The video is a clip from the first episode of The Newsroom where the main actor, Jeff Daniels, states, “There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world.” Jeff Daniels proceeds to rattle off statistics supporting his claim that America is not the greatest country in the world. The problem with the statistics spouted off by Jeff Daniels is that data is often misunderstood. Statistical patterns are often oversimplified, misinterpreted, or even used to mislead others deliberately. So what do Americans think? Is America still exceptional, and if so, why? Do Americans believe that America is just like other nations?
In 2014, the Pew Research Center conducted an interesting study called the “Views of the Nation, the Constitution and Government.” The pollster found that only 28% of people believed that America stands above other countries. The majority of U.S. citizens, 58% to be exact, state that the U.S. is just "one of the greatest countries, among others." The number of people who believe America is the greatest country on earth decreased by 10 points in recent years. The decrease is not surprising when even our President seems to doubt America is the greatest country on earth. He stated, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
After seeing much of the world with myself, despite the statistics stated in the video, and the general public’s doubt, I for one sincerely believe America stands above all other countries. There are four main categories that that can be examined to determine America’s Exceptionalism. America is the greatest country because it is superior militarily, economically, scientifically, and culturally. Here are a few facts:
The strength of the U.S. military undoubtedly dominants all other nations. Our military exists to protect the freedom of each citizen to pursue success in the other categories mentioned. America’s military has superior land systems, air power, naval power, and military resources than any other country.
Economically, the United States accounts for 25% of the world’s GDP (gross domestic profit) despite only having 5% of the world’s population. That's number one.
Although people say America is a “dumb” nation, American scientists dominate all scientific research. When considering scientific citations alone, American scientists and researchers have produced more publications than the next six countries combined. Almost every great medical advancement has occurred as the result of U.S. medical research. Further, the list of innovations is almost endless, ranging from refrigeration to flight, to the atomic bomb, to the personal computer. We joke about China or Japan creating all these electronic devices, but where do you think the original idea was formulated and the prototype created? By in large, most of our commonly used innovations of today, such as email, DNA testing, social media, microprocessors, and the IPhone, originated in the United States.
Culturally, all of the top 50 grossing films of all time were produced by U.S. studios. Further, the top 7 music albums of all time were produced in the U.S. by American musicians.
How are all of these successes possible? It is not because Americans are better, smarter, or superior people. This great nation is number one because a government for the first time in all history was formed on the premise that the power comes from the people. The function of government is to protect the individual natural rights that come from God. These natural rights are rights that should be protected at all costs. Understanding these rights was the beginning of American Exceptionalism. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian, acknowledged this premise in his book Democracy in America, which summarized his visit to America in 1831. Tocqueville was fascinated by our government structure and the success we were achieving as a nation at such a young age.
America is number one because of a free enterprise system that provides individuals with a wealth of opportunities and enables them to pursue their interest. America is number one because its citizens’ right to private property, including intellectual property, is protected by the government. This protection is essential for incentivizing individuals to commit resources to innovations and discoveries.
As Mr. Cook, who is founder and editor of this blog, pointed out in an email to me, “We are number one because we are highly critical of ourselves and our present situation. As a result, we are on a never-ending journey to improve, both as individuals and as a nation.” We as a nation are not perfect, and never will be. However, as people continue to reach for the stars and challenge the status quo, we will remain the greatest nation on earth as well as a beacon of hope and an opportunity to the rest of the world. If America was not number one, why would so many people seek to immigrate here and so few people desire to leave?
We all should be sincerely thankful to grow up in this great nation. We must continue to strive for greatness. Individually, we must take personal responsibility to ensure that America remains exceptional by taking a vested interest in the direction that we are heading. We must continue to educate ourselves and improve both individually and collectively. There is hope for the future as we the people strive to “form a more perfect union.” The elected government officials are simply a reflection of what us citizens believe. Therefore, it is up to we the people to ensure that America's best years are not behind us.
MIDN Matthew J. Miller
United States Merchant Marine Academy
Class of 2017
Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management