A Little Something to Fight the Poison
Observations and opinions on politics and the media.
Globe and Mail
New York Times
BBC World Service
The New Republic
Be-all | End-all
Facts & Arguments
Flags of the World Given Letter Grades
Why They Hate Us
Urban Legends Reference Page
Get Your War On
Simpsons Blackboard Openings
Friday, September 13, 2002
ABSENCE AND THANKS: Looks like I'll be going away for a sad and unplanned family event for the next week or so and I probably won't be posting much until I get back (anyone else with access is completely welcome to post, of course).
For now, I thought I'd give a huge thanks to the many people in the last couple of weeks who have so graciously linked or mentioned me or both: Junius (Chris Bertram), Sketch (Andrew Edwards), Bertram Online (Henning Bertram), Blue Streak (Devra M.--with whom I've had one of the most remarkable and civil online discussions I've yet known), Redwood Dragon (Dave Trowbridge), William Burton, Yale Pundits (Mitch Webber and Karl Chang), Oxblog (Josh Chafetz), Eschaton (Atrios), Armed Liberal, Eric Alterman, and The Rittenhouse Review, as well as Tom Roberts for his constant and lively engagement.
Thanks so much--I'll catch up with you all soon enough...
Thursday, September 12, 2002
THE SHOE FINALLY DROPS: Reuters reports that the USAF is about to file criminal charges against the two American F-16 pilots who accidentally bombed and killed Canadian infantry troops performing practice operations in Afghanistan in April. It's going to be interesting (well, to me and possibly a few other Canadians, at least) to see how this affects relations. My guess is that it will probably make us more willing to support a decision to go into Iraq and to give what we can, and that most Americans won't notice. My one concern is that this will allow them to close the file and protect the structures and higher-ups that may share some of the blame for the incident. Goodness knows that friendly fire is something that the U.S. needs to work on--especially in the one-sided confrontations it is likely to be facing in the near future.
DOUBLE-OUCH: Max Sawicky reports on the EU's deliberations on intervention for the sake of restoring a democratic regime in Florida.
Minor gripe: Neutral Switzerland isn't part of the EU, Max--but you're still awesome!
LOOK--MORE PRAISE FOR BUSH! Concerning Bush's speech to the UN today. All in all, I have to admit that I'm pretty happy. First, the Bad, then the Good.
-When everyone said that Bush was going to "make the case" against Iraq, a lot of us expected that Bush would present some sort of convincing evidence that Iraq is closer to WMD than the rest of the world thought, which is why urgent, possibly unilateral action is needed now. Well, he didn't do that. We've heard all of the points in his case before; the information is basically public and known to the rest of the UN--much of it, in fact, is based on UN sources. Nothing he says justifies unilateral action à la Perle-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld-Cheney
-Bush seems open to multilateralism. It looks like he's come around and has decided that this multilateralism thing will work, due to what seems like compromise on all sides. Blair has almost certainly been a good influence, and it must have helped that Chirac (whose "3-week-deadline" plan has inexplicably gotten a rough reception from hawkish bloggers) and other people made noises suggesting that they would be willing to go along with multilateral intervention if Saddam doesn't meet the treaty requirements unconditionally. And, of course, the inestimable Colin Powell. The main reasons invoked in Bush's case against Iraq--breech of UN treaty obligations, humanitarian intervention--were put in multilateral terms. I'm betting now that he'll try to get a UN Security Council resolution before doing anything drastic (and that he's convinced, probably rightly, that he'll get something he'll like).
-The U.S. is rejoining UNESCO! Oddly, I haven't seen anyone in the blogoverse, left or right, comment on this. This is a wonderful gesture of U.S. rapproachment with the UN, another good step since the dues problem was settled
-Kofi Annan's speech suggests that his position is very close to Chirac's, and now, perhaps, Bush's position
THE EVENING AFTER: What I remember most was the silence that I had stumbled into.
