Steven Pinker's "Enlightenment Now" is a fantastic book in which Pinker attempts to apply the ideals of the Enlightenment - reason, science, and humanism to the many broad topics of today. It has changed my thinking and challenged my beliefs and core principles. I've recommended this book to friends and colleagues as I believe it's an important and timely book.
The one question I would love to ask Professor Pinker has to do with the role of the United States in the ability of other countries to live the Social Democratic ideal.
From Enlightenment now pp 365 -
And countries that combine free markets with more taxation, social spending, and regulation than the United States (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Western Europe) turn out to be not grim dystopias but rather pleasant places to live, and they trounce the United States in every measure of human flourishing, including crime, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, and happiness.
My question is - could it be that this is possible because of the groundwork and infrastructure of the United States? Much of the innovation in technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, finance, and energy happens in or because of the US. For all of our faults, we've been a relatively benign world power. If the US were to disappear tomorrow, and the world power balance was to shift to perhaps China, Russia, or some combination of other countries, what would be the result? If the European social democracies had to rely on their own economic engine to sustain their economies, how would they fare? Would they thrive, survive, or collapse?
Maybe my question is better shown as an analogy. Adolescents are often free to pursue their passions because they have parents that provide food, shelter, clothing, and safety. If the parent loses the ability to provide, that same adolescent will find it much harder to pursue their passions as they'll be spending more time and energy covering their needs.
Is it possible that proclaiming, "(social democracies) turn out to be not grim dystopias but rather pleasant places to live". is similar to saying, "Wow, look how great and carefree this teenager's life is!", while not acknowledging the teenager's mom is busting her ass to provide. To not include that mom's contribution in the equation is to not fully understand the equation.
Correct, or not, and why?