Thursday, March 15, 2012

Europeans can't jump

Since my friends from Breughel encouraged me to disagree more, I suppose I have to.

But seriously, most of their post of why there is no pan-European blogosphere is completely correct. There isn't one for very same reason that there is no pan-European public opinion, or even a pan-European labour market for that matter: too much heterogeneity and too many barriers to trade in ideas.

But I seriously have to disagree with the suggestion that Europeans aren't as good at arguing as the Americans. They write:
Second, there are probably also “cultural” reasons behind that phenomenon. Europeans don’t have “debate” classes in High School and they tend to have far less confrontational academic discussions (we have nothing as direct and antagonistic as the Cochrane/Hubbard vs. Krugman/DeLong for instance). European economists seem to prefer spreading knowledge rather than stirring debate. VoxEU, Telos, the column section at Eurointelligence, and the new OFCE blog all provide avenues to disseminate research and to express opinions, but are not, so to speak, blogs with arguments and disagreements.
We invented it for crying out loud! Not just parliament, but also continuation of politics by other means - an area that we have traditionally excelled at. The comments sections of our newspaper websites are full of moronic comments just like in the US. Everybody argues with everybody all over the place, often times quite unbothered by any lack of knowledge or understanding. My compatriots - the Dutch - pride themselves in their rudeness, in their willingness and ability to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regardless of whether it is polite, kind or politic. We're the ones who invented GeenStijl! (Official tagline: "tendentious, unfounded and needlessly hurtful".)

The problem isn't that Europeans don't debate, it is that European blogs don't debate, at least not with each other. And the reason for that, other than the ones already given in the Bruegel post, is that in Europe relatively more of the interesting topics are national rather than European. You can only have a European debate if there are things happening at the European level that make people mad.

Personally, I wouldn't mind a good debate about all this austerity nonsense, but it looks like Krugman already has that covered. (For what it's worth, I'm an economist and I think he's right.) So what else should we debate about? That dumbass PVV Polish complaint hotline? Surely not... It may be dumb in the extreme, but so is giving it more attention than strictly necessary. So what's left?

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