I had decided against going to the candlelight vigil the university had quickly organized for that night. Those crazy, unbelievable images on my roommate's television had left me exhausted. I had sat on the floor while he tried to use his cellphone to reach his sister and the friends he had worked with at Blue Cross that summer in offices located around the 20th floor. I had tried, in my stupid, useless, rational way to assure him that his friends were fine by figuring out which building he had worked in and trying to count the floors on the screen. "Look," I had said, "the towers have got to have at least 80, 90 floors. It looks like the lower plane hit more than two-thirds of the way up. I'm sure they've managed to get out." I repeated it and he kept redialling different numbers, over and over, even though all of the phone networks were down. We both stopped in shock when we saw the towers collapsing. All I could think about was all of those firefighters--in my naive and hopeful imagination, 90 minutes had seemed like enough time for everyone to have walked down the stairs.
So I had decided not to go to the vigil. I felt like an outsider who would be intruding on the sorrow of others. I only knew one friend who lived in New York, and he didn't work in the towers. People around the grad school had picked uneasily at their food at lunch and dinner, no one really felt like "talking about it." So I was just going to spend the evening thinking about what had happened, staring out of my dorm window. My roommate had gone to bed early. But at around 10 at night, I wanted to visit some friends who lived at Berkeley College, whose gates border the long swath of grass in front of Sterling Library known as Cross Campus, where the vigil was being held.
As I walked closer to Cross Campus, I saw a small crowd of people who were standing together silently holding lit candles. The space directly in front of Sterling is a gentle, paved slope with two sets of wide stone steps. Halfway between the library and the grass is a fountain. I could hear its burbling clearly; the few people on the landing and the steps weren't making a sound. I figured that they were a dozen or so souls who had a stayed a while longer after the vigil to reflect and to console one another.
When I tried to walk carefully between the people on the landing, I realized that there were more people than I had first thought. Due to the darkness and the grade of the steps, I hadn't realized that the crowd on the steps was as deep as it was, and I was surprised that I had to edge my way through. Then I slowly began to realize that both the steps and the swath of grass in front of them was still full of people. As my eyes adjusted to the candlelight and I reached the middle of the steps, it dawned on me that I was surrounded by a thousand people standing on the grass and the steps. They were still there from the vigil and they were holding each other and praying and maybe whispering, but I hadn't known because they were so quiet. I could hear the fountain over them and their silence was stunning.
I ran into a friend there and we watched the quiet green in amazement for awhile before leaving. I told her that I wouldn't forget that image and I still remember it clearly: a thousand points of candlelight and no voices.
FORBIDDEN HITCHENS: Christopher Hitchens proves that his ex-fellow travellers on the left have been correct in thinking that he's become one sick puppy. In an overlooked Boston Globe article that was reprinted in David Horowitz' FrontPage in which he supposedly presents the view of "the patriotic left," he discloses us his deepest motivations for backing the War on Terror:
In order to get my own emotions out of the way, I should say briefly that on that day I shared the general register of feeling, from disgust to rage, but was also aware of something that would not quite disclose itself. It only became fully evident quite late that evening. And to my surprise (and pleasure), it was exhilaration. I am not particularly a war lover, and on the occasions when I have seen warfare as a traveling writer, I have tended to shudder. But here was a direct, unmistakable confrontation between everything I loved and everything I hated. On one side, the ethics of the multicultural, the secular, the skeptical, and the cosmopolitan. (Those are the ones I love, by the way.) On the other, the arid monochrome of dull and vicious theocratic fascism. I am prepared for this war to go on for a very long time. I will never become tired of waging it, because it is a fight over essentials. And because it is so interesting. [emphasis in original text]
This is zealotry at its worst, anti-liberalism trying to mask itself by hiding behind liberal ends.
