American Elephants

We Believe That America is Exceptional. Tell Us Why You Do. by The Elephant's Child

If our stalwart presidential candidates could pause in attacking each other long enough to talk about just why this is such an important election, and what they hope to do about it, I suspect we would all appreciate it.

When Barack Obama spoke during the campaign about hope and change, not enough people paid attention to his record as the most liberal senator in the Capitol. We were dazzled by footwork, and halos that appeared about the candidate’s head, presidential seals and promises to bring peace and non-partisanship to Washington DC.

Liberals are puzzled by our continuing affection for Ronald Reagan, whom they detested.  Ronald Reagan from 1975 to 1979 made more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts, two-thirds of which he wrote himself.  They covered all sorts of topics from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. *

Richard Mitchell, whom I quote often, said in The Graves of Academe:

Thinking is done in language, and understanding, a result of thinking, is expressed in language, but, when we simply adopt and recite what has been expressed, we have committed neither thinking or understanding.

It’s not easy to get your ideas down on paper. The radio broadcasts were roughly 400-500 words long, and about every subject ranging from Cuba, to Peace, Human Rights, Intelligence and the Media, Rhodesia, SALT Talks, Arms Control. In these thousand broadcasts, Reagan said succinctly what he thought about a vast array of subjects. And it’s why he could explain so clearly to Mr. Gorbachev just what he had in mind.

Richard Mitchell also said that the business of writing is to stay put on the page so that you can go back and look at the words and see where you have been stupid. Writing is a special case of language that allows you to get it right.

If our candidates had thought a little more deeply about just why America is so important, maybe we wouldn’t have an incumbent who believes that America is not exceptional.

Herbert Meyer, assistant to the director of the CIA during the Reagan administration, wrote at American Thinker “Why, Precisely, is America so Great?”

“The one thing that President Obama and all the GOP contenders for is job agree about is that America is the greatest country in the world. They all use this line in ever speech they make, and it always brings the  crowd cheering to its feet.  But none of these politicians ever quite gets around to explaining precisely why we’re the world’s greatest country.  That’s too bad, because it’s a serious question that deserves a serious answer — right now, before Republicans choose their candidate and before the voters make their choice in November.”

He goes on to point out that politics is the relationship between the individual and the State, the relationship that we have been struggling to get right for thousands of years. Our Constitution established a relationship between the individual and the State that was unique in history.  The individual was in charge, the State would serve the individual, and there would be an arms’ length distance between the two. It is this unique relationship that made all the difference.

If you think of this relationship as a kind of operating system — like the operating systems that drive our computers and our cell phones — you can see how it’s been steadily modified and upgraded throughout our history.  In this sense, each new law enacted by Congress has been an effort to improve the operating system.  At times in our history, for instance during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, the changes have been so substantial that it’s less like an upgrade and more like a wholly new version of the operating system that’s been installed.  But never in our history have we replaced the original operating system — that extraordinary, uniquely American relationship between the individual and the State — upon which our country was founded.

Until now.

Do read the whole essay, it’s worth your while.

*See Reagan In His Own Hand.

19 Comments so far
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The one thing that President Obama and all the GOP contenders for is job agree about is that America is the greatest country in the world. They all use this line in ever speech they make, and it always brings the crowd cheering to its feet. But none of these politicians ever quite gets around to explaining precisely why we’re the world’s greatest country.

I’ll tell you what drives many people like me (who know something about the world beyond U.S. borders) nuts is the way that talk of the notion of American exceptionalism is used as thinly disguised jingoism, or to play to people’s ignorance.

Most societies around the world consider themselves to be exceptional. The French feel this intensely, as do Israelis, as do the Icelanders (who formed the first Parliament), the Swiss (one of the first independent democracies) and the Swedes. Britain’s sense of superiority can be insufferable, even if it is the land of the Magna Carta. Australia styles itself as “the lucky country”. The Russians showed exceptional courage and fortitude in their fight against the Nazis on the eastern front (something hardly ever mentioned in U.S. school curricula). Japanese attitudes of exceptionalism encouraged an appalling treatment of their prisoners of war.

