compulsory reading, German Politics, US Politics, USA

Another Tale of Mars and Venus: The two Americas.

The Carnegie Endowment’s Robert Kagan’s quip that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus – citing the famous “Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships” to describe why American and Europe seem to be drifting apart in value terms has quickly become a household argument in published opinion. And for a reason: Last year’s US foreign policy as well as the European reaction has provided plenty of opportunity to interprete the US-European couple’s relationship as one in which one wants to make love and the other one war. Right or wrong, there seems to be a growing lack of understanding for the other one’s position on both sides of the pond.

In September last year, I already linked some documents providing some scientific context regarding the seemingly growing transatlantic rift. This week, the Economist provides us with the results of three recent studies – and tells Europe to think about American diversity. The article includes a very interesting diagram plotting some country’s relative positions in a multivariate value-space.

And in this diagram,

“America’s position is odd … On the quality-of-life axis, it is like Europe … But now look at America’s position on the traditional-secular axis. It is far more traditional than any west European country except Ireland. It is more traditional than any place at all in central or Eastern Europe”.

The reason for this strange position is, according to the economist, is,

“…to generalise wildly, that [the] average is made up of two Americas: one that is almost as secular as Europe (and tends to vote Democratic), and one that is more traditionalist than the average (and tends to vote Republican).”

I guess, a lot of people suspected this kind of division all along. But it’s always good to get some figures to back up the argument. And there’s one more thing that is strikingin this study – that all of Europe is indeed clustered in the same corner. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something to the argument of common European values.

I will close with a brief note to my British friends: Have a loook at the British position on the value plot – you seem indeed to be a part of Europe – socially, you’re not even a bit of an “awkward partner”. Great news, no?