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On the Errors in Jeff Daniels’ Newsroom Rant September 16, 2016

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
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There is a video clip that continues to surface on Facebook periodically.  Each time this clip surfaces, it continues to draw fresh accolades from many a user.  Of course, I am talking about this oft-shared clip below:

Many users seem to gush over how the character played by Jeff Daniels “nails it,” to use the modern vernacular.  The message of Daniel’s character is blunt:  “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”  It is an impassioned rant on a stage, and perhaps the best explanation for its wide appeal is that it makes an overall emotional, yet ostensibly learned attempt to explain what ails America today.  In so doing, however, the character actually ends up libeling America, as the message behind his rant takes much for granted, and in the end, is destitute of foundation.

To ensure intellectual honesty, the character, Will McAvoy, demonstrates an important decree of rectitude early in his answer to a question from an audience member.  He prudently observes that James Madison was a genius, that the U.S. Constitution is a masterpiece, and even goes so far to say that the Declaration of Independence is, in his words, “the single greatest piece of American writing.”  Agree or disagree with the last clause, one strongly can agree with the impetus behind the observation.

Where McAvoy quickly errs, however, is the litany that follows after what he stated correctly.  The reason this litany is baseless, on the whole, is that this attempted chastisement of an audience member is replete with half-truths, carelessly listed without the slightest bit of context.  To wit:

“Canada has freedom.  Japan has freedom.  The UK, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium….207 sovereign states in the world, and 180 of them have freedom.”

Truly?  One-hundred eighty countries out of 207 sovereign nation-states is a percentage of nearly eighy-seven.  Google indicates that there are 196 countries in toto, and of those, not even half of them on a map have been color-coded “free” by Freedomhouse.org.

Moreover, just viewing the small list of countries that McAvoy cites, (Japan, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium) are “free” due to the fact that it was America that either freed them from fascist totalitarianism, or made sure (in the case of Great Britain) that they remained unmolested by it during the Second World War.  Moreover, America protected all these countries from the Soviet Union’s imperialist advances during the Cold War.  Only the greatest nation in the world could claim such feats.

Pursuant to the same point, the Bill of Rights, a crucial document that puts checks on government’s never-ending appetite for power and control, is absent in Europe.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support…that we’re the greatest country in the world.”  Obviously, he overlooked the fact that the free world has expanded greatly since the Second World War on account of America’s efforts.  He also overlooked how it was America’s efforts that ultimately brought down the Evil Empire that was the Soviet Union.  But when one is consumed by emotion, why allow for this inconvenient truth to interfere with one’s self-indulgent litany?

“We’re seventh in literacy,” he continues, “twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, fourth in exports.”

These statistics seem so randomly drawn as to give the discerning observer the sense that they were fabricated.  Indeed, basic research validates this scrutiny.  Are we truly 49th in the world in our life expectancy?  In reality, it is 31st.  Still not great, but it obviously shows the error and lack of truth in his rant.

So what might account for a life expectancy of only 79.3 years, compared to Japan’s, the leader at 83.7 years?  Leftists relish using this misleading statistic as an accusation against our supposedly defective healthcare system.  What is conveniently ignored in this instance is that America is the most diverse country on earth compared to Japan, which is very homogeneous.  Leftists usually worship diversity as one of their many false gods, but conveniently overlook that one of the side-effects of “diversity” is diversity of behaviors.  Some behaviors lead to long, healthy lives, while others will cut life short.  Such diversity of behaviors account of having, on average, 4.4 fewer years of expect life compared to Japan.  To express it differently, the greatest doctors in the world cannot do anything about the rampant murder rates in many inner cities, which naturally bring down the national lifespan average.  But in things doctors can control, such as cancer survival rates, we do indeed lead the world.