More prosaically, by what criterion can one declare the United States the “world’s greatest country”? Not in land area, nor in population. Not in per-capita income nor in life expectancy. Certainly not in terms of voter turnout (a good measure of democratic participation).

Numbers of billionaires? Check. Total spending on the military? Check. Spending on health care as a percentage of GDP (more to do with high costs and legal fees than quality)? Check. Most byzantine tax code? Check. Total population in prisons? Not quite there, but working on it.

There are exceptional things about America, many that are not very intangible — such as its entrepreneurial culture, its positive attitude towards failure and towards continuing adult education, and its general ability to absorb immigrants and let them prosper. I’m sure many people could come up with arguments of why, even if the United States does not hold poll position on many criteria, it is still on balance great if not the greatest.

But, please, let’s end this constant bickering over American exceptionalism. I view it as beside the point and even counter-productive.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Perhaps you have not noticed that Barack Obama is attempting to change this country into something quite foreign to what the founders intended. I don’t believe that I disparaged any other country, and I find your charges of “jingoism” offensive. The article I posted, and the two videos address American exceptionalism quite directly. We are the only country where the relationship between the citizen and the state puts the people in charge. We allow certain defined and limited powers to the state. It has been a continuing battle since John Dewey, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson and now Barack Obama to keep that relationship as the Constitution intended.

You may regard yourself as a citizen of the world, and ever-so-aware of America’s flaws, but you miss the point. This president does not feel constrained by the Constitution nor the laws, and is attempting to change this country into a welfare state like the failing states of Europe. Obama would agree with you completely. America just isn’t “fair” and needs to be made more like — Greece?


Comment by The Elephant's Child

What a strange, defensive response. I quote Herbert Meyer, and you take my remarks personally. I don’t believe that I implied that you disparaged any other country, nor did I accuse you of jingoism (extreme chauvinism or nationalism). However, I do very much feel, having observed a number of politicians invoke American exceptionalism, that it is a lazy shortcut that many use in place of beating their breasts.

I repeat the first two sentences from Meyer’s quote: “The one thing that President Obama and all the GOP contenders for is job agree about is that America is the greatest country in the world. They all use this line in ever speech they make, and it always brings the crowd cheering to its feet.” That’s cynically playing to the gallery and why, I presume, Meyer is demanding specifics.

You state that I miss the point, which is that President Obama does not feel constrained by the Constitution nor the laws, … . What does that have to do with whether he passes the litmus test of true believers in American exceptionalism or not? But, since you make the charge, I don’t see him as behaving as if he is any less constrained by the U.S. Constitution than did George W. Bush.

As to his attempting to change this country into a welfare state more like “the failing states of Europe”, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. More than presidents FDR or Lyndon Baines Johnson? Doesn’t look like it to me. Do I think he’s always made great decisions. By no means.

I really don’t understand this statement of yours:

Obama would agree with you completely. America just isn’t “fair” and needs to be made more like — Greece?

Agree with me about what? Most of my information was factual, intending to show that there is no universal metric for determining “the greatest” (unless we’re talking about that great American, Mohammed Ali). Likening America to Greece, or suggesting that anybody aspires to that, is just weird.

So, finally, let be get back to the metric that you highlight:

We are the only country where the relationship between the citizen and the state puts the people in charge. We allow certain defined and limited powers to the state.

Is that so? Apart from California’s referendums (which have their parallel in the much more frequently used direct referendums in Switzerland), most of the laws of the land are crafted by elected representatives, just as is the case in most western democracies. If you mean that the Constitution contains such a clause, well so did the USSR’s. The “Soviet” in that former empire’s name referred to locally elected councils. The 1924 constitution established the Congress of Soviets to be the supreme body of state authority. Great on paper, lousy on practice.

The point is, how are the different countries of the world actually governed? Is the U.S. system light years from that of other countries? Most Canadians and Australians that I know who have lived in America will cite its economic freedoms (notably, ability to form a business) but complain about other constraints. (And Germans defend their right not to set speed limits on their Autobahn as vigorously as Americans defend the right to bear arms.) And, by the way, the powers reserved to Australian states and Canadian provinces are much greater (compared with their federal governments) than those enjoyed by U.S. states.

