Saturday, July 06, 2013

Larry Schweikart on U.S. Exceptionalism

Professor Larry Schweikart is the main guy behind the "Patriot's History" series of books. He says he came up with that title as sort of an answer to Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Schweikart believes that a lot of left-leaning historians and scholars really don't love America, although at least some of them protest that they do.

One of Schweikart's points of contention with those to his left is the question of whether the United States has any legitimate claim to exceptionalism. Here's the question: Among the nations of the world, and across the sweep of history, is the USA uniquely different and good? Critics of the U.S. don't really think so. Some of them seem intent on cutting the United States down to size. Schweikart, on the other hand, thinks the U.S. truly IS exceptional. He says that a unique combination of four characteristics is what makes the U.S. uniquely great. Other countries possess two or three. But only the U.S. possesses all four. They are:

1. Common Law, a legal system that derives from the notion that the good Lord gave people an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong. The laws therefore grow from the grassroots up, but are understood to be ultimately from above.

2. A mostly-Protestant Christian religious tradition guiding the culture.

3. Private property backed up by titles and deeds. Schweikart says that in many countries people or families own land. The problem is that they have nothing like a legal deed. Therefore, they can't offer collateral to a bank. So they can't borrow money in order to build their wealth by, say, starting a new business or acquiring more land.

4. A free market system, with competitive supply and demand unhindered by government control, uninhibited by government regulation.

Question: Does the U.S have a legitimate claim to exceptionalism? Is Schweikart right? Why or why not?

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