Concerning being “third in per capita income,” the same thing regarding diversity applies.  Not everybody has equal ability to be equally productive.  Not everybody is equally ambitious.  More to the point, there will always be those who worked harder than most other people.  With such a wide range of those proclivities within our population (all 319,000,000 of us), is there no surprise what our per capita GDP is slightly lower than that of small, homogeneous Luxembourg?

How about all the high taxes in Japan and much of Europe that discourage entrepreneurship and increased productivity compared to America?  Did Jeff Daniels’ script writers factor that key element into the equation regarding the supposed “freedom” in the countries he casually listed?

Already having demonstrated to be cavalier with the facts, McAvoy nevertheless continues:

“We only lead the world in three categories:  number of incarcerated citizens per capita; number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”  Well.

Concerning the first point, it is a commentary on two things.  First, too many laws.  He may have a point, but he fails to mention it, and it surely deserves further, in-depth discussion as to the systemic legal reform we desperately need (John Stossel once offered a novel idea of clearing out antiquated laws and placing sunset provisions on all laws retained and added).  But the other thing regarding incarceration rate conveniently overlooks the fact that many of the perpetrators are those who have bad, warped values, who must be removed from civil society so civil society remains safe from the evils they would otherwise perpetrate.

Concerning McAvoy sniffing about adults believing in angels, it betrays his fundamental misunderstanding of what has made America great in the first place.  A strong religious grounding (specifically of the Judeo-Christian varieties) is essential to the well-functioning of America.  Our Founding Fathers knew this when they first practiced statecraft.  Indeed, John Adams concisely underscored this necessity when he observed “[O]ur Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Angels are thoroughly understood and valued within Judeo-Christian theology, and McAvoys casual, callous dismissal of such belief betrays his true ignorance of a necessary pillar to America’s fundamental greatness.

Concerning the third point regarding defense spending, and why ours is so huge compared to “the next 26 countries,” that is because almost all of those “26 countries” rely on America to not only protect itself from evil regimes and rogue terror groups, but they also rely on America to come to their own defense in their own possible time of need.  Many countries in western Europe have allowed for their militaries to atrophy because since the end of the Second World War, they counted on America for their own defense from the Soviets during the Cold War, and from terrorists today.

The error that leftists always make is equating “greatest” with “perfect”.  No reasonable person would make such an equivalency.  Moreover, reasonable people would also concede that systemic problems exist that need to be addressed so that we maintain our top spot amongst the other nations overall.  Rather than strive for perfection (unattainable, as humans are inherently imperfect), to maintain the greatest, one must simply strive to be better.  We have excelled at that since our founding.  Let us always keep in mind that our liberties are not granted by our Creator as means unto themselves, but rather as means to strive for improvement itself.

On an even more fundamental level, it has escaped a critical mass of user’s notices on social media, of a fundamental, logical implication within the rant in question.  If America is no longer the greatest country in the world anymore, which country has taken its place in the supreme spot of rank of nations?  Is it Canada, with only eleven percent of the population of its might neighbor to its south?  Is it China, what with its systemic problems of entrenched totalitarian government and continued human right violations, coupled with disturbing demographic trends of age?  Is it France or Germany, with its critical masses of unassimilated Moslem immigrants who do not share the values of the generous countries who have let them escape their origins of squalor?  If McAvoy/Daniels and his sycophants still cling to this message even after demonstrating it is lacking in reason, they continue to fail to select the country that has supplanted America as the greatest of nations.  Perhaps that might be the baseless rant’s greatest failing of all.

***********

As a postscript, the fellow seat next to the Will McAvoy character gave an all too expedient, incomplete, and lame answer.  Freedom is all well and good, but as already mentioned, for liberty to mater, it must be leveraged for improvement, wed to proper religious grounding.  The lady on his other side gave an answer that inadvertently misled.  “Diversity” and “inclusion” are ornaments, not strengths, of a great nation.  To relay on those two ornaments as structural elements to uphold a nation is as foolish and dangerous as to build one’s house on a foundation of sand.

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