July brings picnics, fireworks, and a reminder that our nation and the states which form it are great. Many of us have a great pride in our country’s heritage, but in recent years debate has arisen over whether or not the United States is an exceptional nation.
American exceptionalism isn’t necessarily about national pride, however. The United States is exceptional in that it is the only country founded upon an idea. This idea is that government exists for the individual liberties of man and must be limited to protecting those liberties.
The Founding Fathers were deeply influenced by what came before them: ancient Greek and Roman political ideals, Judeo-Christian teachings, British common law, and Scottish Enlightenment. Yet, explicitly establishing a regime on the principles of natural rights and limited government as intended in the Declaration of Independence and later codified in the United States Constitution to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” — that was truly radical.
And it was that radicalism which allowed Americans to build a society that abolished feudal chains, destroyed the traditional class structure, and fostered hitherto unseen social mobility and economic prosperity.
But can American exceptionalism endure when the government stops defending and protecting the freedoms and liberties of its people? What happens to our liberties when federal, state, and local governments give special favors to some at the expense of others? Or when the government piles on regulations for new businesses?
Is the idea of American exceptionalism quickly fading from sight?