I just don’t get this obsession of some people in the ‘States to prove that America is the greatest nation on earth, in every way. Does the sky fall if one accepts that there are a lot of great things about America but that there are some other areas in which America is outshone by others?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Excuse me. Herbert Meyer said nothing about “Jingoism.” You were the one who assumed that Meyer was finding something ignorant in their cheering, rather than plain patriotism.
Neither Meyer nor I suggested that to find America exceptional we should haul out national statistics — That was your diversionary detour, and has nothing to do with what Meyer, Dennis Praeger or I were talking about.

America is exceptional in its Constitutional definition of the relationship between the citizen and the state, and firmly places the citizen in charge. The citizen grants certain defined powers to the state, and they are listed. We choose representatives to do the business of government, and if we don’t like what they’re doing, we vote them out. But the liberty and the Constitutional republic are always under threat from those who cannot accept human nature as it is, and want fix it.

You are the one who hauled out all the reasons why other nations think they are exceptional, which is completely beside the point. That paragraph of yours was almost identical to a speech of Obama’s in which he noted all the other countries who thought they were exceptional and suggested that we weren’t any more exceptional than anyone else, a mistake that he hasn’t repeated.

If you watched Dennis Praeger’s video, he listed three things, the trinity, that made America exceptional: e pluribus unum, in God we Trust, and Liberty. We welcome new citizens and treat them like everyone else. The newest citizen is equal under the law to the one whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, and is an American. In a good many countries, you can’t even become a citizen. There’s a reason why Stalin’s daughter, Khrushchev’s son and Castro’s daughter all became American citizens. When people celebrate American exceptionalism they are celebrating an idea, not national statistics. You continue to miss the point.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Just a footnote: I am not a big fan of Obama, by the way. Nor am I excited by any of the current Republican candidates who would like to oppose him. (Some appall me.) So, for me, the debate over American exceptionalism is not about Obama, it is about whether the notion is all that useful and, indeed, valid.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Herbert Meyer said nothing about “Jingoism.”

That’s true. I’m the one who did.

We choose representatives to do the business of government, and if we don’t like what they’re doing, we vote them out.

That’s unique to the United States? Hardly.

But the liberty and the Constitutional republic are always under threat from those who cannot accept human nature as it is, and want fix it.

A universal danger everywhere.

That paragraph of yours was almost identical to a speech of Obama’s …

Hmmm. I never read it. I guess great minds think alike!

If you watched Dennis Praeger’s video …

I did, and I found it vastly exaggerated the differences between the United States and other countries. For example, it spoke of the American stress on equality of birth and opportunity, versus European demand for equality of outcome. What a caricature! Let’s have some historical perspective here. There was no equality of birth for slaves, native Americans or women (who didn’t get the vote until the 20th century) at the start, nor for many years afterwards. (By contrast, And most western democracies have also adopted the idea of equality of birth, an idea that America helped spread but which is hardly unique to America.

When America was forming, no countries had welfare states. Those are 20th-century inventions. Today, Europe has over 100 billionaires (versus over 400 in the USA). Sure, it generally charges higher social charges (and needs to do something about that), but income taxes are actually in many cases smaller. America has a form of social security, Medicare, Medicaid, free primary and secondary education, subsidized higher education, etc., etc. It is a question of degree of mixed economy, and the balance of opinions about the role of the state among its electorate, not of large fundamental differences in values.

One does not need to appeal to “American exceptionalism” to have a good discussion about what kinds of policies work better than others.

We welcome new citizens and treat them like everyone else. The newest citizen is equal under the law to the one whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, and is an American.

Yes, once they become citizens. Is that so different from other democracies? Yes, some (like Germany), make it difficult to gain citizenship, and are not great at integrating the newcomers. Others, like Australia, Britain, Canada, have also absorbed large numbers of immigrants, and those communities have thrived. (Ever visited Melbourne or Sydney?) Are there still enclaves where the newcomers congregate and integrate only partially? Of course. (Ever been to Miami?) But there is no more difference in treatment under the law of naturalized citizens in our democratic partners than there is in the United States (whose Constitution forbids not only naturalized citizens from running for President, but citizens who were born outside the United States).

