I don’t know if you could really call it a “gaffe” — because that’s more so a minor thing that gets exaggerated by the media — but Mitt Romney sure did something similar a few days ago. Speaking at a fundraiser in Israel, Romney said that cultural differences explain the disparity in wealth and prosperity between Israelis and Palestinians. I hesitate to call this a gaffe because it has real implications for how Romney views development and economic policy. His comment drew criticism from Palestinian leaders, but Romney dug in his heels and doubled down in a National Review op-ed the next day:
During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it. In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy.
But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fuelled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.