America: Still unique and a uniquely desirable place to live

In recent years there has been a plethora of negative articles about America. The tenor of these articles is that America is not what it once was; that America is on a downward trend in global influence and prosperity;  that economic disaster lies ahead for America. Among the most negative appraisals of America to appear recently is “State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America,” by David Stockman, Op-Ed, The New York Times, March 31, 2013,  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/opinion/sunday/sundown-in-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Mr. Stockman’s article was an honest and impassioned, if not overwrought appraisal of things that should concern all Americans who have hopes for their own future as well as the future of their country.

Virtually everyone in America is dissatisfied or unhappy about some aspect of the way things are going, either in their own life, or in society in general. In politics everybody is a member of the minority, and therefore displeased, on one or more political issues.

The website of which this blog is a part is dedicated to disseminating the teaching of Andrew J. Galambos and Jay Stuart Snelson that politics is not a solution to the problems of society, but rather is the chief cause of the problems of society—in America and everywhere else. The tenor of Mr. Stockman’s editorial is similar.

However, there is also good cause for much more optimism about America than one hears from the purveyors of gloom and doom.

What other country has many, many people ready at almost instant notice to travel to disaster-stricken areas in other countries to bring relief? These are individuals who participate in voluntary organizations using charitable contributions given  generously by Americans. Aid from such people and organizations reaches disaster-stricken people abroad far more quickly than any aid organized by the United States of America.

For people living outside America who have the desire to leave their home country, and the ability to go anywhere they choose, what country would be the first choice? Surely, most would choose America, with other contenders vying for a distant second place.

Some years ago there appeared in the Reader’s Digest an appreciation of America voiced by a lady from Greece. She said that she had lived in several countries besides her native Greece. In every other country but America she felt she would be regarded as a foreigner no matter how long she lived there. But in America she felt welcome almost immediately, and was accepted as one of us.

America is truly a world country, with people here, literally, from every other country on earth, from the largest to the smallest. No matter how recently they arrived in America very few immigrants would choose to return to their native countries.

In some cases they fled their native land because it was a dangerous place to live. In some cases they left for greater opportunity in America, opportunity to enjoy, in the words of The American Declaration of Independence, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

For the extremely poor of this world, life is a struggle just for survival. Nearly one in seven people around the world live on incomes of less than $1.50 per day. Any American who has lived in countries afflicted by widespread poverty would bear witness to the fact that homeless people in America have a better standard of living than such poor people living in foreign countries. One might ask how anyone could survive on less than $1.50 per day. They can because both the standard of living and the expenses of food, clothing and shelter, however wretched, are far less than in America.

Americans of all national origins built the world’s most productive and prosperous country in a little over a century, from the end of British control in 1781 until the first decade of the 20th century. The edifice of productivity built in America’s first 130 years as an independent country still sustains a virtually unparalleled prosperity.

American culture has permeated the culture of the world. Just one example in popular culture: blue jeans, invented in California in the days of the gold rush of 1849, are near universal attire, worn on the streets of the cities of almost all countries in every continent, from Beijing to Moscow to Paris to Buenos Aires as well as in Cairo and other Arab cities.

The leading symphony orchestras of America are equal to the best that Europe has to offer. American motion pictures are popular all over the world. Computers are transforming human life in many ways, from the way people obtain information to the way they communicate. Innovations fundamental and essential to the age of computers were “made in America,” such as transistors, the integrated circuit, and the computer software industry.

Because of the relative freedom and openness of American society, it seems likely that Americans will continue to lead in scientific discoveries, technological innovations, and progress in human economic and social interaction.

What other country has welcomed and assimilated such a diversity of people from every corner of the globe? Canada, to some extent, but America is still in the forefront of assimilating newcomers into its vibrant and dynamic society.

Where else could a bright young person from a totally different society and culture and a race different from those whose ancestors founded America some 230 years ago aspire to and succeed in any occupation ranging from academia to the professions and the arts and sciences? In nowhere but America would the possibility of such an outcome be considered unsurprising.

America is the country where the idea of monarchy was replaced by a permanent quest for self-sovereignty, individual rights and freedoms. America is the country that is the most tolerant of differences among people and where there is the least bias, prejudice and bigotry against strangers and foreigners of other races and cultures.

If there is a country where intellectual leaders will discover and show the way to permanent peace and abolition of war, that country is America. Advancing the human quest for peace, freedom and prosperity was the raison d’être of the work of Andrew J. Galambos and Jay Stuart Snelson, and is the purpose of the website of which this blog is a part.

