May 26, 2002
American Exceptionalism

Mark Byron's recent post on Irish soccer reminded me of something I'd been meaning to write up for months. Here is what he says:

World Cup Mania-part I-This is weird. The captain of the Irish World Cup team, Roy Keane, was kicked off the team for getting into a row with the team manager, and PM Bertie Ahern has gotten into the middle of it, trying to patch things up so that Keane can get back on the team. [Update- Manager Mick McCarthy told the Taoiseach no.]

This is how big soccer and the World Cup is to the rest of the world. There is no American analogy. I can't picture Dubya trying to talk Kobe Bryant into staying on the Olympic team.

I don't think it's a question of how big soccer is so much as a matter of limited government. Government in the U.S. could stand to be a lot more limited than it is, but I'm still very glad that we do not have so many things that so many other countries have, starting with:

a Minister of Sport,
a Minister of Tourism, and
a Minister of Culture.

Yes, I know, they'd be Secretaries here: it doesn't matter because they don't exist, and we are better off without all three. We're doing just fine on the sport and tourism, thank you very much, and it's hard to believe that we would be doing much better on culture if it were a cabinet-level position. I'm sure the heads of the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts both dream of being promoted to cabinet rank, but they will have to continue dreaming, since it's not going to happen.

Arguments starting out "the U.S. is the only civilized country that . . ." are singularly unpersuasive. The U.S. is just about the only country in the world of any size without a national airline, and that's a good thing: if you have an unpleasant experience with (e.g.) some flight attendants who get their kicks making fun of randomly-selected bald passengers, you can take your business elsewhere. And we are only half way to having a national railroad (passengers: yes, freight: not yet) and a national police force. Again, half way is better than all the way. We also get along fine with a mixture of metric and non-metric measurements, though there are still some busybodies who would like to enforce total metrification. Not being citizens of the E.U., we can safely ignore them. Do you own two cars, one with nuts and bolts measured in sixteenths of an inch, the other in millimeters? Quit whining and buy a crescent wrench. Even if you end up buying two different sets of graduated wrenches, they'll probably cost less than one set in Europe.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something important, so I ask my readers: What else does the U.S. lack that every other civilized country has? And what -- besides a functional death penalty and widespread legal gun ownership -- do we have that every other civilized country lacks? Of course, I mean 'civilized' as defined by the New York Times, which is not quite the same as what most Americans have in mind.

As always, the comment section is open.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 26, 2002 01:13 PM