The bottom line is, it is the term “exceptionalism” that bothers me. I have no problem with a debate on American values. But those who are big on the notion of American exceptionalism can’t have it both ways. Either there are founding values that can never change, no matter how times and the composition of the electorate changes, or there is democracy, which at the end of the day is a system for aggregating preferences and values — in real time. Personally, I hope and trust that liberty will always be fundamental value among Americans, as among all the people of the world.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

You cannot seem to get your mind beyond a childish ‘nyah-nyah my country is better than yours.’ We are speaking of an idea — an internal idea. We believe that the exceptional idea of America offers us something very special.

In the news “Obama hopes to ride his auto bailout to re-election.” Yet that move was wholly unconstitutional. We have bankruptcy laws. A bankruptcy judge would have reined in the auto workers union contracts. In bankruptcy, the bondholders get first claim on company assets. Obama gave a third of the auto companies to the unions, and illegally screwed the bondholders. He took it upon himself to shut down a large number of automobile dealers. These were privately-owned businesses whose only connection to the car companies is that they bought the cars that they sell from the car companies. Then we have the stupid “cash for clunkers” which allowed people who planned to buy a car to buy it early with a subsidy, and literally destroyed the used car business, and the used car parts business by decimating the supplies. Where is the authority for any of that? And that’s just one example.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

No, I get it. It’s an idea. An idea that is so wrapped up in myth that it brooks no scrutiny. If you hadn’t assured us that the video was serious, I would have assumed it was a clever parody.

Did I ever endorse what Obama did with GM? I don’t recall doing so. But I would point out that there have been government take-overs and bail-outs of companies before, under other presidents. So, if his action was unconstitutional, how come somebody hasn’t challenged it in the courts? I’m not a layer, so maybe I’m missing something here. And as for the “cash for clunkers” program, I fail to see how it differs from all manner of other government interventions in the marketplace. That is not saying I agree with the policies, but I fail to see what is especially unconstitutional about that one.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Myth? Hardly, American Exceptionalism is historical fact:

1. America is the only country in the history of the world founded upon the recognition that our rights come from God & no person nor government can take them away. Other countries believe rights are defined and bestowed by government or the collective. Any government that can bestow rights can also take them away. Ours cannot, our rights are unalienable. This is not myth, this is historical fact & makes us unique in the history of the world. We are not the rule, we are the lone exception.

2. It is because our rights are inherent, bestowed by God, that we are the only country in the history of the world whose foundational constitution limits the power of government to a specific set of enumerated powers. It is the only such document; written to protect people from the government. That makes us unique in the history of the world. We are not the rule, we are the lone exception.

Of course I disagree with The Elephant’s Child that Obama loves this country. He does not, because he hates this definitional belief! He hates that the Constitution limits the government. He hates that it stands as an obstacle to his warped sense of “social justice”:

“If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.”

“But,” Obama said, “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. [ed: namely command & control who gets what so that everything is “fair”.] And that hasn’t shifted.”

Obama said “one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that.”

Obama is a Marxist who believes the proper function of government is to decide what fair IS, and then force it to be so. To redistribute wealth, healthcare, housing, etc. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

America is incompatible with this belief which is why not even the Warren Court could be so radical as to attempt to change it. We are founded on the principle of individual, God-given rights. Thus no one can have a right to anyone else’s labor. The very reason that Obama is free is NOT because the Warren Court (govt) vested rights in him, but because of our foundational principle that all men are born with the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Slavery, by definition, is a violation of those God-given rights.

Obama would have government itself own people, and their labor, for you cannot redistribute what does not belong to you. Obama seeks to reinstate slavery in the name of “social justice”. Everything he has done in office has been radical usurpation of power from the people in order to bring about this “fundamental change” as he calls it.

No, progressives do not love America, they HATE the very essence of America. They hate that we are the only nation in the history of the world where individual rights and liberty are superior to the power of government.

That makes us unique in the world. That makes us the exception to the rule. And they hate it.

