American Exceptionalism

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence imagines the drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress: Public Domain

What is American exceptionalism? American exceptionalism is a belief that the United States is different from other nations and is superior. Alexis de Tocqueville coined the term American Exceptionalism in 1831. Though a Frenchman, he believed in the “American Way.”

Today, if you asked random people, “What is American exceptionalism?” the answers would vary wildly. Some would echo former Governor Andrew Cuomo with, “America was never that great.” However, that position does not align with de Tocqueville’s belief 190 years earlier.

Others might quote former President Obama, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”  Obama was probably right. Most people want to believe their country is exceptional. It is human nature to think that the group you belong to is superior.

Still, others may list historical victories as evidence of American exceptionalism. After all, America saved the world twice in the two world wars. Maybe these people would cite innovation or capitalism as further evidence.

American exceptionalism does not refer to we the people at all. What makes America exceptional is the form of government that we have. This experiment in a republican democracy. Our founding fathers created a form of governance that had never been seen before. American exceptionalism is the idea in the Declaration of Independence that our rights come from God and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The idea that government is nothing but a necessary evil. These uniquely American philosophies define American exceptionalism.

What made America exceptional in the beginning is the idea that power flows up from we the people. The individual citizen is the sovereign, not some king, dictator, or parliament. Our limited federal government was there primarily to protect our rights, freedoms, and liberty from both foreign invaders and state governments.

Decades of prosperity lead to complacency amongst the American people. We the people faced no significant hardship. We were prosperous and comfortable. But, as stated earlier, human nature is human nature. We allowed our watchful gaze to slip from minding the store. We began to look to our federal government to solve our problems. We created new federal agencies and departments to fix problems at the state and local levels. We hired more people to the point that our federal government is now the largest employer in our country. We have now created a massive leviathan of the federal bureaucracy involved in every aspect of your everyday life. We the people in our complacency, have made precisely the thing that our founding fathers most feared, a tyrannical government.

Our states have allowed our federal government to grow beyond recognition. As a result, nearly all power has been delegated to the federal level. Today our 50 sovereign states are a little more than precincts within the iron fist of a totalitarian federal government. Unelected bureaucrats in the myriad of alphabet agencies write regulations and control money flow. This vast network of alphabet agencies controls the water going into your house and the electricity you use. They regulate your car and the roads you drive. They regulate your workplace, communications, healthcare, education, construction, and banking. In short unelected bureaucrats at the federal level regulate every tiny aspect of our lives.

The federal government has all of the money, and money is power. On average, the budget of a state or local government is 30% funded by federal funds. Those federal funds are used to bribe and extort state, county, and local governments to the federal will. To paraphrase Ronald Regan, we are allowing a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital to plan our lives for us.

We have forsaken precisely what made us exceptional. The United States Constitution gave us the framework of what may be the most perfect government formed by mankind. Yet, today, the Constitution has a hate speech warning placed upon it at the National Archives. Every elected official swears oaths to the Constitution of the United States. Yet, many of those same people openly attack the Constitution and the principles of liberty, but we allow them to stay in office.

There is hope. We the people have started to pay attention again. Many have begun to realize 94% of government in the United States is state and local government and are beginning to push back against the 6% in the far-distant capital. Americans are beginning to understand that the US Constitution made this country exceptional. Freedom and liberty are becoming fashionable again. School boards, town councils, and county commissions all have far more power than they are typically given credit. From dog catcher to President, every elected office is essential. Fill them all with individuals who understand the original purpose and function of the constitutional republic we were blessed to inherit.

We will become a great shining republic again through adherence to the US Constitution.


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1 thought on “American Exceptionalism”

  1. What made America exceptional in the beginning is the idea that power flows up from we the people.

    Maybe it’s that… but I thought we were talking about American exceptionalism. I read a book once that wasn’t titled, “Examples of American Exceptionalism” although that would have fit the content but, rather, it was titled “The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy” and it was ripe with examples of people leaving the old country and becoming transformed… energized… even examples of American Exceptionalism.

    These people were smart, hard working, and had aspirations in the countries they came from but when they got plugged into the American experience they… exploded into something… exceptional.

    To me, American exceptionalism isn’t the system of government (although that is special) or the natural gifts this land has (that is pretty spectacular in itself) or even that power flows up through the people (that used to be more true than it is today).

    American exceptionalism derives from the fact that a ‘no one‘ can come in from almost any other country on this planet and, if they want to, they will become ‘someone and accomplish… well, exceptional deeds… deeds that if they had continued living in their country of origin the world would never have had.

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