible. It's time that we realize that our so-called Founding is not the source of our political and constitutional achievement. We owe our success to the common sense of the American people throughout our entire history, and our continued success will depend upon that common sense and not upon the creative moment of the Founding.



Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:11 PM
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81, 83: I'm not talking about parliamentary sytems, I'm talking about institutionalism, and to some degree what the reviewer calls "Englishness." Among LDCs, setting up a parliament doesn't help: having been colonized by England does. This gets into Weber territory, but societally placing value in systems rather than individuals or factions really does seem to work, and this valuing is much more common among Northern European states and their colonies.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:22 PM
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If you're talking about institutionalism or systems, broadly construed, then you're not talking about something that greatly differentiates the US and Britain, as both countries (ideally) favor systems over individuals and factions. Sure, Britain has been better at exporting their system to their colonies and this explains why those countries that have systems have systems that resemble Britain's. But that still doesn't explain why other countries seem to look to models closer to the British one than the American one.

I'm not all that knowledgeable about the specifics of most countries' systems of government, though, and it may be that once you set aside the British colonies, there are more set up along American models than British ones. Whether or not these models work for them seem to me to be a separate, but certainly related, question.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:57 PM
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it may be that once you set aside the British colonies, there are more set up along American models than British ones.

Instinctively I would agree. There are a lot of countries out there with both a representative assembly and a separately-elected president who has significant power. Not that many figurehead presidents - Germany and Israel come to mind - apart from ex-colonies like India.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 6-07 3:18 AM
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