Saturday, March 01, 2008

On the cluelessness of Americans

So here's another author making the point that Americans are so clueless about foreign affairs they don't the capital of Hungary, and sure, maybe Americans are clueless but these are somewhat unfair comparisons.

Europeans have before been held up as morally superior because they once had less racism, but that's because they used to be homogeneous. Now that they have large minority groups, they are recapitulating the race riots that the US has for the most part put in its past. Similarly, they are held up as having more self-control in terms of obesity, unlike fat Americans. But of course Parisians are fit, they are city folk. Just like New Yorkers are mostly fit. But as a country, their obesity levels are approaching those of the US, while obesity in the US is on the decline. A carefully done economic analysis suggests that it is wealth that leads to obesity, and as Europe catches up to US wealth levels, their waistline follows.

I think a fair evaluation of geography knowledge might show that the US and Europe is not so different. So, sure, maybe more Europeans know the capital of Hungary than Americans do. But given that the population of Hungary is smaller than Ohio, perhaps a more fair comparison is how many Europeans know the capital of Ohio, or even know what Ohio is. I'd imagine very few.

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