When Margaret Mead went to Samoa to do field work, the natives politely told her what she wanted to hear.
Since their stories confirmed her views, Mead happily declared that her views had been proved empirically.
Then, Derek Freeman wrote a book in 1983 explaining that Mead had been duped by the natives and that her “empirical evidence” was nothing of the sort.
More recently, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman traveled to Asia. In Singapore he discovered that no one respected America any more.
Friedman was happy to accept the view that Asians had lost confidence in America because of the recent government shutdown. They were also apparently dismayed about the American failure to provide socialized medical care for everyone.
Singaporeans see an increasingly dysfunctional American government and they are worried. They hold large quantities of American dollars, so they have a vested interest in America.
One suspects that the locals knew whom they were talking to and told Freidman exactly what he wanted to hear: namely, that the Republicans were to blame.
Not once does Friedman hint at the possibility that the world has lost respect for America because America elected a rank incompetent to be its president. Friedman might not know it, but a country is known by its leader. The America that has lost the world’s respect is Barack Obama’s America.
As Sherlock Holmes would have said, it’s the dog that didn’t bark.
One ought to note, first, that Singapore does not have socialized medicine. Its system is based on individual health care savings accounts, among other things.
Second, Singapore is one of the freest of the free enterprise countries. Among the reasons, it is not ruled by lawyers and bureaucrats.
Friedman cannot blame the dysfunction in the health insurance market and in the government on the power exercised by lawyers and bureaucrats, because they are an important part of the Democratic coalition. His interlocutors have accommodated his bias.
Third, the value of the American dollar has been eroding because the American government, mostly under the aegis of Democrats, but with considerable Republican support, has spent large amounts of money it does not have and does not even hope to be able to pay back.
In the past five years, in Barack Obama’s America the Federal Reserve has been engaged in endless bouts of quantitative easing, the better to keep the economy afloat. If the Obama administration’s fiscal policies had generated something resembling economic growth this activity would perhaps be less necessary.
Asians are polite. They are not inclined to offend or insult an interlocutor to this face. Even if Tom Friedman does not know it, they must know that a declining America is Barack Obama’s America.
Anyone who believes that Singaporeans want America to function more like a European social democracy is as perfect a dupe as Tom Friedman. And that takes some effort.