I would like to think of myself as both patriotic and left-ish, but you can count me as riding a totally different train. Hitchens' eroticized brand of clash-of-civilizations crusading is frankly very scary--it smacks of the same "Romantic urges" that Armed Liberal detected in the letters published in Salon's widely condemned article on forbidden thoughts about 9-11. In that article, the editors and the letter-writers at least had the decency to recognize that there was something shameful about those thoughts that rendered them "forbidden." Hitchens instead boldly celebrates his zest for a world-exploding conflict and seeks to proselytize his view. It's easy to see how he was hooked by communism.
I would congratulate Mr. Hitchens for possessing the "moral clarity" to show off his true colours, but I'm feeling a little perturbed at the moment. It's a result of wondering: how many of his hawkish brethren would also admit that the deaths of 3,000 people last September and the military actions that followed struck them as "exhilarating" and "surprisingly pleasurable," or "interesting?
ADDENDUM: Does it surprise anyone in the least that this article got reprinted in Horowitz' FrontPage?
ON SECOND THOUGHT: Well, I haven't actually reversed myself, because I still do think that The National Post spun Chrétien's comments to make them sound much worse than they really were.
I do want to say that I'm not at all surprised to see Jean getting into hot water for saying something silly or impolitic, or that could at least be interpreted as such, because he speaks carelessly like that all the time--he was an acute embarrassment when he last visited the Middle East. This lack of competence and grace is in itself indefensible, considering he's supposed to represent my country. Thank goodness he's retiring.
INSTAPUNDIT DEMONSTRATES some sloppy blogging when he calls Prime Minister Chrétien a blowhard for remarks the PM made in a CBC documentary connecting Western greed with Sept. 11. Prof. Reynolds writes:
Instead of criticizing the United States and saying that the 9/11 attacks were America's fault for trying to "impose its values" around the world (as opposed to those of people who stone women to death for baring their ankles) perhaps Chretien should do something about the mobs imperiling free speech in Montreal.
Chretien is a poster boy for what's wrong with the world's governing classes. It's disgusting, and Canadians should be ashamed to have him as their spokesman.
Sadly, Prof. Reynolds seems to have been snookered by The National Post's characteristically tendentious coverage. He makes the mistake of basing his view on that lone article, and even worse, doesn't directly blog a quote by Chrétien. If you check out the The Toronto Star, you can actually get a larger selection of the PM's quotes that makes clear what he really meant:
"I do think the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world,'' Chrétien said. "We're looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. "The 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more.''
"The Western world, not only the Americans, but the Western world, has to realize because they are human beings, too." [my emphasis]
Note that he used the word "we" to describe who he feels bears the responsibility he speaks of. Also, the rest of the interview shows that he felt that Canada was in direct danger on Sept. 11--remember all of those inbound international aircraft we took in from the U.S.? I think this makes it clear that he sincerely meant the "we" to include not only the U.S, and Canada, but all of the OECD countries as in some sense sharing whatever responsibility for Sept. 11 he wanted to attribute to Western greed.
Prof. Reynolds might have very good reasons to think that this Sontag-esque point of view is stupid, relativist, blinkered, naive, morally fuzzy, and so on, but Chretien sure isn't "criticizing the United States and saying that the 9/11 attacks were America's fault for trying to "impose its values" around the world" with these statements. He's spreading it around to include his own country and Europe and Japan.
Finally, even if Chretien were doling out some responsibility directly on the U.S. for Sept. 1t, that would actually be in line with what the vast majority of the Canadian public seems to think, according to a recent poll I mentioned previously. Instapundit may not want to label the majority of the Canadian people "disgusting," but that might be the price one has to pay for "moral clarity."
ADDENDUM: Prof. Reynolds' remarks about Chrétien "doing something" about the Montreal protestors/rioters is a non-sequitor. What, exactly, would Prof. Reynolds have him do? Chrétien personally received a courtesy call from Netanyahu that day and condemned the actions of the protestors. Given that dealing with this kind of civil disturbance is a strictly provincial responsibility, Chrétien couldn't have done much else without invoking the War Measures Act, which would literally endanger national unity. I assume that if this sort of thing happened at Berkeley, Prof. Reynolds wouldn't advocate invoking FEMA or calling in the National Guard...
