America: A Unique Nation


Basic facts






“As the American participates in all that is done in his country, he thinks himself obliged to defend whatever may be censured in it, for it is not only his country that is then attacked, it is himself. The consequence is that his national pride resorts to a thousand artifices [tricks] and descends to all the petty tricks of personal vanity.


Nothing is more embarrassing in ordinary social discourse that the irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be well inclined to praise many of their institutions, but he begs the indulgence to blame some, an indulgence that is inexorably refused. America is therefore a free country in which, lest anybody be hurt by your remarks, you are not allowed to speak freely of private individuals or of the state, of the citizens, the authorities, public individuals, private undertakings—in short, of anything at all except, perhaps, the climate and the soil, and even then Americans will be ready to defend both as if they had cooperated in producing them.”


à He misses the point somewhat. The point is not that Americans aren’t critical of their government. It is that we don’t like outsiders (as in other nations) being critical of our government because we believe it to be the best. And we can fix our mistakes – as with slavery, women’s rights, etc. As Tocqueville said,


The great privilege of the Americans does not simply consist in their being more enlightened than any other nations, but in their being able to repair the faults they may commit.


Tocqueville doesn’t say that U.S. constitution is the best, and he thinks that democracies can take other forms.




Oriana Fallaci, the celebrated Italian writer who has become a New Yorker, was struck by the response at Ground Zero to the president:


All of them, young people, little kids, the old, and the middle aged. White, black, yellow, brown, purple...Did you see them or not? While Bush thanked them they waved the American flags, raised their clenched fists, and roared, “USA! USA! USA!” In a totalitarian country I would have thought, “but look at how well the powerful have organized them!” In America, no. In America you don’t organize these things. Especially in a cynical metropolis like New York. New York workers are tough guys, and freer than the wind. These guys even disobey their trade unions. But if you touch the flag, if you touch the country. . . . The fact is that America is a special country…A country to envy, of which to be jealous...and it is that way because it is born of a spiritual necessity . . . and of the most sublime human idea: the idea of liberty, or better, of liberty married to the idea of equality. . . .



Two great speeches by President George W. Bush




Why has America prospered?


à efficient causes – the “down here” reasons why America has prospered:

à ultimate cause – the “up here” reasons why America has prospered:



Ten reasons why America is unique


1.      Even “poor” are better off than anywhere else in the world; m/c much better

2.      Economic mobility

3.      Work and trade are respectable

4.      Social equality

5.      People live longer, fuller lives

6.      You decide what your life will be

7.      Equal rights

8.      Solved problem of religious and ethnic strife

a.       Separation of religion and government

b.      Rights given to individuals and not groups

9.      The kindest, gentlest foreign power of any great power in world history

a.       Twice in 20th century U.S. saves the world

                                                                           i.      Nazism

                                                                         ii.      Communism/Cold War

b.      U.S. never stays to rule another country

c.       Avoids civilian targets in war

10.  Most virtuous nation on earth

a.       Freedom can be used for good or ill

b.      Like freedom God gives us

c.       In either case, is it preferable for the freedom to be taken away from us?

[From Dinesh D’Souza, “Ten great reasons to celebrateWashington Times (4 July 2002).]





American Generosity


Americans are the most generous nation on the face of the earth


à See John Perazzo, “America’s Remarkable Goodness: What the Critics Fail to Acknowledge,” (5 October 2001)



- WWII – we go to war to protect against Hitler and Hirohito

- In March 1947 our president, outlining what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, told a joint session of Congress: "I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." – Marshall Plan - $13 billion

       - By the 1970s, the American government had spent more than $150 billion on foreign aid, two thirds of it outside of Western Europe spawning pockets of prosperity widely over the globe. As historian Paul Johnson observes, "This effort, in absolute or relative terms, was wholly without precedent in human history, and is likely to remain the biggest single act of generosity on record."

- In 1998, U.S. foreign grants and credits to Western Europe totaled $258 million; to Eastern Europe $1.8 billion; to the Near East and South Asia $5 billion; to Africa $1.3 billion; to the Far East $735 million, to Canada and Central and South America $987 million.

- When famine and disease decimate foreign populations, America is almost always the first and sometimes the only nation in the world to lend assistance.

- When civil war and famine killed at least 300,000 people in Somalia a decade ago, America once again sent large quantities of food and medicine. When it was learned that the war’s combatants were heartlessly stealing most of the relief packages even while the country had become filled with wretched, walking skeletons it was only with U.S. leadership in 1992’s Operation Restore Hope that the situation began to improve. American soldiers, joined by troops from several other countries, were sent to Somalia to ensure the proper distribution of life-saving resources.