It’s why Obama said as you did that every nation thinks it’s exceptional. France thinks it’s exceptional, Great Britain, Sweden, Zimbabwe, etc all think they are exceptional.

But they are not. We alone are the exception to the rule in our very foundation. We alone subordinate government to the individual. We are the great experiment, we are the most radical idea in governance in the history of governments, we are the last best hope.

This is also why we are a republic, NOT a democracy. Individual rights supersede mob-rule. Obama & so-called “progressives” would have it the other way, that mob rule would supersede individual rights. The Democrat party has ALWAYS been thus, its why they are the party of slavery, Jim Crowe, socialism & tyranny, & why the Republican party is the party of liberty.

This is the foundation of America, and the foundation of the Republican party. And it makes us exceptional.


Comment by American Elephant

<a href=""<Definitions of myth:

1 a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon b : parable, allegory

2a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society

I have read the history of the Mayflower Compact, and am familiar with what has been written about the beliefs of the founding fathers. They believed that it was God’s will that they made it safely to our shores, and weren’t wiped out by Native Americans — that Americans were a chosen people (That particular stroke of luck, in the case of the Pilgrims, was due to a disease that wiped out most of the natives on the eastern Massachusetts shore shortly before they arrived,) So they invoked God whenever speaking about individual rights. I’m sorry, but big deal. Many religions and people around the world believe in inalienable rights, too, and have incorporated such notions into their Constitutions. Whether the United States was the first to do that, I’ll have to take your word for it. I haven’t been able to check all countries. I do know, however, that the Constitution of the brief Republic of Corsica, when it declared independence from Genoa, is said by some to have been an inspiration for the writers of the U.S. Constitution.

Or are you suggesting that there was divine intervention when the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written? If so, that falls into the category of myth: there is no way of proving or disproving such a claim.

Again, I come back to institutions, and actual practice. If rights cannot be taken away by people, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It is precisely because many of us (yes, me too) feel that there has been an erosion of personal liberties in the United States that many people are concerned. In my case, I felt it most strongly in the rush of measures introduced post 9/11. Then, as so often when there is a crisis, the stress of policy makers, including Republicans, was more on “being seen to take action” then on acting wisely.

One liberty I would like reinstated in the United States, is the one enjoyed by most Europeans (male and female): to be able to relieve one’s self on the side of a country road without being arrested for indecent exposure and branded for the rest of your life as a pervert.

No, progressives do not love America, they HATE the very essence of America.

Wow. Well, all I can say, Mr. Elephant, if holding tight to that belief make you feel better, then keep doing it.

This is also why we are a republic, NOT a democracy.

Thanks for the correction. My twelfth-grade civics teacher always taught us that they referred to different characteristics, and that “Republic” distinguished the United States from constitutional monarchies, and the “Democracy” distinguished us from dictatorships.

One footnote for your daughter, Mr. Elephant. I am serious about my questions as to whether it is unconstitutional for the federal government to bail out and buy up corporations, and to engage in stupid policies like the cash for clunkers program. I would be very interested to know. If that is the case, can we get the Supreme Court to declare ALL corporate welfare unconstitutional?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

See Article I Section 8: Congress gets “to establish uniform laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” That’s as close as they get to regulating business in any way. Everything else is stuffed under the broad wings of the Commerce clause (also in Section 8) which reads: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;” As you can see that authorizes everything that can be squeezed in under the definition of “commerce.” And it would be great to get the Supreme Court to declare all corporate welfare unconstitutional, though it’s unlikely. There’s other stuff I’d rather do first, but I’m not fussy about the order.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Now we’re talkin’! Thank you, EC. (I’ll provide some additional thoughts on this later.)


Comment by Subsidy Eye

One other comment, Mr. Elephant. Republicans should understand that the world is not, alas, black and white. There are shades of grey everywhere. It takes a statesman or women to navigate through the fog. Where are America’s statesmen and women today? My guess is that they are for the most part staying well away from politics.

But, more importantly for this blog, every challenge to your or Republican nostrums seems to prompt an invective about Obama. Personally, I am looking to better understand what Republicans stand for, and to explain how some Republican stances are seen by others, not about why you hate Obama (and other fellow travelers).

