Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hungry for Exceptionalism

Look ahead, not in the rearview mirror.

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American Exceptionalism.

Politicians need to loudly affirm their belief in it or be eviscerated. But what is it?

Wikipedia says the term can be traced to the early 1800s and the thought that the United States is inherently different with a unique ideology based on liberty, equality, individualism, and economic freedom. But I worry about a catchphrase trying to capture the essence of a value system.

Liberty. Equality. Individualism. Economic freedom. This is where we came from; this is where we want to go. Liberty: the ability to govern ourselves, exhibit freewill, and take responsibility for our actions. Equality: the belief that all people have the same worth. Individualism: the possibility to exercise our own goals and realize our own destiny. Economic freedom: the chance to succeed on our own merits in a competitive environment.

Where's the hunger that got us here? Arrogance kills businesses and can stunt the growth of a country whose business is business. Affluence brings contentment, but contentment can make us idle.

Does our fixation on China and India come from the fear of looking over our shoulder? Or is it envy? Are we experiencing a mid-life crisis, seeing ourselves in the mirror and wondering what happened to that brash, energetic, ambitious young adult?

Repeating the mantra again and again and again won't make us exceptional. We have to look in the mirror – not out the window – and ask how we improve each day. Every day.

I believe in liberty, equality, individualism, and economic freedom.

Are you hungry for more?