July 25, 2003

He gets it

Michael Novak gets the differences between the US and Europe. Our patron saint, so to speak, is Saint Augustine and not Kant or whoever. We Americans have a different idea about the state of the human heart: a lingering Puritanism reminds us that the heart is deceitful, that power is fatally corrupting. At the same time, Novak notes, we inherit from them a sense of optimism and uniqueness. We're the City on the Hill and we'll show the rest of the world the way to go.

Contrasted with Europe:

Europeans today have a far weaker belief in the nation state, and have begun to idealize large collective entities, such as the United Nations and the European Community. They are willing to cede sovereignty from one to the other, and in the process to give up a great many safeguards of local democracy. To Americans, in fact, it seems that Europeans revere bureaucrats, in the larger collective, the more so. They certainly pay lavish salaries to countless ranks of them. In addition, the Europeans seem not to be preoccupied with checks and balances, the division of all powers, and other auxiliary precautions, in the protection of liberty from its customary and traditional sources of abuse. Europeans seem relatively passive before their political elites. Europeans even seem to cry out to their elites: "Abuse us!" In other words, to American eyes, Europeans, after all their bad experiences, still seem innocent about concentrations of power. Europeans seem not to believe in original sin, or in the pervasiveness of evil in the hearts of men, for against these they arrange so few protections.
I think it's one of the great, tragic successes of revisionism that the Puritans are so reviled today. They don't deserve their reputation... although the New England liberals today seem to have taken a page from their supposed playbook, defending their rigid, unrealistic dogma....

Posted by Tim at July 25, 2003 12:15 AM

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