I was listening to the radio yesterday and the topic of American Exceptionalism came up.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, it was first used by writer French writer and historian Alexis De Tocqueville in his book “Democracy in America” (1836). In it he states “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no other democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”

The idea that America is a unique place rises from the notion that the country was founded as a new nation with its own ideology based on freedom, self-determination and the overall concept that the government was in place to serve the people and not the other way around.

Starting with the American Revolution, the founding fathers were determined to do things very different than had been done before in creating this country.

For the most part, it has worked. This country has attracted people from all over the world who have been some of the hardest workers, greatest inventors, creative minds and who together have built a country which has been the envy of the world for many years. We are the world’s only superpower at the moment, the world’s policeman and the largest financial engine on the planet.

However, in some cases, the idea of American Exceptionalism is used to denote that we are a superior country to others, and some cling to the notion that any criticism of our country is grounds to leave it. (“Love it or Leave it”). Which is a silly idea and totally antithetical to our entire notion of freedom of expression.

Recently,some have brought up the idea that the United States is now a country in decline. We’ve seen the loss of basic manufacturing capability, the outsourcing of low wage, low skills jobs to other countries and the rise of the global marketplace. Our one-time domination of innovation is being challenged by former “third-world” countries that have made major investments in technology, education and infrastructure.

Much of this has been driven by the American appetite for consumption and acquiring of goods and possessions. The standard model of supply and demand and marketplace competition has driven prices lower and the need to lower manufacturing cost; Thus the shipment of manufacturing capability to low wage countries. We are, in effect, killing the goose that laid the golden egg. As our manufacturing jobs disappear and workers are thrown out of work, they cannot afford to buy the very goods they formerly produced. Thus we have entered a cycle where the economy is depressed or at least stunted because, after all, we are driven by consumer spending. Without investment in new areas, we have nowhere to go but down.

The irony of this modern economic situation is that for years, the US has attempted to export our concepts of democracy and way of life to other countries, particularly those who were repressive to their people.  Well, guess what, they listen, at least in part and now they are beating us at our own game, which has been enthusiastically encouraged by multinational corporations and our government.

The other irony for me is the message out of Washington is that the government must live within its means and not use deficit spending as a tool to provide a myriad of services to the people and also to business. It is not uncommon to hear politicians say that the US government must live within its means and make spending decisions just like American Families do every day.

Well, I‘ve got news for them.

The American people are mortgaged to the hilt. We have more personal debt than any nation on earth. The credit card has driven this economy for years and that, my friend, is deficit spending.  The nation debt is about $14 Trillion, but the consumer debt is around $2.43 Trillion. So, the American people and their government have something very much in common. They like to spend money they do not have. And, the economy depends on it.

Anyway, back to the original point. This is a great country. We have freedoms like no other place on earth. The country is beautiful and the people wonderful. But, we are not without our problems. As I have traveled the world, there are many places I could easily live that are just as nice and have most of the freedoms we enjoy. But, this is my home. I love my country.

So, what do you think?

Is America still an exceptional place or, are we, like many countries in the past, past our prime?
Are our problems so insurmountable that we cannot recover?
Is our political system broken beyond repair?
How do the people get their country back?