Anti-Americanism is Racist Envy
Anti-Americanism is the prevailing disease of intellectuals today. Like
other diseases, it doesn't have to be logical or rational. But, like other
diseases, it has a syndrome--a concurrent set of underlying
symptoms that are also causes.
• First, an unadmitted contempt for democracy. The U.S. is the
world's most successful democracy. The right of voters to elect more
than 80,000 public officials, the length and thoroughness of electoral
campaigns, the pervasiveness of the media and the almost daily
reports by opinion polls ensure that government and electorate do
not diverge for long and that Washington generally reflects the
majority opinion in its actions.
It is this feature that intellectuals--especially in Europe--find
embittering. They know they must genuflect to democracy as a system. They cannot openly admit
that an entire people--especially one comprising nearly 300 million, who enjoy all the freedoms--
can be mistaken. But in their hearts these intellectuals do not accept the principle of one person,
one vote. They scornfully, if privately, reject the notion that a farmer in Kansas, a miner in
Pennsylvania or an auto assembler in Michigan can carry as much social and moral weight as
they do. In fact, they have a special derogatory word for anyone who acts on this assumption:
"populist." A populist is someone who accepts the people's verdict, even--and especially--when it
runs counter to the intellectual consensus (as with capital punishment, for example). In the jargon
of intellectual persiflage, populism is almost as bad as fascism--indeed, it's a step toward it.
Hence, the argument goes, the U.S. is not so much an "educated democracy" as it is a mediaswayed
and interest-group-controlled populist regime.
The truth is, on the European Continent there is little experience of working democracy. Italy and
Germany have had democracy only since the late 1940s; Spain, since the 1960s. France is not a
democracy; it is a republic run by bureaucratic and party elites, whose errors are dealt with by
strikes, street riots and blockades instead of by votes. Elements of the French system are being
imposed throughout the EU, even in countries such as Denmark and Sweden that have long
practiced democracy with success. In a French-style pseudodemocracy, intellectuals have
considerable influence, at both government and street levels. In a true democracy, intellectuals
are no more powerful than their arguments.
• Second, anti-Americanism is a function of cultural racism. An astonishingly high proportion of
European elites know very little about U.S. history or culture and even deny that they have a
separate existence apart from their European roots. It is strange that those seeking to bring about
a European federal state or union have at no stage sought to study the lessons Americans
learned during the creation of the U.S. in the 1780s. After all, the U.S. Constitution (suitably
amended) has lasted for more than 200 years, and within its framework the country has emerged
as the richest and most powerful society in world history. You might think, therefore, that
European elites would seek to learn something from such a successful process. Not at all: The
view is that sophisticated, civilized Europe has nothing to learn from "adolescent" America. What
these Euro-elites particularly abhor is the way in which the framers of the Constitution made
every effort to involve the population through the process of public debates, town meetings and
ratification votes--and this at a time when Europe was still governed (for the most part) by the
absolute sovereigns of the ancien régime.
This cultural racism is particularly directed at the supposedly "know-nothing" President George
W. Bush and his "gung ho" Texas background. The European intelligentsia gets its notion of
America chiefly from Hollywood, TV soaps like Dallas and fiction. Few of them have any
experience of America, outside of three or four big cities. Middle America is unexplored territory.
The fact that the U.S. has proved a highly efficient crucible for melding different peoples into a
human sum greater than its constituent parts is seen as a misfortune in Europe because it
produces a cultural stew that lacks purity of any kind and is therefore at the mercy of commercial
• Third, European elites tend to look at Americans as a subcivilized mass, whose function is to be
obedient consumers in a system run by big business. The role of competition in U.S. economic
life--and in every other aspect of life--is ignored, because competition is something Continental
Europeans like to keep to a minimum and under careful control.
Although Americans are seen as highly materialistic consumers, they are also despised and
feared for their spiritual interests, their participation in religious worship and their subscription to
creeds of morality. Europeans see no inconsistency in their condemnation of the U.S. for being at
one and the same time paganly unethical and morally zealous.
The truth is, any accusation that comes to hand is used without scruple by the Old World
intelligentsia. Anti-Americanism is factually absurd, contradictory, racist, crude, childish, selfdefeating
and, at bottom, nonsensical. It is based on the powerful but irrational impulse of envy--
an envy of American wealth, power, success and determination. It is an envy made all the more
poisonous because of a fearful European conviction that America's strength is rising while
Europe's is falling.