And, finally, the U.S. electorate is not neatly divided between Democrats and Republicans. There is a significant number of people who are somewhere in the middle or off to one side, dreaming of a viable third party. Personally, I am happy to see the Libertarian Party slowly (too slowly) gaining ground, but so far it tends to put up eccentrics and losers as its party’s candidates. It is that group of voters that it is the Republicans risk losing through their hostility and (in my view) often decidedly intolerant positions regarding individual behavior.


Comment by Subsidy Eye


I am tempted to just draw a big “F” through your comments & tell you to go back and re-read, until you comprehend, what I wrote in the first place. We go to great length to be precise about what we mean, and you either don’t bother to read what we write before responding, or have very low reading comprehension skills. Why write preisely what we mean, if you aren’t going to bother to read things as they are written?

1. A myth, even according to the definition you provided, is a story that is only ostensibly true, that is (as it says in the third definition), “a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.”

There is nothing ostensible, imaginary of unverifiable about American exceptionalism. As I said above, our government & the foundational beliefs upon which it is based are unique among nations, unique in history. And it is demonstrable historical fact.

2. I appreciate that you’ve read about the Mayflower Compact and the Pilgrims, but the Pilgrims are not our founding fathers, they are the Pilgrims — English colonists who arrived in 1620, and the Mayflower Compact was the foundational document of that English Colony in New Plymouth.

We are not the Plymouth Colony — we are the United States of America, and the Pilgrims were long dead before our founding fathers (Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, et al) were even born, let alone before they Declared independence from England in 1776, establishing this new nation, and the Constitution defining how it would work.

The Pilgrims are absolutely part of our history, and of who we are, but they are not the founding fathers.

Many religions and people around the world believe in inalienable rights, too, and have incorporated such notions into their Constitutions.

3. No, they don’t. That’s the incredible thing about America! Ours is the only government in history whose very foundation recognizes that we have rights because our creator made it so, not because our government said we do. Ours is the ONLY constitution in history that is designed to protect the people FROM government, and as such, allows government only certain enumerated powers and tells government that it cannot do anything outside those powers, and that it cannot make any laws infringing on our God given rights.

That’s why our government is also exceptional in it’s separation of powers and checks & balances. Which the founders also designed to protect people from government. Three branches of government in conflict to assure no one dominates.

No other nation in history has subordinated government to the God given rights of the individual.No other government is so restrained and restricted.

And if you don’t believe it, I challenge you to provide any example. We are the lone exception. And that is the very definition of exceptionalism.

And yes, “progressives” hate this about America. This is the foundation of who we are and “progressives” hate it. They may love the land, but they hate our constitution.If you dont believe me, go to the link I provided, read & watch Obama say it himself. He thinks the COnstitution is flawed because it says what government cant do to you, instead of what it must do for you (provide food for you, provide housing, healthcare, redistribute wealth to you to make things “fair”) And they HATE that the Constitution stands as an obstacle to their socialist utopia.

Dont take my word for it. Listen to Obama say it.They may love the land, but they hate what America stands for — that freedom & individual liberty stand in the way of the collectivism they wrongfully call “social justice”.


Comment by American Elephant

1 & 3. Mr. Elephant, you’re not my teacher, so frankly I don’t care with you give me an “F” or an “A+”. Ostensibly doesn’t mean false, it means “plausible rather than demonstrably true or real”. Whether or not the U.S. Constitution is the only one that explicitly says that certain inalienable rights are endowed by the creator (somehow I doubt it), many countries since the Second World War treat such rights as “natural” — i.e., beyond any government to change. But my point (which you seem to ignore) is that, either way, governments nevertheless infringe on those inalienable rights. We don’t see God coming in with his invisible hand and stopping them. So, at the end of the day, what matters is what systems are in place to protect those rights (many other countries also have separate nodes of power), and how vigorous the populace is in standing up to defend them.

Exceptionalism is in the eye of the beholder. If your point is simply that that no two countries are exactly alike, just as no two people are exactly alike (except for identical twins), that is so obviously true that I don’t see where it gets us.

