America is exceptional. We are different. We are, simply put – the best. How dare I so brazenly assert such a thing? Surely there are many areas of human endeavor where some person with a national origin other than the United States has surpassed his American counterpart? Surely, there are foreign institutions which, can be argued, are superior to the American version. These things are true. Yet, the United States of American is still exceptional. It is this exceptional quality that makes us great. Americans would do well to embrace our exceptionalism instead of to deny it. The former will become a self-perpetuating cycle of achievement and grandeur, while the latter will serve to do nothing but reduce us to just another failed country, whose lack of faith in the individual places each into voluntary servitude. American exceptionalism exists. The very notion of exceptionalism serves to keep our country strong and our individual liberty robust.
How am I so sure that American exceptionalism is real?
Examples abound. The most obvious is to simply observe immigration tendencies. People from all over the world are risking life and limb to come to the United States. It is thought that there are some 20 million illegal immigrants in the USA, with hundreds of thousands more coming in each year. Why? Why would these millions of people leave their homes and in many cases, their families, in order to come to the USA? There are myriad reasons including opportunity to make money, to live free from religious persecution, to be safe from tyrannical rulers, and on and on. But why do they choose the USA? Why not some other country? These questions are rhetorical, though certainly an enterprising individual could attempt a list, though to prepare an exhaustive one would be almost impossible: As long as there is human creativity there are new reasons to immigrate to the USA – this is, in itself a testament to our exceptionalism.
Second, look at our poor. Two quick observations will provide a wealth of information about American exceptionalism. First, America’s poor live pretty well. Among those who meet the US government’s criteria for being considered poor – some 45% own their own home; 63% have cable or satellite TV! Be that as it may, it is not what is so telling in terms of American exceptionalism. What is?
The fact that the poor don’t stay poor.
One of the reasons for American exceptionalism is that we are distinctly not a caste system – wealth is not a zero sum game. In America, people are constantly shifting from one “class” to another. Absent a handy study, I’ll take myself as an example.
In 1996, fresh out of college, I made $29,000.00 per year, plus about another $15,000 in commissions from my sales job. 5 years later, I still had a sales job – only this one had a base salary of $65,000.00 and commissions were about double that. Fast forward another 8 years and I am the President and CEO of my own company. Where, but for the United States of America, is such a story possible? The UK? Australia? Maybe. But the restrictions placed on how and when businesses can operate, along with confiscatory tax policies, make this type of upward mobility far more challenging overseas than here in the US.
Now, since I am a (now) a rich white man, maybe I am not the best example of upward mobility. But even in public life, there are scores of figures we can look to as evidence. Heck, 50 years ago a black man couldn’t sit at the lunch counter with me – now we have a black man for the President of the United States! How’s THAT for upward mobility?
Unfortunately, for most liberals, wealth is a zero sum game. That is, there is only a predefined pie and you either have a piece of it or you do not. This is the argument for income confiscation and redistribution. This flawed thinking is also frequently combined with liberal ideas like “relative mobility” and “relative poverty.” By painting a picture of hopeless class struggle, the liberal wins power. When the liberal wins power, Americans lose freedom.
Third, Americans dominate of most every field. Although this is undeniable, it is also easy to attack. Liberals will insist that there are plenty of areas where the USA is inferior to an international rival. But let’s be real here – the USA dominates. In the past 100 years, we have led the way with inventions, discoveries and developments in things like the airplane, the automobile, distributed electricity, production lines, industrial chemicals and applications, the internet and on and on. Yes, I understand that probably every country has some claim to fame. But the sheer quantity of developments, discoveries and inventions in the US dwarfs any other nation by a country mile.
But it is not these developments, inventions and discoveries themselves that speak to American exceptionalism. Rather, it is the fact that these things were made possible by our societal systems. In countries where there are oppressive governments, these types of creative discoveries and inventions are an impossibility. The very structure of the USA created an environment where we could drive so much global development. It is our very structure that makes us exceptional.
This last point gets to the very heart of the matter: there are hundreds or thousands of examples of how we are exceptional. But it is the “why” that is so pertinent.
We are exceptional because we are free to pursue any item of our attraction. Be it material, logical or even emotional, our country is set up to provide each person the maximum latitude to seek happiness as each sees fit. Our social contract provides that we do not disturb our brother while doing so. It is the perfect combination of freedom to act, with social pressure and legal structure to keep order. No other country on Earth has such a perfect system.
The perfection that exists in the USA is fragile, however. In fact, we have become less and less perfect over time, as bureaucrats and politicians confiscate our freedom and earned wealth in one power grab after another.
Although our freedom is eroding slowly over time, we are still exceptional. We are exceptional as evidenced by our success in the world and by the democratic nature of immigration votes. We are exceptional because we are free.
As leftist policy consumes more and more freedom exceptionalism becomes more and more difficult to illustrate. There is a point at which our freedom will become so eroded that we will no longer be exceptional. That time is fast approaching. When the government seeks to control most every aspect of our lives, it will serve only to stifle the creativity that makes us great. The US is exceptional and will remain so until the power hungry left gobbles up the precious freedom that feeds us.