Political Animal


THOSE WACKY SOCIOLOGISTS….OK, here’s some Sunday fun: Project Implicit, a research project designed to test your unconscious feelings about stuff.

What stuff? Well, they’ve apparently got about 60 different tests, which they assign randomly on subjects such as young vs. old, black vs. white, coffee vs. tea, Jew vs. Christian, etc. You have to take a few minutes to register, which seems fair since this is a genuine research project, and the test itself takes about ten minutes. By chance, when I took the test I was given Democrats vs. Republicans, and my results are shown below. No surprises there, moderate fellow that I am.

Go ahead and give it a try. Maybe you’ll finally find out whether you prefer Denzel Washington or Tom Cruise….


WHY IS THE U.S. MORE PRODUCTIVE THAN EUROPE?….Brad DeLong has a bunch of thought-provoking posts up this morning. In one of them he asks:

Why are there such huge differences in productivity growth between the U.S. and mainland Europe–especially in information technology-heavy services? One possible answer is that European firms have, like American ones, invested heavily in information and communications technologies but that they have, in contrast to American firms, not yet figured out how to reorganize their work flow in a way to make their computers more than decorative paperweights. This suggests that Europe’s problem is a deficiency of management consultants. The second possible answer–the one that Alan Greenspan strongly favors–is that firms will not undergo the unpleasant bureaucratic disruptions necessary to increase productivity until they can smell the profits from reorganization, profits that come either from reducing costs (by firing workers) or from meeting greatly expanded boom-time demand. Since the European Central Bank’s policies make a boom in Europe nearly inconceivable, and since it is nearly impossible to fire workers on a large scale in Europe, no productivity boom.

For the entire decade of the 90s I worked at a document imaging company, selling hardware and software in both the U.S. and Europe. The whole point of document imaging is to scan paper and handle it electronically, eliminating the need for armies of clerks to handle it and thus increasing overall productivity.

As Brad suggests, our revenues in Europe were never close to our revenues in the U.S., even after you accounted for smaller populations and a preference for local products. The entire market was simply much smaller and the sales cycle much longer, despite the fact that several of the pioneers of the industry were European. I have a couple of ideas about what was going on:

  • Labor inflexibility might have been part of it ? what’s the point of installing labor-saving equipment if you can lay off workers? ? but most of our American customers didn’t lay off workers either: they kept them, or reassigned them. They didn’t want to lay off people so much as they wanted to grow without having to hire more people. Obviously Europeans could have done the same thing, but most of them simply didn’t have the giddy confidence of American companies that they would continue growing forever. They were less optimistic.

  • They did not trust technology as much as Americans. We designed a new product a few years ago that allowed document imaging to be used over the Internet, and of course we wanted to use the word “Internet” in the product name. The Internet was cool, right? And it would help the stock price.

    Our European sales force was aghast. In Europe (this was around 1998-2000) a word association test for “Internet” would have produced “unreliable,” “slow,” and “expensive,” not “cool” and “high tech.” They wanted us to pick another name. (We didn’t, arrogant American bastards that we were.)

I puzzled over all this for quite a while, and in the end my armchair theorizing added up to this: Europeans on average are actually more rational about technology than we are. They demanded rigorous ROI analysis before they would buy. They recognized that the technology didn’t work as well as the hype. And they had a more realistic view of future growth prospects than Americans did.

But here’s the weird part: it didn’t matter. I think they were actually right more often than American business people were, but the Americans did better anyway. They drank the Kool-Aid, they invested heavily, they reorganized with gay abandon, and then a whole bunch of them went bankrupt. But the ones that stayed around ended up ? by hook or by crook ? with better businesses.

So: optimism and entrepeneurship really do seem to be the big differences here. The Europeans had a more realistic view of life and ended up avoiding both huge successes and huge failures. The Americans were wildly optimistic and took rash chances that often failed ? but the few successes made more difference than the large number of failures.

And when it all gets averaged together, U.S. productivity growth is higher than Europe’s. They could probably use a bit of the cowboy over there.


ROBERT BORK EXPLAINS WHY THE UNITED STATES SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DO ANY DAMN THING IT PLEASES….In the Wall Street Journal today, Robert Bork explains why unilateralism is a good thing:

We know from experience that international tribunals and forums will not be friendly to the U.S. When the U.S. aided the Nicaraguan insurgency, the International Court of Justice, despite having no jurisdiction, ruled that the U.S. had violated customary international law. When the U.S. removed a violent dictatorship in Grenada to the overwhelming satisfaction of the Grenadians, the U.N. General Assembly denounced our action by a larger majority than had denounced the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

As well they should have since our actions in both those cases were disgraceful and unprovoked. Hell, Margaret Thatcher (!) criticized our invasion of Granada and Ronald Reagan nearly got impeached over Nicaragua. I’m surprised that even Robert Bork is shameless enough to try and criticize international law using those two misbegotten adventures as examples.

Of course, he also fails to mention that the UN supported us in the Korean War, supported us against the French and British during the Suez crisis, supported our demand that the Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan, supported us against the Ayatollah in Iran, supported our position in the first Gulf War, and supported our invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.

So what’s all that about international forums never being friendly to the U.S.?


HOW MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHEESE DO THEY HAVE?….VodkaPundit, returning from a long hiatus, has a lot to get off his chest. But the most important thing, beating out trivia like Iraq, North Korea, and the University of Michigan, is a long screed about the French. You know the drill by now: we saved their sorry asses in WWII, rebuilt their country singlehandedly with the Marshall Plan, and then they repaid us by pulling out of NATO and…..well, that’s about it, actually. At any rate, Stephen doesn’t seem to have any major complaints since 1965.

By now, of course, we all know that French anti-Americanism is nothing more than the pitiful mewling of that arrogant European condescension we’ve come to expect, more’s the sorrow, as opposed to American anti-Frenchism, which is a sign of muscular (but non-imperialistic!) determination to make the world safe for all those countries too weak-kneed and morally unclear to do it for themselves. But hey, that ship sailed long ago, the Euro-account is way overdrawn, and once again it’s up to us to….um….

Wait a second. Was I saying something?

That’s not what I was going to rant about. Not at all. I just got carried away. No, I was going to rant about this:

France is out of the habit of greatness, and it shows ? which is about what you should expect from a country whose national identity is personified by a impressively chesty but otherwise useless fashion model, but more on that later.

Well, I kept reading, and there was nothing more about impressively chesty supermodels, useless or otherwise. What gives?

Oh, and considering what the American media is like, I’d be a little careful about drawing analogies about national greatness based on fondness for supermodels….