American Exceptionalism is the theory that the United States of America was the first nation created with liberty, equal rights and laissez-faire all rolled into one. American Exceptionalism believes that the fierce adherence to these ideals can lead to the fairest form of government where a person’s lot in life is dependent on what he chooses to make of it, not what socioeconomic class he was born into.
Is that really true? Can someone’s destiny be altered by his hard work, ingenuity and creativity? Is one’s success truly independent of the situation he was born into? In my opinion, yes! When America truly embraces liberty, equal rights and laissez-faire then a person’s limitations become only what he places on himself. Throughout American history there are countless examples of people overcoming socioeconomic roadblocks and becoming successful and I am one of those (more on that later).
But is American Exceptionalism still alive? From an NPR article:
“The American Dream is a crucial thread in this country’s tapestry, woven through politics, music and culture.”
“Though the phrase has different meanings to different people, it suggests an underlying belief that hard work pays off and that the next generation will have a better life than the previous generation.”
“But three years after the worst recession in almost a century, the American Dream now feels in jeopardy to many.”
Alexis De Tocqueville wrote a book in the early 1830’s called “Democracy in America” and the following site reviews this book and there is a key take-away below that seems to have predicted the downfall of American Exceptionalism:
“De Tocqueville saw the potential flaw in the American ideology which included the concepts of both liberty and equality. He saw that there would come a time when liberty would conflict with the American passion for equality. He saw that through the exercise of liberty, some citizens would prosper more than others. As the citizens became aware of increasing economic and social differentiation between themselves and their neighbors, they would view their neighbors’ success as developing inequality and would demand a return to the perceived equality of the past.”
Even in 1830, Alexis De Tocqueville saw that Obama and other Leftists would use the Income Inequality meme to garner support for their socialistic ideas. You can’t have liberty and a passion for equality without the have-nots feeling disgruntled by the haves. This condition will happen everywhere but there used to be a time in America when the have-nots saw the success of the haves and it motivated those in the lower income demographics to work harder, innovate and be creative to attain the wealth of those they envied. Now the narrative has turned to taking money from the successful (via taxes) and giving it to others in an effort to be ‘fair’ and level the income distribution. That is not the American way!
I grew up in a household that fell in the socioeconomic definition between poor and middle class. My parents worked hard, taught me fiscally conservative principles and beat it into my head that I was going to have a better life than they had. I was going to go to college and start out ahead of where my parents started and not have to struggle day to day like they did. By the time I was in high school, there was no doubt in my mind that I was not only going to graduate from college but be more successful (in monetary terms) than my parents. It is a testament to their parenting skills and their love for their children that both of their kids went on to fulfill that prophesy and my brother and I are indeed better off than our parents.
Did I envy those who were more successful than my parents? Sure. But I never once thought that the ‘fair’ thing to do was to take money from them and give it to me. I have held a steady job since I was 16 years old and worked throughout most of my high school years and all of my college years to help pay for my education. My envy of the more successful was my motivation to work harder and become what I am today and this work ethic is what I hope to pass on to my children.
This used to be the essence of American Exceptionalism – the next generation was going to be more successful than the previous one because they were going to build upon the wealth created by their parents, work harder, become more educated and move up the ladder.
But sadly, I have come to the realization that unless the course of the United States is altered, the dream of the next generation becoming more successful than the previous generation is dead. As a parent, I echo the conversations that my parents had with me – you will go to college and you will be more successful than your parents – but I have serious doubts that this prophesy is still true.
We have to reverse the Leftist teachings that have infiltrated our youth for generations which promotes a nanny state where the government will be there to ensure ‘equality’ while forgetting that liberty carries with it responsibility. You are free to choose your career and this choice is affirmed in the Declaration of Independence as the “pursuit” of happiness but this should not be confused with a “guarantee” of happiness. If you make unwise choices then the laissez-faire market will punish you for your poor decisions and the government does not exist to reward mediocre performance or unwise business decisions but that is exactly what the federal government is doing today.
I have written a previous blog post entitled “Is This How We Run A Country” where I show that over 90% of all federal tax revenues go to fund Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps and Unemployment. Is this really the model for American Exceptionalism? Here is a quote from the blog post:
“From the latest IRS income tax revenue data, we can see that 51.8% of the total filers pay 98.2% of all the Federal Income Tax. This means roughly half of Americans work to pay benefits for the other 50%. Is that how we’d set up a country if we were to start over?”
I am sure that the patriots who started this country never envisioned the federal government taking money from half of the population and giving it to the other half but that is exactly where we are right now. American Exceptionalism can’t be defended under the current government structure and I agree that this theory is dead right now. But I believe we can get back to a place where American Exceptionalism is alive by throwing out all politicians (Federal, State and Local) who subscribe to the nanny state policies that have prospered over the past few decades and fix the real issues that plague America.
Social Security and Welfare programs must be reformed.
Crony Capitalism must be stopped.
Over regulation that is killing business and innovation must be suspended.
The benefits of Capitalism must be promoted and the evils of Keynesian Economics should be exposed.
Once American citizens start electing fiscally and economically conservative representatives, we’ll return to a place where we can honestly tell our children that they have the opportunity to live a more successful life than their parents.
Ari:I am a colleague and frined of Mike Maday in CO Springs, CO, whom you mentioned in your book. Some insights that appear to be going unnoticed in CO and especially the bellwether county El Paso County, CO where even though Republicans own a 2-to-1 registered voter base but where El Paso also holds the 2nd highest number of Democrats in the state of CO. 2010 Midterm saw that Bennet won the unaffiliated (independents) in the county 51% to 25% going to the collection of 3rd Party candidates (4 being rightwingers, 2-o-1 in that pool) and Buck receiving 23% of that vote. Furthermore a State Senator, Dem majority leader Morse won re-election with a similar fashion in the county, (actually Morse carried 55% of the unaffiliated’s in his district) and won by 1.1%. Dem’s indeed turned out at a 82% rate in the early vote stage that included the mail votes. Election day voting was way down at 32% of all remaining voters, where Dem’s lost a few percentage points discounting the theory of a late surge. What this is telling me is that independents in CO and El Paso County rejected the Tea Party candidacies 7.5-to-2.5 in a state where there are supposedly more Tea Party affiliated voters. Furthermore the Maes-Tancredo vote has demonstrated a real fragmenting of the Republican brand and party where it appears only 190,000 Republicans are real party loyalists, (same number that McGinnis got in the Rep primary). This represents about 11% of the entire electorate that voted and about 25% or less of the entire registered Republican base in the state. What this means is foretelling going forward. In the end Donkeys remain herded, but the Elephants are splitting up.
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