Arab democrats: beware the US model

Americans like to think of themselves and their country as a model for the world. Indeed, this attitude of self-congratulation is one of the least attractive aspects of US culture when viewed from abroad, even if Americans themselves are barely aware of it. For most Americans, this common faith in the superiority of many aspects of their society – from popular entertainment, to higher education, to the judicial system, and so on – is part of the web of shared assumptions that underlie US culture. And among these, nothing is so firmly fixed in the American mind than the inherent superiority of their democratic political system.

Well. The world has been treated in recent weeks to the spectacle of the vaunted two-party American political system as it has driven the government heedlessly to the very brink of a disastrous default on its debt payments. This national financial near-miss, and the profound skepticism it has generated concerning the US’ long-term ability to put its fiscal house in order, has roiled global stock markets, and threatens, if not soon addressed, to upend the dollar-based global financial system which has been in place since the end of World War II. Whether such a change in the global financial system is a good or bad thing over the long term I cannot say, but it would not happen without severe global economic dislocations, from which all would suffer.

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