In this blog and other writings, I have repeatedly challenged President Obama and Democrats to re-integrate a strong individual work and achievement ethic into the party's platform and culture. The answer I have perceived this summer is, to say the least, not the one I was looking for. The situation has never been so stark in my mind as it has since my return from Europe.
The continent's major cities overflow with tourists from every corner of the world, flocking to admire the treasures of culture and, at least in some instances, religion. Let's contrast that with Wisconsin--such a pivotal state in this election. The state is a negative tourist attraction--particularly in winter, Mitchell International Airport is clogged with travelers seeking escape. While the state's natural beauty is immense, Downtown Milwaukee has scared away almost everybody, including perhaps its onetime biggest fan: me. The general level of education in the state suffers greatly from brain drain.
The attractions I enjoy immensely are the area's relatively moderate cost of living...I mean, I can't even wrap my mind around what the cost of living must be in the areas of Europe through which I just traveled. My parents remark on the area's higher cost of living relative to Arizona, but remember that we are almost on the frontier to Canada, while Arizona is on the frontier to...Mexico. Toronto, which is already quasi-European, is just an hour's flight in a puddle jumper away. And from there, Europe is not too far.
The real jewel here is our small and medium-sized businesses and the associated work ethic. We are, perhaps, not that bright--and I include myself in that indictment--but we work like hell. I think there is a fair amount of lingering resentment among the children and grandchildren of industrial laborers, but our work ethic is sterling, particularly in outllying areas. Take that away and I'm not sure what's left.
I'm sorry, but we just don't have the stuff to become a European-style society--and I'm not sure even Europe still does. Plummeting wealth creation in both places and, most particularly, the lack of investment in basic education and infrastructure in this country simply will not permit it. We need to provide less education to those like me who walk through their twenties in a stupor, ingesting college and graduate school classes in the liberal arts, and more to kids with hustle who are looking for real career training. I identify not with eternal students and non-profit workers, but with those who work themselves silly in basements and garages.
I think a lot of us still do.