- In 1994, when Rwanda erupted into ethnic violence that killed at least 800,000 people in twelve weeks, the United States led the world in shipping food, medicine, doctors, technicians, and medical equipment to try to save the dying masses huddled in Rwanda’s filthy refugee camps.

- By contrast, Americans have made truly monumental strides in the realm of human rights, working tirelessly to eradicate the legacies of slavery and discrimination. The black Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson puts it well: "America, while still flawed in its race relations . . . is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of Africa." Notwithstanding this reality, our country’s critics brazenly call America a racist land, but say nothing to disparage those Muslim regions that explicitly forbid the very presence of Westerners. Indeed during last week’s Washington, D.C. "peace rally," many protesters denounced America’s military preparations for a "racist war" against Muslims.

- In light of recent historical events, it is remarkable that anyone would venture to call American attitudes toward Muslim nations "racist." As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, "America conducted three wars in the 1990s. The Gulf War saved the Kuwaiti people from Saddam. American intervention in the Balkans saved Bosnia. And then we saved Kosovo from Serbia. What did these three military campaigns have in common? In every one we saved a Muslim people." Moreover, prior to September 11 our country had provided more food and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan’s poverty-stricken population than had any other country on earth. Even now, as thousands of refugees flee their homes in anticipation of a U.S. military strike, the Bush administration has already appropriated several hundred million dollars in relief aid to help save those people’s lives. But such details are irrelevant to the "Blame America First" crowd.


How Life Has Improved in the Past 100 Years


àBased upon Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon, “The Greatest Century that Ever Was: 25 Miraculous Trends of the Past 100 Years” CATO Institute Policy Analysis No. 364 (15 December 1999).


Thesis: …there has been more improvement in human condition for people living in the United States in this century than for all people in all previous centuries of human history combined


Trying to stop this country now would be like spitting on a railroad track. No politician, no party, not Congress or the Senate, can really hurt this country now. And we’re not where we are on account of any one man. We’re here on account of the common sense of the big normal majority. This country is bigger than any man or any party. They couldn’t ruin it even if they tried. -- Will Rogers


  1. Modern medicine and vaccines – reason for up to half the increase in life expectancy – polio, smallpox, plague, cholera, etc. By 1980, these were all but wiped out
  2. Harnessing of electrical power (2% to 99%) – leads to thousands of inventions
  3. Invention of the microchip (invented in 1958)
    1. Intel Pentium I 1000x faster than 1975 mainframe
    2. “If the automobile and aerospace technology had exploded at the same pace as computer and information technology, a new car would cost about $2 and go 600 miles on a thimble of gas. And you could buy a Boeing 747 for the cost of a pizza.” - Microsoft
  4. “Poor” are less “poor”
  5. Water is cleaner
  6. Air is cleaner (lead micrograms per 100 cubic meters/air – 135 [1977] vs. 4 [1999]) – between 1977 and 1997:
    1. Sulfur dioxide – down 58%
    2. Nitrogen oxide – down 27%
    3. Ozone – down 30%
    4. Carbon monoxide – down 61%
    5. Lead – down 97%
  7. telephones (5% to 99%)
  8. Inventions – 25,000 patents vs. 150,000 patents
  9. Bigger and better homes
  10. Living longer (47 vs. 77)
  11. At much less risk of dying of a catastrophic accident
  12. Knowledge revolution is basis for wealth creation
  13. Work week (35 vs. 50 hrs.)
  14. Home ownership (46% vs. 66%)
  15. H.S. graduation (22% vs. 88%)
  16. Women getting bachelor’s degrees (34% vs. 55%)
  17. GDP $0.5 billion to $8.5 billion (constant dollars)
  18. Average annual per person output from $5,000 to $30,000
  19. “It is amazing but true that more wealth has been generated in the United States over the past 50 years than was created in the rest of the world in all the centuries before 1950.”
  20. “In the United States today, a smaller percentage of the population suffers from material deprivation than at any previous time in history. And people classified as “poor” in the United States have incomes that exceed the average income of most nations.”
  21. By today’s standards, 40-50% of households in 1900 would have been classified as poor. Today, it is 10-15%.
  22. “Throughout most of human history, at least half of the workers in most societies were employed in agriculture. Today only 2 to 3 percent of Americans work on farms. But those farmers produce enough food for the entire nation and then enough more to make America the world’s breadbasket.”