2. Good, OK, we agree on something. As you say, the “We are not the Plymouth Colony”. But many historians put a lot of weight on the Mayflower Compact and on the influence of other early colonies on the thinking of the Founding Fathers (as well as on writings of European political philosophers).

No other nation in history has subordinated government to the God given rights of the individual.No other government is so restrained and restricted.

That’s simply not true. Switzerland, for example, imposes a large number of restraints and restrictions on its federal government. Japan’s constitution (which Americans helped write) states, “we do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people.” Oh, and Iran’s constitution refers to “the exalted dignity and value of man, and his freedom coupled with responsibility before God; in which equity, justice, political, economic, social, and cultural independence, and national solidarity are secured … .” The wording is not precisely the same, but the sentiments are similar. Clearly, though, what matters is implementation.

And yes, “progressives” hate this about America. This is the foundation of who we are and “progressives” hate it. They may love the land, but they hate our constitution.

How to make friends and influence people! I am sorry that you are so obviously full of bile for your fellow Americans, and are so willing to paint them with a broad brush. If the leaders in the Republican Party feel the same way, then I think you all are going to alienate a lot of potential voters.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

To Elephant’s Child:

Your reference to Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution got me thinking about how the end points of a new (or return to old) economic paradigm, and how one would make the transition to it. I encourage you to post a separate article on it. (For this one, it would be a bit off-topic.)

I think that our main difference is in our view that the current administration is exceptional in the degree to which it wants to go beyond what is written in the Constitution in respect of the regulation of commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes. Clearly, over time, both Congress and successive administrations have redefined the federal role in ways that go far beyond what the Founding Fathers envisaged. Sometimes they have rolled back regulation, but more often they have added to its great and growing volume.

I welcome the idea of imagining what laws and programs we would keep and what we would jettison if we could start from scratch. That’s the kind of radical dialogue that the nation needs, I think, not the kinds of debates that we’ve been seeing on TV.

First question: how much of the annual federal budget do you think could be scrapped. Second question: what would be the ideal way to raise money to fund that expenditure? For many years after the founding of the country, the main source of revenues was import duties. I presume that none of us would be in favor of going back to that way of raising money. Indeed, an argument could be made for reducing import duties to zero across the board. (To be continued somewhere … )


Comment by Subsidy Eye

There have been occasional discussions of Congress being required to dispose of some laws and regulations before they can enact new ones, or something like that, but it never goes anywhere. The federal government is a behemoth, and there is an immense amount of duplication. I haven’t spent the amount of time it would require on Google trying to grasp just how big it is. Each of the cabinet departments has dozens if not hundreds of agencies under them. Cabinet secretaries have little ability to even really control the department they head. There are all sorts of agencies like, for example, the EPA that are not cabinet, but separate. Ronald Reagan once quipped (if I remember correctly) something to the effect that a federal agency was the closest thing to eternal life in existence. Tackle Google and try to get your mind around the extent of the Federal Government. It is scary. Eliminating whole departments would obviously save money, but would not solve the debt Obama has gotten us into.

I would urge you to read Amity Schlaes’

    The Forgotten Man

which is a new history of the Great Depression. It is pleasurable reading, based on an interesting cast of real characters, and seeing FDR’s attempts to remake the government to his will give you a picture of what presidents should and should not do. FDR was a power-drunk egocentric political manipulator, but his depredations were attempts to help the economy recover. Obama has even less sense about what a president should do. He has just appointed a new Czar at a 6 figure salary to be in charge of video games. I would guess that his rationale is that video games are a popular export and if he has a Czar to encourage innovation and sales then the economy might look up before the election? It’s nuts.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

A video-game czar?!! Now I’ve heard everything.

When I grow up I want to be an MP3-player czar.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Michael Medved was going on about it yesterday. When I tried to confirm it, I could not find the news item, but turned up the information that there has been a video game Czar since 2010, one Jack Thompson. I did find a summary of czars from Judicial Watch, they are keeping tabs, for if any czar strays into legal territory — then they would Constitutionally require confirmation by the Senate. The striking thing is how many there are, and they didn’t even list the video game slot, so they don’t have all of them.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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