Why America is Exceptional

American Exceptionalism has been called into question lately, most recently by Vladimir Putin in a New York Times oped.  The old godless Socialist even references God faux Jeffersonian style.  Jefferson stated that God make all people equal.  In Putin’s version, God makes nations equal:

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

What has made America exceptional, however, is exactly what the USSR was missing.  It is the reason America defeated the Soviet Empire and became the sole world superpower.  It is an economic system based on doing good for others, rather than one based on political pull.  It inspires everyone to do all he can because, unlike with Soviet-style Communism,  he is rewarded for doing so.

The American economic system that made America Exceptional is based on three principles:  1) Consumer choice and free competition, 2) Property rights, and 3) Limited regulation.  Consumer choice and free competition allow customers to choose the provider of the goods and services they receive.  It allows individuals who have a better method of delivery to prosper.  This causes a system by which those who do the best job of determining and providing for others’ needs to prosper.  Competition also works for employees, who can change employers if they are mistreated or just not paid in proportion to what they provide.  Employers also have the freedom to choose their employees, which forces employees to be better than they otherwise would be.

Property rights allow individuals to hold onto what they earn.  Unlike Soviet Russia, business owners have little fear of confiscation by government officials.  This provides further motivation to serve others since you may keep the reward you receive for doing so.

The final element is limited regulation.  By making it easy for individuals to start and run businesses, they can spend more time working to serve others.  Less time and effort is wasted.

The American system rewards those who do good for other people.  It causes people to think beyond themselves and discover what it is that they can build that will help the most people.  Over the last two centuries, great men and women – both domestically and foreign-born – have gone from poverty to exceptional wealth in single generations by bringing great ideas to life through hard work and perseverance.  These ideas have become things like the intercontinental railroad and later the production automobile, the telegraph and later the telephone, the transistor and later the computer, and the Digital Operating System (DOS) and later Google and Facebook.

Equally important to American exceptionalism is the requirement that individuals trade equally for what they receive.  Rather than spending time selfishly while receiving a welfare check, able-bodied individuals are expected to produce at least as much as they consume.  They are expected to meet the needs of others to have their own needs met.  This produces more wealth since almost everyone is spending at least a third of their time meeting the needs of themselves or others.

This system has also been the source of great innovation.  The farmer with a plow who could feed a few families has been replaced by the industrial farm with great machines that can feed whole cities.  The craftsman in his shop who can create one tool a week has been replaced by the factory that can create thousands of tools per hour.  This is possible because individuals spent their time devising great machines that would allow more needs to be met with less effort.  To multiply the effort of one man many times over.

These innovations have allowed the rise of the middle class.  A person who could learn to run these machines could produce far more than he could with only his bare hands, thereby allowing his pay to increase dramatically since he is able to produce for more people.

By getting everyone who can to produce for others, this system has created an enormous amount of wealth.  This has allowed for those who are unable to work to be supported easily.  There is food and shelter for the elderly widows.  There is care and treatment for the mentally ill and the physically disabled.  Around the world there is funding to fight AIDS and starvation in Africa’s jungles and pirates in its oceans.  To fight poverty in Central and South American.  To bring toilets and clean water to towns in India.   To aid victims of Tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia.

In concept, American Exceptionalism is the belief that God has provided America with a special place in the world.  Even those who are atheist who truly look at the American economic system and compare it with other systems must see that it is fundamentally good and just.  No other system promotes selflessness and performing useful work like American Capitalism does.  Certainly not Soviet-style Communism.

Sadly, we are seeing a loss of these guiding principles.   Consumer choice and free competition is being eroded by large companies that conspire with legislatures to write protectionist regulations.  Property rights are being taken through abuse of the eminent domain process, land taking regulations issued by the EPA, and other government actions.  Finally, the level of regulation is increasing each year, making it more difficult to start and run a business.

Candidate Obama said, when asked, whether he felt that America was exceptional.  He stated that he felt America was exceptional, just as a Canadian would feel Canada was exceptional.  Given that his policies generally erode the principles of the great economic system on which America was based, perhaps he shares the views of President Putin that no nation should be exceptional.

Please contact me via vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.


  1. Wow, I’ve been following your blog for a while now and agree with a lot of what you say but I can’t help but disagree on your biased view of your home country.
    I’m sure most people around the world in democratic populations would say their system and county is the best, but to say that the American model promotes selflessness is absurd.
    Entrepreneurs within free capitalist systems are only focussed on themselves and making a profit for themselves at the cost of the wider community who buy their goods or services. This opportunity to profit is what motivates and drives innovation within capitalist systems. I agree that if this profit for work is removed, like in a communist style system it can stifle entrepreneurship and thus innovation.
    Most governments in these countries try to tax these profitable, innovative individuals more so the wealth can be spread around to the less wealthy, a little like a communist model.
    While I in no way support full-on communism I think it is “typically American” to suggest the American model is the best.
    A good measure of how well a country is operating, regardless of the type of government it has is the wealth of it’s population.
    In November 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, including almost 20% of American children, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993.
    The numbers of poor are hard to compare across countries. Absolute income may be used but does not reflect the actual number of poor, which depend on relative income and cost of living in each country. Among developed countries, each country then has its own definition and threshold of what it means to be poor, but this is not adjusted for cost of living and social benefits. For instance, despite the fact that France and US have about the same threshold in terms of dollars amount for poverty, cost of living benefits differ, with universal health care and highly subsidized post-secondary education existing in France.
    America has wealth, I’ll give you that, but you also have a lot of debt and the wealth is not spread among the population and while countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Albania, Georgia, Canada, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Thailand, France, Austria, Lithuania, Malaysia, Taiwan and Russia have less percentages of their populations living in poverty I think America has a long way to go to say it is the best.
    Just my view.

    • Thank you very much for reading and for the well-considered response. I suspect we will need to agree to disagree in the end. However, I would ask you to think about who does well in a capitalist society. It isn’t the people who take advantage of their customers or abuse their employees. It is the ones who provide a needed good or service at a fair price. It is the ones who treat their employees fairly and therefore are able to keep good employees. This is fundamentally good.

      Socialism punishes those who fulfill more needs than their own. The individual who sits about all day gets a check in the mail when income is distributed “more fairly.” The person who works from morning to night providing things for other people gets taxed heavily. Eventually he gets to be like the one who sits around because there is no point in doing more if the extra gain is just taken away. This is fundamentally evil because it motivates evil, selfish behavior.

      Finally, on poverty, the poverty level (amount of income one must make to not be considered poor) in America has risen for years to the point now where a person on a middle class income in the 1950’s would be considered in poverty today. The poor in America tend to have televisions with cable, multiple cell phones, at least one car, ample food, and shelter. Those who are still “hungry” tend to be those who are addicted to one substance or another or the children of those who are. Compare this with North Korea or Vietnam where finding food is an issue daily.

Comments appreciated! What are your thoughts? Questions?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.