Class Warfare Blog

June 20, 2013

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Advice

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

(Do you know the movie this title pays homage to?)

I have been reading a book (Those Angry Days by Lynne Olsen) about the raucous debate in the U.S. leading to our entry into World War 2. One quote stuck out. It is by Phillip Kerr, newly appointed Ambassador to the U.S. from Britain. In a 1940 report to his superiors he said “We never listen to the advice of foreigners. Nor will the Americans. They only differ in that we ignore such advice and the Americans get extremely angry when it is offered to them by any Briton.”

Not much has changed in the last 64 years. We still do not take advice, nor do we look at the experience of other countries to guide us. Are we looking now at other countries security procedures? I doubt it. Did we do a study of other countries health care systems before launching off on our own? I don’t think so; at least the debate didn’t mention other countries much (save Canada) and then the information attributed was generally flawed. You can attribute this to American exceptionalism if you wish but I tend to think it has more to do with arrogance and stupidity.

Consider a couple of countries in Asia. After World War 2, an almost completely destroyed Japan borrowed shamelessly from Britain and the U.S. and anybody else they could find to rebuild their industrial capacity. The story of W. Edwards Deming, the father of the modern “Quality Movement,” is widely known. He couldn’t get an audience for his ideas from American companies so he took his ideas to Japan and Toyota, in particular, jumped on them with both feet. Toyota became the #1 manufacturer of automobiles in the world. We only paid attention when they began to kick our auto industry’s ass. Please realize that Japan has roughly the same area as Montana and had a population half of ours and had no reputation for either quality goods or automobiles to build upon.

Japan was a notoriously insular country, at several points in their history they banned contact with foreign cultures. Nobody in Japan today is at all embarrassed at having taken ideas from other countries and other cultures and having made them better.

China, on the other hand, was the most advanced country on the planet at one point. Their philosophy, science, politics, engineering, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, weaponry, art, you name it were all the best there was. And they knew it. They felt that they couldn’t possibly learn anything from inferior cultures, so they stopped trying. China is trying now to dig itself out from under many centuries of inferior performance. They are now borrowing ideas at a rapid rate.

But Americans, damn, we are too good, to proud, to stubborn to look elsewhere for ideas. We are following China’s path. The fact that we even discuss “American exceptualism” is an indicator that we are on the wrong path.


  1. A country that for decades held a ‘World Series’ where they were the only ones participating has got to stop and wonder. If only sometimes……


    Comment by Arkenaten — June 20, 2013 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  2. 1950’s/60’s American exceptionalism:

    Step One: Spend 2.5 years in the 1940’s annihilating all global competitors’ heavy industry facilities through aerial bombing. (Note to self: let enemy destroy ally’s plants).

    Step Two: Use untouched homeland heavy industrial complex to sell everything from cars to fridges to the world. Where exports are not viable use post-war treaty to facilitate commercial colonisation.

    Step Three: Pocket unimaginable profit and pat yourself on the back.


    Comment by john zande — June 20, 2013 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

    • Wow, you are the first to have seen through us! The 60s was the heyday of the middle class because of Roosevelt and the new deal and what you say below. We could have just coasted along that way for twenty generations or so but, unfortunately greed was more important. When the world gives you a big lead, the first thing you want to do is piss it away.

      hey, tonite Brazil will have its first native son on an NBA Championship team … or not. Are you going to watch (American sports hegemony)?


      Comment by stephenpruis — June 20, 2013 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

      • Well, i have it saved into the TV to watch… whether my brain makes it that far will have to be seen.

        I really, really, really like what Norway has done. The government has saved all the billions from the north sea oil. Saw something a few years ago which said every Norwegian could retire and 7 generations could live off the money. Now that’s forward thinking.


        Comment by john zande — June 20, 2013 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

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