Tuesday, August 11, 2009

# Posted 7:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SMALL ISLAND OFF THE COAST OF EUROPE: I just got back from a very short trip to the UK to attend the wedding of an old classmate. One thing that struck me while I was there was the complete unpopularity of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The polls show Labour trailing the opposition Conservatives by as much as 15 points, with less than ten months to go until the next election.

In the old British colony now known as the United States, we seem to take it for granted that it was the mistakes of our politicians and bankers that provoked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Democrats blame the crisis on Republicans and vice versa.

Heading over to the UK, I expected everyone, both strangers and friends, to demand that I explain how the American government managed to ruin everything. When I lived in the UK, no one hesitated to demand justification on my part for all sorts of things that happened in Washington (especially the decision to invade Iraq).

But this time, all the fingers were pointing at Gordon Brown. Brown served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to our Secretary of the Treasury) for ten years before being promoted to Prime Minister. There's really no one else in the UK to shoulder the blame. But why not point a finger or two across the Atlantic?

I'm not sure. The absence of finger-pointing didn't really strike me until I got on the plane back home. Part of the answer may have to do with a general sense of goodwill toward Barack Obama, but I don't see why that should get in the way of blaming Bush, if one were so inclined.

Interestingly, both Americans and Britons have a reputation for being somewhat self-absorbed and parochial. In our rush to point-fingers, have both of us simply assumed that the culprit lurks nearby? Or does democratic politics simply demand that Americans and Britons (and presumably Frenchmen and Germans) all blame their political opponents at home for the crisis, rather than looking abroad?

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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