American Exceptionalism

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Is America exceptional? Yes. In so many ways. Those that can't recognize that, like many on the left, are demonstrating an anti-American bias that it out of touch with reality. Examples include: first country to give the world a people's Constitution, a Bill of Rights, to have the people govern, the only country to protect the right of self defense (2A), the least imperialistic for how much power we had. We fought a civil war to free another people (the slaves), and fought most of our wars to protect others: Europe from the Nazi's, prevented the USSR from taking over Europe (Cold War), freed the Iraqi's from a tyrant, stopped the enslavement of Korea and slowed the enslavement of South East Asia from the communists. The most philanthropic, and one of the most open to trade. We had the most entrepreneurial freedoms. We pay more in healthcare in order to subsidize the world's medical innovation (over half is done by the U.S., more because of our free market). We gave the world more than any other country in economics, culture, science and technology: from the Internet to microprocessors, going to the moon, Smart Phones, Search, Social Media, various drugs and medical innovations, the airplane, and so on. No other 5 countries combined have done as many innovations because our economic and personal freedoms, our capitalism, and our willingness to invest in making the world a better place. That's not just jingoism, that's recognizing an exceptional global performance.
Issue Lie Truth
American Exceptionalism To the left all countries have done good and bad (including America), so Stalin, America, Pol Pot are all loosely equivalent morally. Thus American Exceptionalism is ignorant patriotic jingoism only done by ignoring social injustices like slavery (blacks), genocide (Indians), Imperialism/Colonialism, Conquest (wars), income inequality, and so on. Thus the only exceptionalism they recognize is us being exceptionally bad. The facts are that America has been exceptional in many ways, from our Laws, Liberties, Economics, Culture, Charity, Technology and even wars. Most of our wars were fought to free people and increase liberty, as opposed to conquest. No country has had as much power, and exploited it as little as we have. So while we're plenty flawed, we've behaved better than those that criticize us, often in the very areas that they criticize us. We gave the world more than any other 5 countries combined, despite being only 5% of the global population. And that's exceptional by definition.


🗒️ NOTE:
Alexis de Tocqueville - A few of his observations were deep and insightful, many shallow and off-target, like he way under-estimated America in where we would go in Science, Arts and Literature. But even an arrogant Frenchman was able to see that America, and our democracy, was unique and unrivaled in the world. Unlike the rest of the world, you weren't stuck in your roles based on your birthright: it didn't matter what tribe/family you belonged to, there was far less interest in classes, it was a meritocracy where more than any other place in the world, your efforts could write the script of your life, instead of just your lineage and connections. But he didn't mean that as a compliment. He wasn't a fan of Individualism, and America was a society dedicated to individualism. He sort of looked down on that philosophical concept as as selfish and immature -- nearly as foreign to him as to a Confucianist or other collectivist philosophy. And he feared that our kind of democracy would collapse into something that closely resembled fascism. It seems he was right to fear what he warned was the "Tyranny of the Majority" -- it just seems it fit the mind-set of Europeans (Italians, Germans, Spanish, and French) more than Americans, as they keep falling for that, and we did not.

American Exceptionalism is the belief that we've done things the rest of the world has not, and done things in a way that's Unique to America. It was first written about with Alexis de Tocqueville [1] writing his famous book, by the French and for the French, titled, "Democracy in America"[2]. During the 1830's he travelled around America, trying to understand how our Representative (Republican) Democracy was succeeding in the U.S., while it failed other places it was tried (like in France). He missed many reasons, but even in the 1830's he recognized our exceptionalism -- many can't even do that.

The AE's (Anti-exeptionalists) are often typified by the anti-American, anti-colonialist/anti-imperialists and what's taught in a lot of our universities and now even high schools under the guise of political correctness or Social Justice. Again, there's a variety of divergent views on this, but they have similar things in common: primarily in the moral relativism that all countries have done good and bad (including America), and least from those cultures position, so they're all loosely equivalent morally. The first might be true, but someone who jay-walks is not the moral equivalent of a tyrant or a rapist. Even when you look at our worst: Slavery (Blacks), genocide (Indians), Imperialism/Colonialism, Conquest (wars), income inequality, and so on, America has been better that most of the rest. So while the only exceptionalism they recognize is us being exceptionally bad, that's just their ignorance or bias.

The Newsroom - Anti-exceptionalism is sort of summed up in a speech made in the HBO propaganda series called The Newsroom. America now sucks. It was better when we were taxed more and listened blindly to the Press/progressives, but since we've learned from those mistakes, we suck! It's Sorkin fast speaking leftist-dogma colonic masquerading as bipartisan common sense. The reason it comes so fast, is so you don't have time to think about how insipidly wrong each of the points actually are. It tends to show only two things, (1) why the political left is right, (2) why the political right is wrong. The best statements are misleading, the worst are dishonest and wrong. But the audience is meant to be the shallow and feelers, not the deep and thinkers.

