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Mitt Romney versus Walter Ong on What's Important in Our Western Cultural Heritage

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 3, 2012: When he was in Israel recently, Mitt Romney got himself into a controversy by saying that the cultural superiority of the Israelis over the Palestinians accounts for the economic advantage of the Israelis over the Palestinians. He also used some wildly erroneous economic statistics about both the Israelis and the Palestinians.


But Romney subsequently posted an op-ed piece at the National Review Online affirming his basic position: "Culture Does Matter" (July 31, 2012), which is free from the wildly erroneous economic statistics he used in Israel. It is quite clear that the title of Romney's op-ed piece means that culture matters for economic prosperity.


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Is President Obama likely to say, "No, culture does not matter for economic prosperity"? I doubt if he will.


But I have the feeling that Romney's op-ed piece expresses his core beliefs, which otherwise have been hard to pin down. For this reason, I want to discuss his op-ed piece.

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In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I want to give Romney credit for not saying in his op-ed piece that only culture matters. By not saying this, he leaves the door open for people such as Jared Diamond to highlight non-cultural factors such as biological and geographic features that can also contribute to economic prosperity. However, Romney may not have been this careful in his remarks in Israel recently.


In his op-ed piece, Romney emphasizes certain key cultural factors as extremely important: political freedom and economic freedom. In short, Romney's thesis in his op-ed piece is that political freedom and economic freedom are key factors in contributing to economic prosperity.


Now, is President Obama likely to argue the antithetical position -- that political freedom and economic freedom are not key factors in contributing to economic prosperity? I doubt if he will.

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So if Mitt Romney and President Obama do not disagree about the importance of these two key factors, what kind of a political debate, if any, are we going to get between these two presidential candidates in 2012?


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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