Harold has decided that his finely tuned senses can predict the political fallout from Hurricane Katrina. The fact that his knowledge of history, both American and European, consists of what he has seen on and written for the BBC doesn't seem to detract him.
The fun begins with the first sentence:
It takes a lot to shake America to the core - 9/11 did it four years ago this weekend; the war in Iraq still has not.I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this statement. I'm not sure what planet I'm on but for a BBC reporter his memory of the last three years of newsprint is pretty bad. If my memory serves me correctly I remember non-stop coverage of the Iraq war. I also remember non-stop reporting on every half-wit who had an opinion on it.
I can only interpret it to mean that since the American people haven't demanded the course of action he prefers regarding Iraq, that they simply could not have given it as much thought and reflection as he has.
Harold then goes on to give us a refresher in Social Darwinism and how the United States took it just a tad to far:
Social Darwinism never infiltrated politics as much in Britain as it did in America where it was brilliantly propagated by a Yale polemicist named William Graham Sumner.The entire point of this bit is to reinforce the European image of a United States where the winner takes all. This of course is a pile of baloney. The entire principle of Social Darwinism is meant to apply to groups of people, not individuals. Europe, contrary to what Harold Evans remembers, has been the only region of the planet where the idea of Social Darwinism was put into practise.
Interventions by government to regulate housing, public health, factories, and so on, were wrong, he argued, because they impeded individual enterprise that alone created wealth. My mind, said the steelmaster Andrew Carnegie, was illuminated in a flash by Sumner's theorem that mankind progresses through the "ceaseless devouring of the weak by the strong".
Politicians of all colours agreed. It was a Democratic president - Grover Cleveland - who epitomized the philosophy in a memorable decision in 1877. Asked to release $10,000 of surplus seed for drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he declared: "I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering... The lesson should constantly be enforced that though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people."
The attitude has never entirely disappeared and probably never will. Its appeal is not only to the economically powerful with a central faith in the sanctity of the marketplace, but also to the romantic ideals of Jeffersonian individualism.
The concept of Social Darwinism was widely discussed in many parts of the Western world at the turn of the 20th century but only the Nazi's and their collaborators (mostly Europeans I would point out) put it into practise. Social Darwinism has never been put into practise as a model for society in the United States. It has been in Europe.
Harold also implies here that a government that fails to regulate housing, public health, and factories, is failing to do it's job. Once again, I wonder if Harold has cared to read the volumes of government regulations relating to these matters? Probably not considering it would probably take him the better part of a year to do it. Since he hasn't bothered to read up on these government regulations we can only assume that he simply doesn't like the way the US government deals with these areas of government policy.
After the sociology lesson he then takes a stab at American history:
So why then is Hoover almost a dirty word in the history books? It is because faced with a bigger challenge than the floods - the Great Depression with 13 million out of work - he refused to recognise the responsibility of government to relieve individual suffering.Harold like so many of his ilk is trying to find a parallel in history that will back up his underlying theme. He implies here that government can solve all problems if only the right man (a progressive by the way) is in charge. He thinks that if only the American government "cared" enough most if not all of the suffering during the Great Depression could have been avoided. How this would be possible he doesn't care to inform us. The entire global economy was affected by the Great Depression and all manner of approaches were taken by different countries to deal with it. Perhaps Harold would have preferred the United States had taken the approach of European Nazis or Facists? Perhaps he would recommend the Communists approach?
He believed that economic depressions, like natural disasters, were acts of God that must run their course. He expected voluntary acts of compassion by business and good neighbours would be enough, as they mostly had been in his humanitarian work in World War I. But the Depression affected so many millions it was too big and complex for that.
So slow was Hoover to respond that the shanty towns of the unemployed became known as Hoovervilles. He refused to believe that anyone was starving.
Of the men selling apples in the streets, the symbol of the depression, he said, "many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples." It was not a joke. He had a tin ear, rather like George Bush.
The entire quote seems to be nothing more than an attempt to find someone who believed in God, note their failures, and then take a shot at G.W. Bush.
Moving on, Harold ends with:
And Bush, like Hoover, has found it hard to confront reality. He has said nobody expected the levees to break - thereby flying in the fact of scores of predictions in official reports, science journals and newspapers.Here he tries to blame G.W. Bush for the lack of an evacuation but fails to mention that in the United States local governments are responsible for such things. Contrary to what Harold may think the mayor of New Orleans is responsible to make such a decision. On top of that, the governor of Louisiana is responsible for threats to the state. That is why elections are held. To vote into position people to make those decisions.
Back in the 30s, clinging to the log of Social Darwinism did not save Hoover. He was swept away by a riptide of anger and fear like that which may threaten the Republican ascendancy today.
In 1932 Hoover lost both his reputation and the presidency in a landslide to his Democratic challenger Franklin Roosevelt. The New Deal FDR ushered in - signing 15 bills in his first 100 days - almost drove a stake through the heart of Social Darwinism. Never before had government so directly shored up the lives of individual Americans at every social level and class.
It was the foundation of a welfare state - a ringing reaffirmation of America's commitment to huddled masses yearning to share in the great American Dream.
George Bush is not an expert of the status of the levees in New Orleans and if you somehow expect him to be then you're an idiot. Harold takes the time to point out that George Bush didn't think the levees would break but doesn't care to mention the million or so other people who live in and around the city who thought the same thing.
He closes with a couple of statements about how a stake was nearly driven through the heart of Social Darwinism and that the United States is a welfare state. This seems to be totally contradictory to the theme of this article since the whole point is how uncaring the American government is.
This entire piece is nothing but a sad attempt at twisting history to fit one's perceptions of the world. Instead of recommending that the people of New Orleans vote for a mayor that isn't an asshat he instead suggests that the entire American social model should be reworked to be in line with some of the wonderful examples that Europe provides.
Since a more "progressive" social model would have lessened the impact of Hurricane Katrina I wonder how a European country would have dealt with a disaster of such magnitude? How about France where over ten thousand died a few years ago due to a heat wave? Is that the social model American should emulate? How about Germany where flooding a few years back brought the country to a halt? Is that the model Harold is recommending?
I guess we'll never know since Harold is suggesting nothing constructive. Harold thinks a progressive social model is better and hence he naturally thinks it would have dealt with this situation better. As I said he doesn't bother to go into the details of how that might be since he naturally assumes his reader agrees with him.