UPDATE: Chrétien is already trying to "clarify" his remarks and is taking heat from the Canadian Alliance. It's in The Globe and Mail, which unsurprisingly provides probably the most balanced coverage of this hubbub.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
I DON'T presume to know the proper way to commemorate tomorrow's anniversary. But this little sheet is going to do so by staying silent until Thursday.
A NEW LOW: Irrefutable proof as to why Mark Steyn just might be the most revolting political commentator in North America. I already had a pretty low opinion of Steyn, but this garbage published in The National Post takes the cake.
The Flight 93 hijackers might have got lucky. They might have found themselves on a plane with...an Ivy League professor immersed in a long Harper's article about the iniquities of U.S. foreign policy. They might have found themselves travelling with Robert Daubenspeck of White River Junction, Vermont, who the day after September 11th wrote to his local newspaper advising against retaliation: "Someone, someday, must have the courage not to hit back but to look them in the eye and say, 'I love you.' " But, granted these exceptions, chances are any flight full of reasonably typical Americans would have found a group of people to do the right thing, to act as those on Flight 93 did. Everything that mattered after September 11th--Bush's moral clarity, the Afghan innovations and the crystal-clear understanding that this is an enemy beyond negotiation -- was present in the final moments of Flight 93.
Excuse me, Mr. Steyn, but how the hell do you know what those people were thinking in the final moments of their lives? How DARE you presume that they shared the political views that you support? On that plane were an engineer, a law professor, students, businesspeople, environmentalists, and journalists.
They were a diverse group, united in our memory by their last deed. But each of them did what they had to do for their own personal reasons; we only know tiny snippets of what they were thinking from a few words we got from their last phone conversations. We should never tarnish their memory by being so presumptuous as to try to impute motivations for their heroism.
By trying to appropriate their sacrifice for your twisted political ends, Steyn, you spit on their graves. By trying to convince us that the heroes of Flight 93 thought like you, you show how different from them you really are: they gave everything, whereas you're nothing but a two-bit political hack who has stooped to grave-robbing.
ADDENDUM: I neglected to highlight the extreme gracelessness of one of Steyn's closing lines:
Europe, for one, hasn't caught up to September 11th: When it comes to Saddam, the Continentals are like the passengers on those first three planes; they're thinking he's a rational guy, just play it cool and he won't pull anything crazy. But America learned the hard way: it's the world of September 10th that's really crazy.
Great job Steyn: way to make your political points by dissing the people who you've assimilated together as "passengers on those first three planes." And I'm sure you really know what they thought before they died as well?
IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY...then give speeches about a totally different topic. Jean and W. huddled in Detroit for half-an-hour yesterday, and even though they spent most of their time discussing a certain Middle Eastern country that begins with "I" and end with "raq," they came out of it with speeches about border security. Chrétien later said that he's with the Chirac "issue-them-a-UN-threat-and-then-let-the-U.S.-kick-their-ass-after-3-weeks-if-they-say-no" plan. So I guess we're going with our French half for once.
W., for his part, said that Jean would make a great Texan. Yeah, that's one way to win us over. W. also admitted to Jean that going after Iraq has nothing to do with al-Qaeda, in case you were curious.
JEFFREY SIMPSON, who is a good distance from me on The Political Compass, has a great column in the G&M today entitled "How the U.S. fumbled the post-Sept. 11 ball." Brief excerpt:
Seldom has a country so rapidly frittered away so much genuine goodwill as the United States since Sept. 11. The sympathy that followed the shock of that day spread around the world...Sympathy, however, was never going to suffice, for this menace of violent Islamic fundamentalism could not be answered only with bread and roses. Something more robust was required. So countries...tightened security, shared intelligence and sent troops to Afghanistan to root out the Taliban.
