Wednesday, March 09, 2005

American Exceptionalism

America is an exceptional nation. We are not a run-of-the-mill country. We are different. We do not feel beholden to the diktats that other countries feel the need to impose upon their people, or on other countries. We are set apart. We are, as de Tocqueville wrote "marked out by the will of Heaven."

I began to think about American exceptionalism when I read this column over at Tech Central Station. It's about why America ratifying the Kyoto Protocol or some other similar nonsense would be disatrous for America, and that when the technological changes come that eventually do cut emissions, it will be American technology at the fore. It won't, nor should it, be foisted at the point of a gun.

The thought of American exceptionalism reminded me of a series of articles published back in 2003 by The Economist. They are all about, you guessed it, American exceptionalism.

One of the articles leads off with this quote: “Everything about the Americans,” said Alexis de Tocqueville, “is extraordinary, but what is more extraordinary still is the soil that supports them.” The piece goes on to explain why European-style socialism, much less communism, has never caught on here.

But exceptionalism has another meaning: that America is intrinsically different from other countries in its values and institutions. . . .

In 1929, Jay Lovestone, the head of the American communist party, was summoned to Moscow. Stalin demanded to know why the worldwide communist revolution had advanced not one step in the largest capitalist country. Lovestone replied that America lacked the preconditions for communism, such as feudalism and aristocracy. No less an authority than Friedrich Engels had said the same thing, talking of “the special American conditions...which make bourgeois conditions look like a beau idéal to them.” So had an Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, and a British socialist, H.G. Wells, who had both argued that America's unique origins had produced a distinctive value system and unusual politics.

Lovestone was purged, but his argument still has force: America is exceptional partly because it is peculiar.

It is when I think of how truly unique, how truly blessed we are as a nation, that I thank God that I was allowed to be born here, allowed to live here, allowed to share as a native son in this exceptional country.

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