Olivia Brough, broughol@muohio.edu

Some people equate American “exceptionalism” with a form of nationalism and as an excuse to spread our influence into the world. They associate the term with a ‘rules don’t apply to us’ mentality and a bully attitude.

The word “exceptional” refers to an unusual goodness. Politically, there is nothing particularly unique about European countries. They all had monarchies at some point in history. They all get their rights from their governments. They’ve all had rigid class systems with aristocracies.

America is unique for three main reasons. Our country is the only country in history to have been built on the ideas of 1) all men are created equal, 2) rights that are inalienable and do not come from the government and 3) that anyone can become a full-fledged American as long as they pledge allegiance to the Republic and to the principles for which it stands. Our citizenry does not depend on bloodlines or “rootedness in the soil” like in other nations.

Being American is about believing in the unique ideas upon which America was built.

These unique ideas contribute to an idea of liberty that does not exist elsewhere in the world, which is the idea of economic liberty. This American definition of liberty has made us the freest, and thus the most prosperous nation in history.

Other nations throughout history conquered and plundered to take wealth.

People try to compare the decline of historic empires such as the Roman Empire with what some think is America’s current decline, but they fail to note that the reason why historic empires declined was because they became overextended and it became more difficult for them to continue to conquer and seize wealth.

America gained wealth because its ideas led to wealth creation. America’s unique definition of liberty led to the opportunities for individuals to flourish by creating value and wealth because they could freely choose the pursuit of their own ambitions. The only way we will ever decline is if we fail to adhere to the ideas that made us free and prosperous.

I think President Barack Obama either fails to understand what makes America exceptional, or has a different view of America. I think he parallels the core value of “equality” with the egalitarian definition of providing equal outcomes.

The phrase “all men are created equal” does not mean actual equality. It means that each individual is of equal worth and thus the law must be impartial and applied equally to all. Federalist Paper 10 describes how pure democracies have “erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions and their passions.”

Proponents of social justice also use the egalitarian definition of equality. I don’t think they understand the three ideas listed above, and if they do understand them, they believe that’s what makes America bad and that America must be transformed.

They fail to realize that the American definition of liberty has done more to lift people out of poverty and created a prosperity more widely shared than among any other people in history.

Those who believe in the egalitarian definition of equality define fairness as the partial application of the law rather than an impartial rule of law. This results in favoritism and human agencies granting rights to some people over others. Our Founders set up a system where no group can suppress another. But in the name of ‘fairness’, social justice proponents would suggest applying taxation more heavily to one group than another.

Social justice is appropriate in the private sector, such as charities, but it was never meant to be the government’s role.

More and more people are beginning to believe that the lower, middle and upper classes in America contain the exact same people each year.

There is significant upward and downward mobility among our classes in America. A person in the “one-percent” today isn’t necessarily there next year.

The failure to understand American “exceptionalism” is a failure to understand America and the root of our liberty, prosperity and success. Nations that put liberty before egalitarian equality, such as America, have actually done better in regards to the betterment of human life.

America has always been a nation with a love of liberty. But we’re at a tipping point. If we continue to transform into a nation with a love of egalitarian equality, we will cease to be America and our freedom and prosperity will decline.