Anti-Americanism is the prevailing disease of intellectuals today. Like other diseases, it doesn't have to be logical or rational.
The U.S. is the world's most successful democracy. The right of voters to elect more than 80,000 public officials, the length and thoroughness of electoral campaigns, the pervasiveness of the media and the almost daily reports by opinion polls ensure that government and electorate do not diverge for long and that Washington generally reflects the majority opinion in its actions.
It is this feature that intellectuals--especially in Europe--find embittering. They know they must genuflect to democracy as a system. They cannot openly admit that an entire people--especially one comprising nearly 300 million, who enjoy all the freedoms--can be mistaken. But in their hearts these intellectuals do not accept the principle of one person, one vote. They scornfully, if privately, reject the notion that a farmer in Kansas, a miner in Pennsylvania or an auto assembler in Michigan can carry as much social and moral weight as they do. In fact, they have a special derogatory word for anyone who acts on this assumption: "populist."
In the jargon of intellectual persiflage, populism is almost as bad as fascism--indeed, it's a step toward it. Hence, the argument goes, the U.S. is not so much an "educated democracy" as it is a media-swayed and interest-group-controlled populist regime.
Second, anti-Americanism is a function of cultural racism. An astonishingly high proportion of European elites know very little about U.S. history or culture and even deny that they have a separate existence apart from their European roots.
You might think, therefore, that European elites would seek to learn something from such a successful process. Not at all: The view is that sophisticated, civilized Europe has nothing to learn from "adolescent" America.
Third, European elites tend to look at Americans as a subcivilized mass, whose function is to be obedient consumers in a system run by big business. The role of competition in U.S. economic life--and in every other aspect of life--is ignored, because competition is something Continental Europeans like to keep to a minimum and under careful control.
Although Americans are seen as highly materialistic consumers, they are also despised and feared for their spiritual interests, their participation in religious worship and their subscription to creeds of morality. Europeans see no inconsistency in their condemnation of the U.S. for being at one and the same time paganly unethical and morally zealous.
The truth is, any accusation that comes to hand is used without scruple by the Old World intelligentsia. Anti-Americanism is factually absurd, contradictory, racist, crude, childish, self-defeating and, at bottom, nonsensical. It is based on the powerful but irrational impulse of envy--an envy of American wealth, power, success and determination. It is an envy made all the more poisonous because of a fearful European conviction that America's strength is rising while Europe's is falling.