Policies from Un-America

I don’t know whether or not the proposed bailout in the USA is a good idea. But it does amuse me that one of the more widely-quoted arguments against the bailout is Senator Jim Bunning’s view that it would be “un-American”.

It’s another aspect of American politics that I find to be a turn-off. That’s probably partly to do with my dislike of patriotism. But even the idea that some policies are inherently American and others are “un-American” is strange. And the idea that you would judge a policy on its American-ness is even weirder.

I mean, do these guys sit around the place reading policy proposals thinking things like, “Pah, that sounds like something a Canadian would support.” Or, “Only cheese-eating surrender monkeys believe that sort of thing!” I suspect that they actually do. What is wrong with, “Blimey, that doesn’t sound like a very good idea and it goes against my principles”?

This isn’t a one-off and you do hear from time to time people dismissing something-or-other for being un-American. I know the USA is a very patriotic country, and whether that is a good thing or not is a separate argument. But I doubt this kind of thing would wash in many other countries. Can you imagine some shadow cabinet spokesperson bemoaning a government’s policy for not being British enough?

The thing is that it just seems like such an arrogant thing to say. The only decent solutions come from America and no-one else in the world has a valid input to make? And they don’t understand it when some people have an iffy attitude towards the USA?

I don’t mean this as a dig towards the USA as a whole. I think it’s a wonderful country with some great people. I just find it amusing that being “un-American” is such a heinous crime according to some.


  1. Gah, I’ve completely lost my WordPress-fu. I meant for this to be published tomorrow. I think that’s too many posts for one day after such a huge gap! Oh well…

  2. I don’t think he meant it to appeal to patriots; I read it as meaning that the state shouldn’t bail out big business – it’s against the (North) American principles of capitalism, a free market and freedom from government intervention. That’s the kind of thing them’ Reds woulda done!

  3. Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But that just makes it all the more bizarre in my view. The free market isn’t exclusively American. Why didn’t he say “it goes against the principles of the free market” rather than “it goes against the principles of America”?

  4. Speaking as an American in Scotland, the Senator used the term “un-American” to play into the presidential election hysteria and play on the fears we already have on an uncertain future. But yes, it’s generally meant to be a blanket term regarding North American principles.

  5. Because in common with politicians everywhere, US politicians love conflating terms in order to get the positive associations of one concept to rub onto another. In this case, they’re using the positive patriotic feelings associated with their homeland (America) to make capitalism look more positive and patriotic. They’re also trying to make the affluence and inherant power dynamics associated with capitalism rub off onto the concept of America, Given how long the two terms have been associated with one another in the American mindset, this is not very hard to do.

    They need to do this because unless Pavlovian triggers were created for foundation issues, they’d have to be debated more seriously. And that could alter the balance of power within America, take away the power of the current cadre of politicians and cause a new group of politicians to take their place. The current lot don’t care who the new lot would be, but they do care that their position is dependant on the status quo being maintained. This is why every government everywhere, given enough time and insufficient incentive to avoid the fate, will settle into a rut of orthodoxy, illogical to those outside the rut but seen as essential for everyone within it.

  6. Just some trivia from a Californian who’s reaction to this was, “Hey, you gentlefolk do this as well.” I believe British politicians did use the term “un-english,” at one time.

    I read this in William Manchester’s Churchill biography, “The Last Lion.” Manchester said the expression was originally a cover for antisemitism. Later was broadened, and became exactly what you describe.

    Ah, here is the relevant text:

    I found your blog while searching for pictures of Cumbernauld, an admittedly odd activity in itself. I’m glad I did.