Update on 11/20/12: I am still seriously in mourning (deuil, luto) because of the result of the election. A part of me believes we have simply lost America forever. I don’t know what to do about it. I am trying to avoid the temptation of a personal secession from Pres. Obama’s America. Yet, I realize that a deep defeat is a good time to re-examine one’s beliefs. Destiny offered me an opportunity to do so through friendly Danes who stumbled on this blog.
A short time ago I became involved in a disorderly discussion with a Danish blogger I decided to call “Frans.” He calls himself a “transhumanist.” I looked the term up on Wikipedia but I don’t know much more than before I did. I understand it has nothing or little to do with being transhuman like, say, a vampire. Let me just say that Frans is intelligent and possibly well-informed. ( See below about the “possibly.”) He has a sense of humor; his English is good. Here is his blog address: http://transhumanisten.com/
Even Scandinavians with Frans’ qualities have trouble avoiding bragging. They figure their countries are so small they can do no harm so, it’s OK to brag. (The worst are the Norwegians because they have lots of oil and they could live without working and yet they work.)
Anyway, recently, Frans starts bragging about free Danish higher education plus a stipend for all. So, of course, I ask him where is the micro-Silicon Valley Danish universities have spawned. I want to talk about the relationship between big government/ big taxes on the one hand, and collective creativity, on the other hand. Frans first gives a perfectly reasonable response with Skype but then, he goes on and on.
Now, I think that big government destroys the creative impulse in the minds of citizens and creates structural conditions where notional inventions are difficult to implement. That’s kind of a hypothesis based on close observation of France and on much less close observation of Spain and Germany. (Note my restraint: Nothing about Greece.) Incidentally, I have been writing an essay on the extreme poverty of French popular culture. (It’s in French.)
Denmark is a very pleasant country I know a little. I am sure that life there is sweet. And I will forever be grateful to the couple of Danish girls who gave me a good push and shove a long time ago when I was still hesitant. But, my interest is only in creativity broadly defined rather than in Denmark as such.
Frans also argues that the population homogeneity of Denmark is responsible for what he says is a high level of inventiveness there. He gives me too much reading. I ask him to give me one reading assignment, to give it his single best shot. I am waiting.
At another time, Frans cites the high degree of inventiveness in Israel ( which I don’t doubt) and he gives credit to the country’s “homogeneity.” Sounds absurd to me. I think that Israel is a country of immigrants, like Singapore. I know that 20% of its population is not even Jewish. Then Frans retorts that Israel is like a “family.” That’s too vague for me. Plus, lots of other social systems that are like families are not inventive. Take the Sicilian Mafia (“La nostra famiglia”): same old bullet to the back of the head at the barber’s, same bomb blowing up the same old black car on a Sunday outing in the countryside.
So, Frans and I have here a disorganized debate with potential. If it is the case that little Denmark is a creative, inventive society in spite of its high tax/ big government regime I, as a conservative, need to know about it. But I don’t have lifetime in front of me to find out.
Another branch of my discussion with Frans concerns the relationship between political stance and generosity. My understanding of American studies on the topic makes me believe that conservatives are systematically more generous than liberals. Frans says the reverse is true I don’t know where. Here again, I am interested but I don’t want to read pages after pages of irrelevant or possibly weak material. I urge anew: Frans and others, give it your one best shot.
Good time to repeat my normal standard of selection: If a study (a study, not a poem or an editorial) is not published in a double-blind refereed journal, it’s usually not worth my time. What’s so published is also often defective but if the findings sound interesting enough, I will give it a try.