Why did we "win"?

What we know is that Western Civilization started out-performing the rest of the world starting around the 1500's. We won. Why? There are loosely 3 competing theories about how the west has won..

  1. Oppression theory is that the west was more aggressive and came in and conquered and oppressed the other cultures.
  2. Environmental theory is that we just had more resources, location and opportunity, or we were better humans (racial superiority) and it was all destined because of inherent advantages.
  3. Cultural theory is that we were a better culture.

The AE's will give you the first two. If you assume we aren't exceptional (as they do), then it has to be because of oppression and situation (environment). We were just more brutal and won through oppression/conquest, and we had the luck of being born in a better place with more resources and opportunity. Only none of that is true.

It only works if you're more advanced and outnumber them: we had neither.

  • If oppression was how you succeeded then the Muslim world, Native Americans and Asian were usually far more brutal, valued life far less than even we did. And the west had a pretty shoddy record back then.
  • If the environment/resources mattered, then Africa had more riches and people, the same with Asia or the Americas. Though the Americas had stopped advancing somewhere around the stone or bronze age. Muslims were as populous and had a stronger civilization and more science. So while we did use force/oppression (as did all the others), if conquest and brutality alone, or your environment alone defined what culture would win, the Europeans would have been a footnote in history.

So that leaves cultural superiority. Which begs the question, if that's true, what was superior about the West and America in particular?

It turns out that's pretty easy to answer and observe, as many have. Which proves the hypothesis that we were exceptional:

  1. Cultural Appropriation - Because America was made up of people from other places, we didn't value any one tradition as much. We borrowed freely from other cultures. While others were more tribalistic, and isolationist, they couldn't adapt as quickly. Since we could borrow/learn from a larger swath of the globe (or from many more within that reach), we could advance faster in more dimensions at the same time. Isolationist cultures in the middle east, or Asia, only gained a little at the trading ports, but took forever to adopt things that were foreign, as they resisted outside influence. We adopted and adapted and advanced faster.
  2. Democracy / Individualism (instead of collectivism) -- while others saw it as a weakness to be decentralized and not have a central authority, they were wrong. Authoritarianism or an autocracy seems like it will win, since a leader can mandate adoption and those things they focus on can move faster... in that one area. But historically an individual has blind-spots and a focus. A million individuals can innovate in a million different directions at once, not just the one area that the king/leader mandates... if you take the shackles off and trust individuals (and the economy to adapt). Frederick Hayek spelled it out with his Nobel Prize winning ideas about Dispersed Knowledge -- the people on the bottom know more about specific problems than the people on the top. So the fewer decisions that have to go up and down the chain, the faster and better that most decisions will be. Our individualism (bottom-up fixes) led to us out-innovating the rest of the world, even when we were a fraction their size.
  3. Captialism -- the Muslim and Asian world had strict (often religious) views against "usery" and loaning money (capital), and Africa/Americas hadn't even mastered the ideas of currency. The west plugged their noses at these ideas and mostly tolerated capitalism. There is some residual bigotry in anti-semitism/anti-bankers or the leftist views against industrialists/corporations, but that's just old world ignorant superstitions masquerading as progressivism. Borrowing money to create something that would be worth more to the investor and borrower is a win-win that lead to huge growth. Instead of every business only being able to grow as fast as it could grow organically, a good idea could scale much faster through borrowing (capital). And investors that profited could loan (invest) in more growth: that's capitalism. You could take land, materials, and labor you couldn't afford, put them together and build a house/factory, that was worth more than what existed before and what you borrowed: everyone won. And the good ideas could flourish and permeate society much quicker. That employed workers, that increased the value of the land and community, that drove the economy and added value.
  4. Science over superstition/tradition -- we care about results and not traditions. You can make something or show something, and we'd rethink our world-view.... eventually. While in much of the rest of the world, they'd kill you for challenging the status quo/authority, especially if it contradicted a religious/cultural beliefs, we allowed it to reward you financially, and the culture through advancement.

Many get those backwards: they hate capitalism without understanding it, or what it gave us. They think collectivism (central authorities) and group think (not individualism) is the way to succeed. They attack cultural appropriation because it erodes the victim narrative they thrive on. They need individuals to conform to their ideas and even fake language of political correctness. Free thinkers don't vote for people that would take their liberty away, so some have to shout down and stifle the individualists. Even in Science, it's all about facts over Superstition.... to them it is about the 97% claiming that Global Warming is man-made, not about the facts that there really isn't very good hard evidence that we are really the cause (as it started hundreds of years before our cars/industry), or even if we are the cause, that it might not be that bad. You can't reason on those topics, because it's all about emotion and not challenging the herd/consensus.