This common struggle against terror -- a struggle that could have strengthened the United States' bonds with many nations and raised its moral standing in the world -- has not persuaded Washington of the virtues of multilateralism.
Monday, September 09, 2002
TO CLARIFY what makes the Jack Granatstein jeremiad about the Canadian military's decline (cited in the previous post) especially brutal:
OK, so Granatstein isn't entirely off the mark when he argues that the CF requires more significantly more funding to do what we would like it to do. But his apocalyptic tenor about the loss of Canadian sovereignty, combined with the front-page appearance of this "news" item (don't you love it when some policy group's release of a study counts as "news"?), renders the whole deal a big sickly ball of self-flagellation. We really could do without this hysteria, given that every major federal political party (except the BQ, but they don't count) endorses increased military spending.
DEAR NATIONAL POST EDITORS:
I know you're more likely to be hit by lightning than to read and react to this, but my nausea forces me to try: during the next two days, could you please, please, please not print any more of this (and this and this and this) embarrassing, sycophantic grovelling about how Canada hasn't done enough for the Americans' War Against Terrorism? On the Sept. 11 anniversary, Americans will want our respectful condolences about what they lost last year, and of course our sincere support, but no one needs your pathetic and largely groundless self-loathing. So please just stop, at least until Sept. 12, OK?
GET YOUR LABEL ON: So I checked my location on The Political Compass today [via The People's Republic of Seabrook]. Joy--yay for multiple choice tests, nearly the entire reason I got into an American grad school. Anyway, my results:
-Economic Left/Right: -6.62
In the Compass' oxymoronic terminology, I'm apparently solidly libertarian socialist, or equally awkwardly, anarcho-socialist/syndicalist. A wannabe Gandhi, according to the chart. I wouldn't have had it any other way, I guess...well, what are you waiting for? Even if it's oversimplified, it's fun, so go find out your score and let me know...
COMMENTARY, ROMPER ROOM-STYLE: If you poke around the blogoverse for a little while, you can find a number of fairly intelligent arguments as to why people who think a multilateral solution to the Iraq problem are wrong. This is not one of them:
Nelson Mandela is a Dingleberry
Yes, I'm sure that a man who spent 27 years in jail and headed a movement that liberated his people and defeated of one of history's most abhorrent regimes will be greatly pained to learn that a closed-minded blogger in Texas has declared his remarks on multilateralism to be "moronic" without providing substantive justification.
And they say that mature and intelligent political discourse is a thing of the past...
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DEBKA: If you were to believe the "military sources" cited by DEBKAfile, the Middle East's version of The Drudge Report for wannabe spooks, then you might conclude, as this report does, that the following developments have occurred in Iraq over the last month:
-Last week's Anglo-American airstrikes have effectively knocked out Iraq's anti-aircraft defenses in the northwest and the south, clearing the path for bombing in central Iraq and an insertion of "US special forces to be flown by helicopter across the border into Iraq from the West. Nothing now stops them from reaching as far as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s tribal stronghold northwest of Baghdad, where the Iraqi ruler is believed to be hiding underground with his family and top officials. There too he has concentrated the bulk of the loyal units of the Iraqi army."
-The invasion has already started the U.S. having gotten not only agreement from a number of key regional allies, but also substantive military contributions from Turkey and Jordan
-U.S. troops are already operating in Iraq: "American and allied Turkish special forces have gained control of some 15 percent of Iraqi soil--mostly in the north. They are poised at a point 10-15 miles from Iraq’s two northern oil cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, together with pro-American Kurdish and Turkman paramilitary groups, with no Iraqi force in the way of their advance, if ordered to occupy the two towns."
-The next phases strike will begin with an assault by a combined U.S.-Jordanian force that will first capture key air installation and then proceed to march against Baghdad and Tikrit, a combined U.S.-Turkish force to wipe up in the North, as well as a two-pronged attack by armoured units positioned in Kuwait.
