The Arts and Letters Daily header on an article by Clive Crook on the relative superiority of the American and European economic systems is “Any European intellectual can easily tell you: Europe, not America, offers the world the best model of social and economic life.” Well, it might… for a European intellectual, offering every intellectual’s dream: influence without responsibility.
What can we say about Europe’s influence in the world today? Let’s consider your Uncle Bob. Back in the day, Bob was really something. Scholar and athlete. His picture is on the university football team’s Hall of Fame and he’s still remembered for that last-second 75-yard touchdown run against Tech back in 1956.
Bob seemed to have the world at his feet. But that was then. Alas, Bob made some really bad decisions. Got into a couple of fights that cost him dearly. Made some terrible investments. There was a marriage that turned sour and cost him a lot of money.
Bob, in short, hasn’t done anything of note for the last many years but still talks as though he was something big and thinks he knows better than you. He’s around your place a lot because he hasn’t anything better to do. He complains about the way you keep your house but when you ask him if he’d help with something he complains that his “bad knee” is acting up again.
Bob’s getting a little soft in the head and, frankly, Bob’s a bore and often irritating but you don’t tell him to go to hell as you’re often tempted to because, after all, you’re family.
Europe that is home to the supercilious intellectual class pointing out America’s faults is your Uncle Bob, once powerful but now played-out and impotent but still pretentious. We may admire Ancient Greece as the birthplace of democracy, but no one turns to the Greeks today for lessons in political science.