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8 Responses to America: Still unique and a uniquely desirable place to live

  1. Don Taylor says:

    Thank you Fred for another great and timely blog… I look forward to everything you have to say…it’s always enlightening, interesting and educational.
    Don Taylor

  2. darryl says:

    undoubtedly the united states (america is actually a continent not a country) has impacted the world in many positive ways. McDonalds is also ubiquitous global, a US invention and one that I am personally not proud of. But it is folly to contend that our doors are open to all who want to come and live here. Furthermore there are countries where the boarders are open and opportunity abounds (graduate school in Canada and working in Denmark confirmed that for me). I wish it were really true that the US is a place “where intellectual leaders will discover and show the way to permanent peace and abolition of war,”. Quite to the contrary, we occupy >165 countries, waged an unjustified ‘war’ on a sovereign nation (Iraq) that lead to >100,000 deaths and innumerable other causalities, have imprisoned many without due course, perform drone strikes in places you are not even aware of and spend by any metric considerably more on ‘defense’ than all of the other counties in the world combined. As a Vietnam vet I can speak from personal experience, that war, killing and occupation is not what it appears to be on a video monitor (TV). In real life it is brutal. Our country has been great and can be again, but to do so we must take it back from the ultra-wealthy. Our oligarchy can again be a Democratic system, but only when our votes really count. Our people, education and infrastructure must come before the war machine. Main problem is that these peace-loving intellectuals (of which i am a part) are not only ignored, they are shunned as unpatriotic.

    • fgmarks says:

      Dear Professor Bornhop:

      The blog post you read is part of a website entitled Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution (CTLR). Each word in the title has a meaning different than is commonly understood today. In my view the term “capitalism” is deserving of opprobrium if it means the crony capitalism that we have in America today, and have had since almost the inception of the republic. The next chapter of CTLR will explore the idea expressed in the preceding sentence. There are good things that are capitalistic in America, but the good gets obscured by the bad things done by some people who are considered to be capitalists.

      McDonald’s: I myself have mixed feelings about it, since I don’t like killing animals to eat them when I believe doing so is not necessary either for human survival or good nutrition. Here is an anecdote that may be of interest to you. In 1983 I was in Amsterdam at the railway ticket office to purchase tickets to Paris. A young Swiss couple was there to buy tickets home to Switzerland. They were just completing a trip around much of the world. During their trip they lived out of their back packs. I had just been surprised to see a McDonald’s restaurant in Amsterdam, and remarked to them that I could not imagine Europeans wanting McDonald’s hamburgers. They told me that in some parts of the world they had visited they were glad of finding a McDonald’s because they believed it was the only food in such locales that they felt safe in eating. I could understand, having seen in person how unsanitary is the handling of food in some parts of the world.

      Immigration: Until shortly after WW I the doors of America were open to all who wanted to come and live here. During that period of about 130 years America grew to become the country with the world’s highest average standard of living. As far as I know, right up until WW I, the only requirement to get through immigration at Ellis Island in New York was that a would- be immigrant was not suffering from a communicable disease. I deplore the wave of immigrants coming over our southern border, but for a reason different than most. For starters, here in southern California, nearly half the residents are of Hispanic origin, some quite recent arrivals. Generally they work hard. They take jobs native born Americans do not want, partly because the wages are low—car wash staff, restaurant bus boys, gardeners’ assistants and the like. The big problem for me is that these immigrants have access to tax paid public services in numbers that are overwhelming hospital emergency rooms and the public schools. As long as the state has a policy of providing public services without charge to those who use them, illegal immigrants are a huge problem. As you know, there are people who advocate that any denial of such services to people who are not here with the permission of the federal state is a denial of civil rights.

      You will find in looking through the book of which the blog is a part that I am advocating a complete end to all forms of involvement of the state in providing services to citizens. That will shock you, but if you will peruse the website you may find there is some rationality and method to what at first may appear to be madness. When I use the word “state” I mean what is generally thought of as the federal government as well as state and local government. Without taxpayer paid services the flow of illegal immigrants would not be a burden on those who are here legally and paying a greater portion of their income as taxes than do illegal immigrants.

      U.S. military actions. I am very much in agreement with the ideas you expressed starting with your sentence that begins “Quite to the contrary . . .” On the website there is a chapter entitled “Wars of the United States of America.” One of the main premises of CTLR is that the state is the cause of war. In exploring that premise I examined all the major wars of the U.S. starting with the War of 1812. I came to the conclusion that U.S. involvement in these wars was either unnecessary, or unjustified in whole or in part. I am not an isolationist. I add this so you won’t think I am dismissing without deep consideration the necessity of, e.g., that presumably most “just” of all wars, WW II. Our country could not have avoided some involvement in WW II, but if you read the chapter on U.S. wars, you will find a reasoned case made for how the U.S. could have avoided entirely the war with Japan, and could have limited considerably the country’s participation in the war against Nazi Germany, without appeasing the evil that was Nazi Germany, while still doing a great deal to prevent the victory of Nazi Germany.

