Via “Ezra Klein”:, I see that Jonah Goldberg has lapsed into what Ezra describes as a “weird revery over how the rugged individualism of Americans makes them totally unsuitable for social welfare programs.” In Goldberg’s own words:

I find interesting about the liberal defense of European welfare states (They really work! No Really!) is how they leave culture out of the equation almost entirely. … liberals are uncomfortable discussing the reality and constraints of culture for a host of reasons, from multiculturalism to vestigial hangups about seeing the world through prisms of class. … Maybe, just maybe, France and Denmark can handle the systems they have because they have long traditions of sucking-up to the state and throne? Marty Lipset wrote stacks of books on how Canadians and Americans have different forms of government because the Royalist, throne-kissing, swine left America for Canada during the Revolutionary War and that’s why they don’t mind big government, switched to the metric system when ordered and will wait on line like good little subjects…. If government systems are the only variable, or even the most important and decisive one, then how come it’s so damn hard bringing third world countries into the first world?

Now it’s a bit rich for a _National Review_ hack to be talking smack about “long traditions of sucking-up to to the state and throne.” But even if we were to pretend for a moment that Goldberg’s argument is serious, it’s terrible. First of all, it gets Lipset’s thesis badly wrong. While Lipset was keen on enduring American values, he didn’t pretend for a moment that they were the only force shaping US politics. Indeed, he explicitly documented how American values became more ‘European’ as a result of the institutional innovations of the New Deal (funnily enough, Goldberg seems to have missed that bit in his doubtless extensive reading on the topic). But more generally, sweeping claims about the all-determining-power of fixed national cultures have a godawful reputation in the social sciences these days. Values change, and sometimes change dramatically. Individuals are more than the passive bearers of cultural traits; they, like, make choices, and sometimes change their minds about things. The institutions that surround them change, and when these institutions change, so too, very often, do political beliefs, values etc.

There are respectable and serious scholars out there, who make more limited and specific contentions about how culture matters to politics (I tend not to agree with many of their arguments, but I obviously don’t have a monopoly on the truth). However, sweeping, half-assed claims that Culture is Destiny simply don’t feature in serious argument any more. Instead, they enjoy a sort of zombie-like half-life in some corners of the rightwing punditocracy, where their explanatory deficiencies are outweighed by their political usefulness in providing a higher justification for selfishness. Which is what seems to me to be happening here.


by Michael Bérubé on April 10, 2007

OK, we’ve worked out a hockey playoff format. I’m going to cover the Eastern Conference, and the redoubtable Scott Lemieux of <a href=””>LGM</a> will provide your guide to the Western. Perhaps we’ll even include some vlogs of ourselves watching the games and offering commentary with a couple of large glasses of red wine! That sounds like good fun. I haven’t got my predictions ready just yet, because I’m not done with the best-of-777 coin-tosses I traditionally use for the first round of the playoffs. I’ll have those ready within the next 24 hours or so.

But when <a href=”″>the Islanders scrambled into the playoffs over the weekend</a> by sneaking a few pucks past the Devils’ little-known backup goaltender while everyone else was watching the Masters (how little-known is Scott Clemmensen? Apparently he got an email after the game from his parents, who were relieved to know of his whereabouts and thrilled to learn that he was still on the Devils roster), it occurred to me that I might do well, this year, to apply to the NHL playoffs the nearly-flawless prognosticatin’ method I have used in the past for the annual Grand Championship of American Foot-Ball, namely, <a href=””>predicting the outcome of the contest by determining which team is wearing the more masculine jersey</a>.

That’s when I realized something that has probably been obvious to many of you, even though (solicitous of my feelings as you are) you have refrained from telling me all these years: NHL logos suck. Really bad. Almost every one of them sucks, and collectively they suck in many different ways.


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