In early October I was watching the Today Show as the hosts talked about a recent study that claimed Europeans were happier than Americans. Their examples of European superiority were cheese and vacation time. Then the hosts, who included Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie, struggled to think of something Americans did better than Europeans. Matt Lauer joked that it might be “binge TV watching.” Another sarcastically said “fast food”
Al Roker attempted to stick up for America and suggest that we’re making a lot of great cheeses now. Guthrie haughtily said, “Like Velveeta?”
It may be popular in the media to deride the concept of American exceptionalism, but they’re not fooling everyone. In the new book, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World author Daniel Hannan makes the case for why English-speaking people have preserved liberty and why we are seeing these views be abandoned in Washington D.C.
Hannan is the former president of the Oxford University Conservatives and was elected to the European Parliament in 1999. He also writes for several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and London’s Daily Telegraph. In 2009, a three minute video of Hannan’s response to a speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown went viral, garnering millions of views. Following the popular YouTube clip, Hannan did interviews on Fox News with Glenn Beck Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity.
In Inventing Freedom, Hannan writes:
The European Union is based on the premise that its twenty-seven member states share a common civilization. While their cultures might diverge at the margins, the theory goes, all sign up to the shared liberal democratic values of the West.
The reality is different. The three precepts that define Western civilization – the rule of law, democratic government, and individual liberty – are not equally valued across Europe. When they act collectively, the member states of the EU are quite ready to subordinate all three to political imperatives.
While some deride the concept of American (or Western) exceptionalism, it’s nice to know that we have allies in Europe who know that America is more than TV and Velveeta and who are willing to fight for our shared ideals.
The De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures and free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.
1. What one thing would you do as President "just because you could"?
I don’t have a US birth certificate – I don’t know whether that’s still a deal-breaker – but I’d restore the constitutional balance between federal and state authorities as it stood before the Civil War. Then, like President Obama, I’d repair to the golf course.
2. Tell me about your favorite teacher and how he or she influenced your life.
The most useful lesson I learned in a classroom was from an English teacher called Mr. Harman when I was 13. He taught me the simple lesson that, when speaking, you don’t need to fill the space between words with noise. Instead of saying “uh, um”, just fill the space with silence. Come to think of it, that’s something else President Obama could usefully have picked up.
3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?
I’d be a theater critic. There is more humanity in one Shakespeare play than in a lifetime in politics.
4. Tell me about a public or private moment when you thought to yourself, "This is what Elvis felt like every day.”
Eating a cheeseburger in front of the TV. I think the King did that rather a lot in his latter years.
5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
America’s Dumbest Criminals.
6. What's the best present you ever received?
My Labrador, Max, when I was 8. Sweetest-natured dog I’ve ever known.
7. What’s the best present you ever gave?
I love giving my god-children hideous, garish plastic toys that they adore, but that their parents would never buy them. Obviously it’s not nearly as funny when people do the same for my kids!
8. What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?
I can’t answer this one light-heartedly. All Anglosphere peoples, not just Americans, should be grateful for our shared patrimony of liberty under law.
9. Who would be on the perfect "Red Eye" panel?
John Milton, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Margaret Thatcher
10. What books are on your reading list?
I can’t wait for the fifth and final volume of Robert Caro’s LBJ biography. There are some non-fiction works by the amazing Canadian novelist Robertson Davies that I’ve been storing up. And I still have one or two unread P G Wodehose stories on my Kindle.
11. What would you like tomorrow's headline to say?
Britain votes to leave the European Union.
12. What do you want people to take away after reading your new book?
That we’re luckier than we know. The common lot of our species, through the ages, has been oligarchy, oppression and slavery. We are exceptionally fortunate, we English-speaking peoples, to live in a place and at a time when people can hold their rulers to account, and when the individual is elevated above the state.
Be the first to read Lisa De Pasquale's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.