Jewish World Review Aug 9, 2012 / 21 Menachem-Av, 5772
Mitt, more gaffes like this, please
By Jonah Goldberg
One of the few things Americans on both sides of the partisan divide can agree on is that this election is shaping up to be vexingly petty. The hunt for gaffes -- some real, many imagined -- has taken over. Romney's recent overseas tour, we are told, produced three: an impolitic, if defensible, statement about
Not only is that list pathetic in its own right, in the rush to paint Romney's campaign as hapless, the press and partisans glossed over a philosophical insight worthy of a presidential debate.
In a thoughtful discussion about Israeli prosperity, particularly in comparison to neighboring Palestinians, Romney cited the work of
Outside the hothouses of the election season and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, virtually no one disputes the importance of culture. If you've only read the Cliffs Notes to
Though conservatives are more likely to tout this fact than liberals, the truth is virtually every serious liberal believes it to be true to one extent or another. When you hear liberal politicians celebrate diversity as essential to a 21st century economy, they are making a point about culture. When they lament the legacy of slavery and
In recent years, economists have focused on "intangible capital" -- the wealth of a nation not captured by statistics about such things as industrial production, oil reserves and real estate values.
In 2006, the
Researchers concluded that worldwide, "natural capital accounts for 5 percent of total wealth, produced capital for 18 percent and intangible capital 77 percent."
In 2000, the richest country in the world on a per capita basis was
Think of it this way. We all know the saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish. Well, who's richer? A lazy man who doesn't know how to fish with 10 flounders in his fridge, or a fishless but industrious man who knows how to fish?
Now, just because it is a simple truth that culture is incredibly important -- vital -- to economic success, doesn't mean it's a simple phenomenon. Cultures are complex things. Palestinian culture -- such as Arab culture generally, according to the U.N. Report on Arab development -- has many problems, but the causes and remedies of those problems are worth debating, without tired whining about "racism." Cultures can produce prosperity, but cultural changes, often driven by government, can erode prosperity -- just look at
What is clear is the fact that cultural factors are inextricably tied to a productive society. For instance, researchers show that low-skilled Mexican laborers become 10 to 20 times more productive simply by crossing the border into the U.S.
This could have been the basis for an informative and revealing debate between the two campaigns. President Obama, who (outside of education) emphasizes policies tied to tangible capital, has long inveighed against the culture of what he considers excessive capitalism (in his memoirs he describes working in the private sector as serving "behind enemy lines"). Romney argues that the American tradition of free enterprise needs to be renewed.
Rather than get bogged down in the tired "gaffe" storyline, wouldn't it have been better to have both candidates explore this idea more?
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