Americans = Mars, Europeans = Venus, right? Not according to the author of this book. Through a series of tart mini-essays and comments, Baldwin makes what is essentially a collection of bar graphs comparing various aspects of America and Western European countries interesting, fun, and thought-provoking to read. The upshot of his argument is that, in many ways, America falls within the European mainstream on a host of social, economic, and cultural issues; indeed, the differences between European nations (such as those between northern and southern Europe) are often more pronounced than the differences between America and Europe-in-general. He is intellectually honest enough to recognize that his thesis is likely to be as troubling to liberals who look to Scandinavia-style social welfare states as a secular "Mecca" as it is to conservatives who dismiss Western Europe as decadent and biologically exhausted. Of necessity, more subjective measurements of difference are not included, and I suspect that here is where more significant differences would be observed. (The upcoming World Cup puts me in mind of one: the frequent racist heckling of black and foreign soccer players in many European countries, which has thankfully been expunged from most American sporting events. How could the willingness to express such sentiments be "measured" without introducing bias?)
I would like to see a revised version of the book which includes the former Warsaw Pact nations. Many of these countries have taken a more "American" approach to economic development, tax policy, and so forth than the EU nations; will their influence "seep into" the Western European countries, or will the pressure to "conform" be too great?