PragerU on American Exceptionalism

Prager lists some of the things that are American Exceptionalism as:
  1. The right to fail - to succeed, you need to be able to fail, learn from your mistakes, and try, try, again. (Entrepreneurial risks).
  2. Most Philanthropic - or at least generous with trade and opening our markets
  3. Fights for the freedom of others - the Anti-Switzerland. Instead of profiteering off war, or European Imperialism we expend to create free countries that will self-governed trading partners.

Bill Whittle American Exceptionalism

Whittle lists some of the things that are American Exceptionalism like what we're top on, despite being only 5% of the world's population:
  1. Military exceptionalism: both the world's strongest power, the least abusive relative to that power.
  2. Economic exceptionalism: produces more per person than any other place on earth. We've dominated in agriculture, industrial and information -- the 3 great economic ages.
  3. Scientific exceptionalism: if Scientific citations are units of science, the U.S. produces 4x as many citations globally than the #2 U.K. More than the next 6 combined. Not to mention various innovations like the Internet.
  4. Cultural exceptionalism: mentions how our movies are the top 50 in the world, our musicians like Michael Jackson, and how we influence the world culture.

We dominate anything we're involved in. Why? Because we believe in small government, individualism, and that wealth can be created through ideas and hard work. All things the left vehemently disagrees with, and holds down in other places.


  • America is big: Cars, Stores, Highways, Food,
  • America is cheaper: our free'er markets, lower taxes, and more freedoms allow the price of everything to be less than many other countries (relative to earnings)
  • University pride
  • American Football is not Soccer

Why don't we care that we're different? Because we're better. The reason buy bigger cars, is because they have more room and are more comfortable. Why are things cheaper? Because we had less government telling us how to do things, so people can afford more. Our Universities educate more people, as a percentage of the population. And Football is a hell of a lot more interesting game to watch than Soccer.

Most counties in the world have protest against people not like them, they look the other way when it's not their fight, or have protests in France against Jews, they attack Christains in the Islamic world, Palestinians refuse to accept Israels right to exist, and spend any aid building and launching rockets at Israel. Russia and China reserve the right to annex neighbors, to,"protect" the émigrés they forced to live there. But in America, all the groups that can't get along anywhere else in the world, seem to manage to get along here.

On a larger scale, and despite more diversity than almost anywhere else. (More or less). Instead of someone calling the cops, or thinking it is someone else's problem, or selling popcorn to a gang rape and offering the rapist a place to hide their pillage (like Switzerland), in America we say, "cut that shit out. And leave them alone." Not always, but more often than anywhere else in the world.

So despite a fraction of us that want to divide and polarize us into groups of special interests to garner votes, we more or less manage to resist that polarization, and don't all pile on those which are different. We are the only country that has had hundreds of thousands willing to die to protect the rights of people NOT like them. Lots of countries had slavery, only America had millions of whites willing to fight to end it for blacks. South Koreans, Jews, South Asians, Kurds, Kuwaiti's, Serbs/Muslims in Kosovo, Panamanians, Grenada, and even the Germans and Japanese in WWII... all owe us, not only beating their enemies and freeing them, but helping them to rebuild... instead of being the tyrannical victors they would have done to anyone else. All owe American exceptionalism a debt that can never be repaid, only paid forward: which they have not done. The only country that has tried has been the U.K. and that's because they are where we learned many of our values from, even if we took them to the next level.


None of this is to say we are without flaws. Hardly. We've fucked up many things we got involved in... but compared to the alternative? That's what the America haters don't get. Should we have slowed the plight in Vietnam? When we look at what happened with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or the Chinese/USSR Cultural Revolutions that killed tens of millions, I think the cost differential is obvious (to those with their eye's open). We inherited slavery from Europe, Africa and the Middle East... and fought a war to free them. And then fought for their civil rights. We empowered Women and minorities. We don't always move as fast as they want, but we do move... and that's a cost of liberty.

If everyone has free will, then you move slower than if you follow the herd, and you control the herd-think. You still get there, just a little slower. Since the left is addicted to change (even if it isn't for the better), they attack that individualism that would slow down their ideas of progress. And in order to back it up, they revise history and distort perceptions in order to further their cause. The truth about America's success, why we won, and what we've accomplished without progressive extremism, is all in their way -- so they just re-invent or ignore the past, rewrite the present, in order to control the future. But if I have to give up liberty and common sense to have their future, I want none of it.


📚 References

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