What Makes The USA Unique? - Country Review
Following on our recent theme of trying to explain the USA to those who have recently arrived, a short look at what makes the USA unique. How is America recognizable to so many, yet unique when compared to every other country? Why, in other words, is the USA exceptional?
Ours is a synopsis of the view of Professor Patrick Allitt: History of the United States.
America has a sense of destiny and has had incredibly good fortune.
It has unprecedented wealth.
It expanded its territory in the early days at a relentless pace: Native Indians, Spanish, British, Russians - all were overrun with pace and confidence.
There is an abundance of raw materials and entrepreneurial talent.
Upon arrival, early settlers found vast amounts of wood for fire and housing. Huge supplies of iron ore were available for exploitation. Coal exists throughout the country. Goldfields were discovered. Crude oil was found in abundance.
Capitalism allowed ordinary people to get rich – to exploit the resources that existed.
Of course, most did not become incredibly rich, but some did. The productivity of US-inspired capitalism has beaten every other system devised.
The belief is that economic growth is good and aspirational.
Are there crashes? Without doubt.
Yet after each one America has come back stronger than before with higher growth rates.
It has, as a result of these economic principles, massive inequality of incomes. In the USA, this is not considered a bad thing. What is hoped for is equality of opportunity - that every person can make it, given a fair wind, a good brain, pluck, and hard work.
Risk taking is encouraged - you can make a fortune. Most will not – failure is acceptable. Come back and have another go.
Even those who are dependent on salaries for income have benefited directly and indirectly from the economic gains created by the entrepreneurs - standards of living kept rising for the vast majority of Americans.
Is there poverty in the US? Yes, of course, because poverty is a relative measure. But what we see as poverty in the USA would not be considered poverty in most of the rest of the world, where there is vastly more privation.
Robust Political Institutions
America has robust political institutions that have helped create, then safeguard, vital personal freedoms.
The Constitution has been running for over 200 years, creating high levels of political stability and political freedom. This, in itself, helps seed economic prosperity - people and businesses thrive in an environment of political stability and will take higher levels of risk.
[caption id="attachment_326" align="alignnone" width="600"] U.S. Constitution[/caption]
Think about it - one political system that has guided a country for over 200 years. America is thought of as a young country, but in the sense of its political system it is ancient. Only a handful of other countries globally can join this 200-year club.
Time and time again, the losing side in an election has peacefully handed over power. This might seem normal, but look around the world over the last 100 years and we can see that this is unusual.
Civilians lead the military and the military has always strongly supported its subservient role to a civilian government. Again, many countries cannot look at their current situation or recent past and say the same.
The Bill of Rights - the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution – and the Supreme Court have helped protect vital freedoms. Democracy and Equality are taught at schools - they are serious matters.
The population has increased steadily over time, with more and more people from a variety of different ancestral cultures able to share in the wealth that has been created. The USA has political and social systems in place that have ensured a wide range of freedoms for its citizens - these are rights, not gifts. It has a fluid class system. It is much easier in the USA to move from one social class to another than it is in most of the rest of the world.
At-risk groups of people tend to have highly focused government programs to help them.
Charity plays an enormous part in American culture - per head donations are the largest on earth. Americans are highly charitable.
Immigrants have arrived from every country on earth and been assimilated into the American system.
Ethnic rivalries exist globally, yet, one by one, as these ethnic groups have arrived in the USA, they have assimilated into one group - Americans.
The education system has helped build the USA into an industrial and cultural giant.
American research universities are the best in the world, and attract the finest minds globally.
Perfect? No, of course not – no country ever is. But compared against all other systems, the USA and its systems of governance have been an extraordinary success.
Wealth, Freedom, Democracy, Immigration.
The USA is unique.