-The aircraft used in last week's strike were based in various Middle Eastern states, and U.S. commanders "do not propose to heed the public declarations of rulers of lands where US bases are located, but to use them according to American military exigencies."
We already control 15% of Iraq's territory?!?! Huh?!? Did I sleep through that?
I have no idea as to the identity of DEBKA's sources, but if all of this true, I guess we don't have to worry about a congressional debate or UN resolution anymore...
Sunday, September 08, 2002
THE WAR MATRIX: See the score on who's taking what position on invading Iraq with Uggabugga's War Matrix. Features a handy colour-coded scheme that indicates the presence or absence of military service.
David Frum, I'm not exactly sure what you've said on the issue, but I've got a hunch that it's similar to the hackneyed, spiteful, ultra-partisan garbage you usually write. Please sit down, close your mouth, and start saying prayers of apology to your mum.
EU MYOPIA OR EU GAMBIT? My first reaction to this report was real indignation. The EU envoy to Afghanistan claims that the EU doesn't have the forces or money to expand the stabilization force in Afghanistan outside Kabul (it also claims that it can't do it without the promise of U.S. air support, which is fair enough). I support the EU's criticism of the noises that the U.S. is making regarding action (possibly unilateral action) against U.S., but I thought: "how can the EU continue to credibly talk about multilateralism when it's unwilling to make the minimal contribution needed to adequately accomplish the tasks required by multilateral peacekeeping?"
But then I reconsidered and now suspect that part of the EU's reason for making this announcement is to "game" the U.S. I think the Europeans want to send a message that they're unwilling to allow the U.S. continue dictating the intervention agenda, while leaving them with after-the-fact peacekeeping and stabilization duties. They're trying to say: "Look, we're not going to stick around here and provide the peacekeepers to deal with clean-up and nation-building after you've finished knocking over some government that you don't like, so that you can gallop off and use the troops that you don't have to use here to go and invade some other countries."
A tough line, maybe (if it's accurate), and perhaps one whose long-run goals are justified, but I don't know whether I'm comfortable with the EU using the future of Afghanistan as a bargaining chip (maybe that's why I'm training to be a theorist rather than a hard-nosed policy guy). But whatever the motivation with this statement, at the end of the day, if the EU wants to help set the agenda for the international system, it needs to be willing to invest in its armed forces and to provide the personnel and the equipment to get things done the way it wants to.
OUCH: I'm not really sure what to say about the results of this poll conducted by Canadian firm Ipsos-Reid from Sept. 3-5, except that I certainly didn't expect them. And ouch! The "money point":
84% of Canadians believe that the United States, because of its policies and actions in the Middle East and other parts of the world, bears some of the responsibility (69%) or all of the responsibility (15%) for the terrorist attacks on them.
Who knew? Maybe I'm way more centrist than I thought...or maybe the U.S. is just doing a crappy job of making friends, or at least demonstrating that it wants friends, right now. Dithering about apologizing for killing 4 of our guys with an F-16 and about thanking us for landing all of those planes last year probably didn't help, but this seems like a big and harsh shift. It's certainly a big difference from last September, when 100,000 of us spontaneously went up to Ottawa to send our love and care to the U.S. and sang the Star Spangled Banner.
One crucial piece of information that we don't have and that we would need to put these numbers in context, though, is what the numbers would be if you asked Americans the same question. If anyone has them, please let me know!
P.S.: For the record, if a pollster asked me that question, I just wouldn't answer it. It's insulting and oversimplified and doesn't begin to respect the depths of pain that the Americans suffered last year or the complexities of what's going on in the world. I think there's just some questions that can only be properly answered by a conversation and not by a multiple choice response.
