Saturday, December 07, 2002

Here's another from the old site that we thought new readers might be interested in.

Oct. 3, 2002: One of the five articles listed by Steven Den Beste in his Recommended Reading names seven factors that contribute to a state's lack of success. As you can see, Saddam's Iraq pretty much has all of these characteristics. What about Spain?

Restrictions on the free flow of information. Not true in Spain, though the leftism of the media is rather more monolithic than in the US and the central government owns its own TV channel, as do several autonomous regional governments including Catalonia.

Subjugation of women. Not true in Spain, though there is rather more societal sexism here than in the US. Still, women have it pretty good in Spain compared to a lot of other places. We certainly wouldn't call them "subjugated".

Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure. This exists in Spain to a certain degree. Spaniards talk about the individual, left at the mercies of rampant capitalism, forced to compete or fail on capitalism's terms. This is certainly an excuse for individual failure. As for collective failure, Spaniards and especially Latin Americans often blame others--especially punching-bag America--for the fix they got themselves into. An example from here in Spain is that "You Americans imposed Franco on us." Completely false. America remained neutral in the Spanish Civil War, which Franco won largely because his side was united and the other side spent more time squabbling among themselves. (Yes, we know this is an oversimplification. Please don't write us about it.) Franco maintained power, even though the Americans were boycotting Spain, through the Forties and into the Fifties. Then Eisenhower decided that, though we still didn't like Franco, he would be a useful anti-Soviet ally, and so gave American recognition and military aid to the Franco regime because we figured that bad as it was it was better than a communist regime--only fourteen years after Franco seized power. The Spaniards manifestly failed to get rid of their own dictator, but they refuse to accept that responsibility. A lot of over-55 loudmouths in the Spanish press today kept nice and quiet thirty years ago or so.

Extended family or clan as basis for social organization. Used to be more acute in Spain than now. People still tend to trust Cousin Luis more than somebody they're not related to, though. It's still nowhere near as bad as Somalia.

Domination by a restrictive religion. Not true at all in Spain today. Spain de-Catholicized pretty rapidly in the Seventies; society was already clearly mellowing in the Sixties. In the first, say, twenty years of the Franco dictatorship, though, Spain was in the puritan grip of the Church. What happened was that, as society became more liberal, so did the Church. The Church's influence is often positive today, though it is still pretty antiquated on divorce, birth control, and abortion, especially on divorce, which is still difficult to obtain. The Church was never anywhere near as repressive as, say, the mullahs in Iran, though, and today it is a surprisingly liberal organization.

Low valoration of education. Very much not true in Spain.

Low prestige assigned to work. Not exactly true in Spain, though in the South there are still a good few "agricultural day-laborers" who work a couple of months a year and get paid off in government subsidies. Perhaps one difference is that the American dream is a family, a house, and a good job in a career you like at good pay. If you've achieved that, you've "made good". The Spanish dream, however, is winning the lottery and cashing in big so that you don't ever have to work again. Low regard for work seems to be much more true in Latin America than Spain.

We think that Spain is pretty healthy and doing pretty well, based on these seven factors. It's not a perfect country, but then what is?

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