February 6th, 2007

I finished "America Against The World." by Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes.

"America Against The World" is a book written by two math nerds (they're opinion pollsters) and, to be honest, it reads like it. It looks at all the opinions polls that have been done that ask countries to "define themselves," and compares America's result to those for Europe, Africa, Asian and other continents.

It makes the argument that every country thinks that they're better than everywhere else, but that American "exceptionalism" (which is the scientific word for thinking "we're the best") is more obvious because they're the sole super power (I mean, in the greater scheme of things what is Lesotho going to do if it plans to dominate the world economically?).

The book irritated me for a number of reasons. First, it's written by math nerds, which makes it hard to read. Don't get me wrong, I like math, but you wouldn't get an insurance instructor to write poetry for you would you? Secondly, it described American as the world's oldest democracy, which really pissed me off. Don't get me wrong, the constitution and the Bill of Rights are pretty neat, but you have "founding fathers" saw that African americans were "less" because they were black, and you allowed people to own one-another, neither of which is very democratic.

Finally the book does a good job of how American is different, but doesn't explain why anything is as it is, in anything but the most simplistic terms. This irritated me because even though the authors might argue that this isn't the point of the book, the why of difference is more important than the how, so overall I'm not impressed.