Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Lithuanians more grown up than Americans?

Will at the League reflects on the painful austerity measures the government of Lithuania undertook to balance its books, and how the Lithuanian people, who remember how hard life was under Soviet occupation, are bearing up stoically. Excerpt:

Are we [Americans] too removed from real hardship to tighten our belts when it matters? The looming budget crisis has provoked plenty of talk about a dysfunctional political system, but maybe gridlock is symptomatic of a public that just isn’t acclimated to the idea of serious fiscal responsibility.

Remember Herbert Stein’s Law! And remember that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve.

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posted April 3, 2010 at 6:49 am

Re: Are we [Americans] too removed from real hardship to tighten our belts when it matters?
Not sure this has anything to do with being removed from hardship. Many people in this country are not so far removed, albeit they have the least amount of slack in their belts to tighten. But even the rest of us are not unaquainted with grief and misery of a non-financial sort. We are not living in that Kingdom here tears have been banished!
I would rather say we just have a lot of selfish jerks in this country who can’t conceive they should ever have to give up anything for the good of their country (or any other cause either). This “I got mine” attitude is plain old disgusting.

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Lord Karth

posted April 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

I believe that it’s a combination of things:
First, unless I miss my guess, the ratio of elderly-beneficiaries to the rest of the voting population is much less skewed in Lithuania than in the US. There may be less of a voting bloc dedicated to receiving entitlements there.
Second, the Lithuanians are caught in between Germany and Russia. They are familiar with having to live with constant danger. The only foreign danger the USA faces is the Mexican/illegal-immigrant Invasion. People in such circumstances may be more accustomed to making personal sacrifices.
Third, the Lithuanians, having recently been under a command-and-control economy, have not been marinated in advertising and hyperconsumerism to the extent that Americans have. Their expected standard of living simply may not be as high there as here.
Your servant,
Lord Karth

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posted April 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

Salam’s column was so blisteringly ignorant that it deflects from the accurate, self-evident point from that there is a time to begin public sector (and entitlement) austerity … just not during the worst economic contraction since the 30’s.
The problem has been running up a large, structural debt during times of GDP growth. period.
Notice also that the austerity solution involves RAISING TAXES.

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posted April 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

The government did it — largely because it was pressed to the wall and literally had no choice — but the article hardly makes the Lithuanians are bearing up stoically. Already-high suicide rate spiking. Fathers drinking away their sorrows in front of the TV. Emigration spiking.
The tough part is that, in California, the measures Lithuania took would mostly be illegal, as in unconstitutional, as well unpopular.

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posted April 3, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I don’t know about Lithuania, but Estonia, one of the others in the group of Baltic states, certainly has seen its share of hard drinking men and long, short-day, long night winter induced blues over the years. It wasn’t easy to emerge from the darkness of post World War II Soviet occupation, but Estonia managed to do pretty well, due to wise handling of the initial period of market reforms after it regained its independence in 1991. Due to the proximity of residents in its capital city, Tallinn, to Finland, some actually had some exposure to Finnish (Western) tv during the Soviet days. This helped a little with the transition to Western ways. What I observed when I first visited in 1992 was the extent to which men drank in public. A female friend who relocated there from the U.S. around that time said dealing with men who had more old fashioned notions of women’s roles, compared to the more enlightened U.S., was a challenge initially, too. But overall, the people certainly knew suffering and deprivation. It astonished me to go into some of the shops in the summer of 1992, a year after the lifting of the Soviet yoke, and to see so little choice in consumer items and to encounter clerks who had not been imbued with the notion that “the customer is always right.”
Naturally, knowing as I do something about what my parents’ countrymen went through during Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991, I just laugh and roll my eyes when I hear handfuls of Americans flap about coming socialism or Marxism here. The conditions are nowhere close to having that happen, but grabbing on to such an image sure seems to comfort some folks, why, I don’t know. Lack of fortitude or and perspective, for some, lack of historical and civic knowledge for others, perhaps. I love the U.S. and am ever so grateful I was born here but that chicken little side of Americans totally baffles me.

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posted April 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm

The American people are plenty grown-up. The bizarre alien beings who have infested the District of Columbia for the last 30 years are the infantile ones.

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Rod Dreher

posted April 3, 2010 at 8:21 pm

How do you suppose they got there, polistra? Who sent them?

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posted April 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Just for context, my grandfather, whom I never was privileged to meet, and who had worked in business, was sent to Siberia when the Soviets occupied Estonia in 1944. I know of people in Estonia who committed suicide after being forced to serve in the Red Army — the army of a nation other than their own — after the war. Who knows what horrors they endured. I’ve read stories of men in other previously democratic and sovereign countries who, facing forced repatriation into the hands of the Soviets after the war due to agreements the western allies made with Stalin, broke windows on trains and cut their throats on the jagged glass rather than submit to subjugation by the Russians. Think about being that desperate. And all that during the lifetimes of some of the parents or grandparents of most people now in the U.S. have had it easy and always will, by comparison. We haven’t faced the horrors other people have and never will. A lot of our sounding spoiled here in the U.S. reflects simple ignorance, it isn’t necesarily meant badly but it certainly strikes anyone who knows anything about totalitarian states and overcoming wounds and scars.

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posted April 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm

“Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate…It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people” – attributed to Andrew Mellon by Herbert Hoover.

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posted April 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Lithuania… Fiscal responsibility and/or madness? A case for the Laffer curve!

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