What Makes America Great?
I’ve heard it all my life. My parents imparted it as fact, schoolteachers lectured with it as an indisputable premise and politicians use it to rile up a crowd during a fiery speech – “America is the greatest nation on earth.”
It’s a simple phrase taken as a holy fact by most Americans. But what is our metric? In almost every measurable aspect from nation-indexing think tanks, both liberal and conservative, America is simply not the greatest except in a few areas. Across 25 categories used by the Heritage Foundation, the UN Development Program and the Happy Planet Index, the USA averages a rank of 18th out of 30 other nations where the average GDP per capita is above the poverty level. (See Chart) That rank doesn’t change drastically with the ideological viewpoint of the organization doing the ranking.
Most Property Rights*
Most Perceived Well-Being**
Most Freedom From Corruption*
Best Life Expectancy**
Most Fiscal Freedom*
Most Secondary Education Participation***
Least Gov’t Spending (as % of GDP)*
Most Satisfaction with Education Quality***
Most Business Freedom*
Most Satisfaction with Health Care Quality***
Most Labor Freedom*
Best Overall Life Satisfaction***
Most Monetary Freedom*
Satisfaction with Freedom of Choice***
Most Trade Freedom*
Satisfaction with Job***
Most Investment Freedom*
Trust in People***
Most Financial Freedom*
Satisfaction with Community***
GDP per Capita (PPP)*
Trust in National Government***
Lowest Unemployment (%)*
Perception of safety***
Least Public Debt (% of GDP)*
In addition, we are overall the wealthiest most militarily powerful nation on the planet. That’s enough to be hegemonic, but is world hegemony what makes us great? Is that what my parents, my schoolteachers and politicians are always talking about? I don’t think so.
When people talk about the greatness of this country they almost always reference freedom. Our form of government was set up to struggle against itself to prevent tyranny and promote liberty. We were built on a foundation of freedom, and that, in turn, created the wealthiest most powerful nation on the planet. Our economic and personal freedom made us a beacon to the world. We were the land of opportunity because people desire a place where they can get ahead and provide a better life for their family. Freedom inspires ingenuity and progress in a people, and so it is that the free people of this country are what made us wealthy and powerful.
Right now we are sacrificing that freedom by chaining our people with burdensome taxes, arbitrary economic regulations, surveillance of our own citizens without warrant, government programs that restrict or eliminate personal choice and an ever-growing debt that enslaves this and future generations.
We are biting the hand that feeds us.
I don’t claim intentional ill-will or assign duplicitous motives to liberals in Washington, in either party, but good intentions don’t repair the harm that their liberal policies have done. We simply cannot maintain our great wealth and our great strength without the liberty the Founders intended. When we stifle freedom, we stifle the American dream. All of these restrictions on freedom or poor ranking, however, does not mean America is no longer the greatest country on earth – in my subjective opinion.
Rankings can tell us a lot about the temporary situation in which we find ourselves, but the American people are resilient. They insist on success, and success depends on freedom. The connection between our current lackluster economic recovery and the liberal policies of the Obama Administration becomes clearer every day, it won’t take long before Americans from every walk of life will be forced to acknowledge this failure. When they do, we will right the ship of state once again. We are the greatest nation on earth because no matter the ups and downs, our freedom-loving tradition and the unflinching will to fight for that liberty will ensure that the American dream isn’t just a bit of nostalgia from our past – it’s a constant for our future.