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Cosmopolitanism In Europe & The Americas

Spot the American in this selfie outside a Paris cafe

Really interesting thread by one of Silicon Valley’s most provocative and interesting voices:

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I’ve never been to Latin America — a deficit that I hope to address in the next few years — so I can’t judge AGM’s claim. But I have been to Europe many times, and I know that the distance between the kind of cosmopolitanism that exists in Europe is not the same thing as American cosmopolitanism. In some ways America’s kind of cosmopolitanism is better than Europe’s, other ways it’s worse. But it’s a different thing.

When I’m in European cities, I often wonder why we can’t have nice public spaces like they do. Then I realize that for one, Europeans are willing to pay a lot more in taxes than we Americans are, and for another, the general European ethos is more communitarian (versus libertarian) than the American ethos. (An interesting distinction that I’d love to read comments reflecting on: the extent to which the British ethos shares more with the American one than with the continental European ethos.)

On paper, the Netherlands ought to be a chaotic cesspit of permissive hedonism. The Dutch are far more liberal in their values than Americans are, in general. Yet the Netherlands is a pleasant, orderly country. The Dutch people, for better or for worse, have internalized a sense of order (residual Calvinism?) that allows them to live rather bourgeois lives, despite the fact that they are far more secular and liberal than your average American. Why is that? In the Netherlands, the monarchy is vastly wealthier than the British royal family (the Dutch royals are majority shareholders in Royal Dutch Shell), but they are incomparably more modest in their public profile. That’s the Dutch way.

My favorite example, one I’ve mentioned in this space before, is the time a couple of decades ago when a Dutch friend asked me why America didn’t have sensible drug laws like the Netherlands. I told him that I didn’t think permissive drug laws would work in America as in Holland for the same reason that you never see an all-you-can-eat buffet in the Netherlands, but they’re standard in the US. As a people, we Americans are pretty bad at controlling our consumption. Of course today, American states are busy liberalizing marijuana laws, so I guess we’ll see if I was right.

Anyway, I would love to hear from European and Latin American readers commenting on AGM’s thread. Also Americans, of course. If you are commenting based on experience living in both the US and either one of these regions, please say so.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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