CAN YOU SAY 'COGNITIVE DISSONANCE'? This op-ed by George Shultz advocating immediate military action against Iraq is close to unbelievable. The author, who is described without outward irony as "secretary of state from 1982 to 1989" at the article's footer, includes the following as justification for an invasion:
The world now has entered the third decade of crises and dangers to international peace and security created by Saddam Hussein. In 1980 he launched an eight-year war against Iran. Chemical weapons were used, and at least 1.5 million people were killed or severely wounded.
What's missing, of course, is the phrase: "With my direct support and approval." No, not just our support, but MY support, since this guy was the @#@%^$% U.S. secretary of state during most of the Iran-Iraq war. What kind of [expletive deleted] amnesiacs does Shultz think he's writing for? How much disrespect for your audience does it take to assume that it doesn't know that the U.S. supported Iraq with arms sales throughout the war and was quite pleased that the conflict was happening? Or that the U.S. didn't give a damn about Iraq using chemical weapons against the Iranians and actually feigned ignorance of Iraq's chemical weapons capacity?
One of Atrios' readers provides wonderfully fitting terminology to describe the degree of hypocrisy achieved by Secretary Shultz:
The canonical example of chutzpah is "a person who kills his parents and then begs the court for mercy because he's an orphan". This op-ed by Shultz is as good an example of chutzpah as any one is ever likely to find in real life.
MORE ON SWEDEN: If you were to check Instapundit, you would think, from the majority of the posts on there that Sweden was about to fall out of the OECD and to start looking for UNESCO or IMF assistance. In all fairness, Prof. Reynolds devotes a long post to a real Swede who takes a moderate line and provides a factual basis for the issue.
I, for one, finally remembered why progressives like Sweden so much: the United Nations Human Development Index (a.k.a. the UN's rating system of How Nice it is to Live in Your Country), which combines 3 indices measuring life expectancy, education, and per capita GDP, usually rates Scandinavian countries higher than the U.S. (which itself also generally does quite well) because their universal public health and education system boost their life expectancy and education scores. This year, Sweden came 4th while the U.S. came 6th. I'm very aware of this index, of course, because Canada is darned proud of the fact that it has done very well recently--in the last 4 years, we've placed 3rd, 1st, 1st, and 1st (darn Norway beat us this year).
Prof. Reynolds was kind enough to respond to this point via email:
Sweden is (foreign policy aside -- that's MUCH worse than generally realized) a pretty nice place. When I practiced law I had Ericsson as a very major client, and Swedish Space corp. as a minor one, so I have some knowledge of things Swedish. The real question is, do you want the VERY major sacrifices in economic and personal
freedom entailed in the Swedish model in exchange for moving from #6 to #4? To me, the bang isn't worth the buck. I understand that others might differ, though I think it's only fair to admit that the cost in terms of national wealth, which would be around 30%, would be the equivalent of a major depression.
As a Canadian expatriate living in the U.S., I haven't felt the universalized medical or educational systems that are responsible for our slightly higher life expectancy/education rates have rendered us "less free" in any tangible way. One major misconception, for example, is that universalized/socialized systems result in less choice. It's patently false in the realm of medical care, for example--Canadians have far more choice when it comes to choosing health care providers than Americans who are limited by the HMO system. Of course, I've have never felt that a person's economic or personal liberty is correlated to the tax rate to which he or she is subject, but I know that this is a controversial view.
I do on occasion feel significantly less safe in New Haven than I did in Toronto, and this feels like a tangible restriction on my freedom, although I suppose I also very much enjoy the fruits of inequality that Yale provides. So chalk me up as slightly confused but still mostly supportive of the systems that emphasize the "mixed" in mixed economy.
As for the cost of the U.S. shifting to a social democracy, the distributional effects would make the effects "feel" very different from that of a major depression--most of the loss in wealth would be taken from those at the top and situation of many near the bottom would improve, although the increase in unemployment would of course be problematic.
I guess a sensible perspective is that if most Americans would feel less free and wealthy under the Swedish system and the reverse is also true, then both peoples have the systems that they deserve. That's the happiness of democracy.