In today’s Times, I read the most weird criticism of the United States I have ever come across, by commentator Jan Morris. I will print the strangest section in full, so you can see what I mean:

[Of life in the US from an Brit’s point of view] “There is grossly too much of almost everything. There is too much money, too much food, too much choice, too much power, too much capitalism, too much spam on the e-mail. Wal-Mart, the ultimate American retailer, employs three million people: on one single day during my visit it opened 39 new stores, and its annual sales last year were bigger than the GNP of Switzerland. Eighty-three TV channels were available in my motel room last night. Last Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune contained, by my bemused count, 51 editorial and advertising sections. The president of Harvard occupies a house valued at $11.5 milion. The supermarket Shaw’s, in Boston offered, last week, 432 different cheeses.

It has all gone, my entrails tell me, too far. Has capitalist democracy itself gone too far? This archetype of the ideology, this world, this realm, this America, strikes me today as tired, bloated and a bit bewildered.”

Um… I suspect there isn’t much of an answer to any questions I could ask about this surreal non-topic either, but I couldn’t let the irrationality of this freak-piece go by without commenting somewhat!

Here goes:

1) Please define “too much” for a nation of almost 300 million people?

2) You say there is “too much” money. Since the wealth is created and not stolen from others, how much is “too much”? I assume since you are willing to say that there is “too much” money, you would no doubt be willing to put a monetary value on the maximum that someone can be allowed to earn before it becomes “too much”?

3) You say there is “too much” food. Umm, sorry to be a pain, but don’t you think a proliferation of food may be a good thing? Or would it be better to have a shortage? I assume you don’t like abundance in any form.

4) Or choice it seems. There is “too much” choice, apparently. Four-hundred and thirty-two different cheeses! How many cheeses would you say is a ‘good’ number of cheeses? How many could we bring in before concluding that there is “too much” choice in the number of cheeses? I guess there could be no possibility that the diversity of the free market could allow that enough DIFFERENT cheese-loving individuals may shop at the supermarket to make it worth their while selling 432 DIFFERENT cheeses in a metropolitan area?

5) You say there is “too much” power. Weird how they have given most of that power to the individual to make their OWN choices. You really think there can be “too much” of that?

6) “Too much” capitalism? What would your alternative look like? PLEASE inform me. You can do BETTER than the single most poverty-quenching, prosperity-building, fair, democratic, freedom-honouring socio-economic system ever practised in the history of civilisation? I believe I’d like to see that!

7) Was your comment on the “too much” email spam a joke?

8) Is Tesco “too much” in the UK, since proportionately there must be a similar number of stores per person to that of Wal-Mart in the States?

9) Do you make use of Wal-Mart employment statistics to prove that its size is “too much”? If so, why does 1% of the population strike you as too many employees? Actually, I don’t know where you got this figure, but according to the Wal-Mart corporate website, the figure is 1.3 million – proportionately a similar percentage of the population to that which Tesco employ in the UK. Is this really about the United States, or is it about corporations all over the globe?

10) How big does a corporation have to be / how many employees can it have before you declare it to be “too much”?

11) 83 TV channels? I’m in Northern Ireland and I have 350. “Too much”? If that’s the case, your argument is not particularly with America. In fact, umm – can I just ask – what IS your argument????

12) You ask if “capitalist democracy itself [has] gone too far?” Have you seen any other system deliver anywhere near this level of individual liberty? Or is that in fact what your entire rant is really all about?