(Editor’s Note: This blog post is best absorbed while listening to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the background.)
Every Fourth of July I usually try to take a least a few minutes noting where our nation has been, where we are and where we’re going. It sort of the equivalent of spending a little amount of time focusing on the “True Meaning of Christmas” each December; preventing me from feeling guilty engorging myself on food and drink. I’m most happy to report that a sober analysis shows we still have MUCH to be proud of.
The United States of America was the world’s first large-scale experiment with representative Democracy. Yes, there were other nation-states with elected legislatures in the past; but the United States was different in many significant ways. The nation was fomented in revolution. It was the natural extension of the Age of Reason where, for the first time, people began to question by what right Kings ruled. What started with the Magna Carta in 1215 had boomed in the intervening centuries, fueled by the printing press and increased literacy, and had fundamentally transformed Western Civilization. It also extended to religion, where centuries of challenges to the rule of the Roman Catholic Church had resulted in Protestantism and a whole witches brew of other denominations and sects.
But the key element in the formation of the United States was summed up in three words in the preamble to our Constitution. “We the people.” This was a nation founded because of US, the rank-and-file, the serfs. Its foundational documents went through great pains to cement the protection of basic rights as its cornerstone. Conversely, the rights of The State (Monarchy), were reined in everywhere possible. In short, this nation was formed by giving a big fat middle finger to the very thought of the State’s supremacy over the individual.
You can argue that it was elites who were largely responsible for drafting our founding documents, and you would be correct. But these “elites” were yearning for the same thing the serfs of the Middle Age longed for. The freedom to choose one’s own destiny, to succeed or fail, and to be ultimately responsible for their own life, property and happiness.
Has it worked? I would submit that the overwhelming amount of evidence offers an emphatic “YES.” There has never been another nation where someone had a greater chance of moving upwards in terms of social class. No other nation has created as many “rich people.” And that is to say nothing of the advances (technological and other) that have come from Americans. And I would further opine that the fact innovators can keep a larger percentage of the fruits of their labor has helped spur much of the innovation. If you know that most of what you produce will be confiscated, you are less likely to go through the trouble of producing something exceptional. That is human nature, not rocket science.
You may not like talking about military superiority but it is worth considering when we’re trying to determine if the United States has been a boom or a bust. We are the world’s only superpower. For the first time in the history of the planet, one nation has de facto control of all the major oceans. You are MORE than entitled to critique our military’s involvement and tactics…but there can be no denying that the United States military machine is the most formidable force on the planet.
Will it last? Nothing lasts…especially in an era where information and resources are swapped and traded at an exponentially greater rate than at any point in world history. But the entrepreneurial spirit that is part of the United States’ DNA will keep us on top for the foreseeable future. Our business and social climate allowed the US to dominate the internet and related industries. If China had assumed control over the lion’s share of electronic communications, the US might already be sliding into also-ran status. But they didn’t and we’re not.
I do not doubt my liberal friends when they say they love America as well. But like with so many other things, our definition of what constitutes “America” is markedly different. For too many people, the biggest benefit of “America” is in its allocation of public resources. They see our greatest good as being tangible things that can be offered by the state. They see the State as a great tool to dish out good things. They see a nation that has spent trillions on social welfare programs and thinks that the best solution is MORE spending.
That would be fine and dandy; but the state does not CREATE any of those good things. They are obtained from us. That is fundamentally different from the concept of sharing with a neighbor in need. It is also ultimately unsustainable. It goes back to the old argument, Do we measure success by how many people are receiving Government aid; or by the number of people who no longer require it.
When I think of “America,” I think of a bold socio-political experiment that—serious bumps aside—has worked out FAR better than anyone could have imagined. A nation that has become great and powerful not because of government; but because of our “system” of government. A nation born in rebellion, forged in hard times, and one that will ultimately survive (I hope) because it is about US!
If you’ve read this far you’re either bored or troubled. 🙂 Happy Fourth!