      The Ultra-wealthy. The premise of CTLR is that there is nothing wrong with someone becoming ultra-wealthy if that person does not achieve wealth by political action rather than productive activity. Some of the wealthy have used the state to help them defeat competitors foreign and domestic, and to provide subsidies for activities that would not be profitable without taxpayer support through such subsidies. Some of the wealthy, e.g., some CEOs and other higher-ups in major banks and financial firms, became wealthy by using the state to guarantee that they would not have to pay the price of failure. With those state guarantees in place they could engage in risky activities, pay themselves obscene amounts of the supposed profits, and when the supposed profits turned into losses, walk away rich without having to make restitution of money taken for running their companies into bankruptcy. For example, one who was is in a good position to know said that without U.S. federal involvement, 12 of the 13 largest banks would have failed in the financial crisis of 2008. Source: a book entitled Exile on Wall Street (2012) by Mike Mayo, page 5.

      There is a positive benefit to society from individuals becoming wealthy. That benefit is called “capital formation.” When wealth earned in business is re-invested to produce still more products, services, and profits, that benefits everyone in society. Capital formation distinguishes America from places like the Soviet Union and North Korea where it was and is illegal to be an entrepreneur and make a profit. Consequently, those countries are and were desperately poor, with an extremely low average standard of living.

      I must add that there are ultra-wealthy in even a communist society. The ultra-wealthy communists are those in the political structure that have privilege, power, and a standard of living totally unavailable to the rest of the people. The dictator of North Korea and his father and grandfather are and were all well fed, clothed and housed, but not the people. Malnutrition of the people has caused the average height of 18-year-old North Korean males to be five inches less than 18-year old males in South Korea. Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times has written extensively about that. Her writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, and in her recent book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009).

      Voting. It is a premise of CTLR that politics is the problem, not the solution, to what ails every society. We have had voting in the United States since the inception of the republic. And look at the result. The voters elect politicians who make promises that cannot be kept; and who violate even the promises that can be kept. LBJ asked to be elected in 1964 to stop Goldwater from embroiling the U.S. in “wider war” in Vietnam. The 1964 election campaign was not even over when LBJ got a sort of declaration of war from Congress in the form of the fraudulently induced Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of August 1964. I remember this as if it were yesterday, because as a good, voting citizen, who was registered as a member of the Democratic Party, I was asked to work as a precinct captain to help elect LBJ. I agreed to do so and gave 100 hours to this cause. I spoke to one lady asking her to be sure and get out to vote for President Johnson. She replied, young man, I am from Texas, and know that LBJ is a crook. I would never vote for him. Good-bye!”

      Peace-loving intellectuals. It is not just intellectuals, but most people who want peace not war. In this regard the German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz said “War is politics carried on by other means to compel our adversary to submit to our will.” I submit that it is useful and productive of clarity to invert that sentence and say that politics is war carried on by other means to compel our adversary to submit to our will. Politics and war go hand in hand. They are one and the same, as each relies on violence and coercion or, in the case of politics, the threat of violence and coercion. As long as intellectuals believe that we can have peace, freedom and prosperity through politics, they will be disappointed.

  3. Gail Anderson says:

    There are many people who love this country and have hope for its future. I wish those were our representatives in Congress right now! Fred, you hit the nail on the head for what our country is and why we will prevail. Thanks for doing something “positive”!
    Gail P Anderson

  4. James Steamer says:

    Yes, America has been a phenomenal country and progressed faster than any on earth but I am very afraid we are now going down. I think the US peaked in prosperity around 1950-1975. After this job became far more competitive, required more official credentials and manufacturing jobs have gone to China and elsewhere in droves leaving many unemployed and underemployed. Marriage which is the foundation of society has suffered a terrible decline over the last few decades and now over half our population actually thinks marriage can be between two people of the same sex or worse yet involve more than two people. Junk movies have polluted people’s minds. Overly easy access to birth control and abortion have also lessened the sense of commitment of marriage. Liberalism has loosened morals to such an extent that we are losing our sense of boundaries and stopped realizing that freedom is not unlimited. The constitution is less and less relevant. And we have allowed the health care system to almost destroy middle class life as we either pay way too much for insurance or absurd amounts for care which is loaded with fraud, waste, redundancy and greed with minimal incentives for individuals to take care of their own health. More insurance is merely a ticket for the medical industry to keep scamming away. We also are in such debt that we never will even come close to paying it down and inevitably will reach a point where the government will not be able to pay its bills or inflation will go rampant. New so desperately need solid, committed leaders with common sense!

    • fgmarks says:

      Much of your comment is addressed in chapters of CTLR (Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution) already published on the website, as distinguished from the blog posts. You raise issues about jobs and pay, marriage, and health care costs.

      There is no reason for chronic unemployment in a free market economy as the world’s work is never done. After WW II low-skilled labor was paid high wages in the manufacturing industry in America due to a combination of Depression era labor legislation, the destruction of the production capacity of Germany and Japan in WW II, and the large amounts of money earned and saved by American consumers in World War II. Some production previously done in America moved gradually from America to Germany, Japan, and then China. Why? Because consumers demand low cost and high quality if they can get both. That is the reason for the ascendancy of Japan in automobiles and electronics. Producers move production to lower cost labor markets, or production is taken from America by producers in such lower cost labor markets. The situation in America from 1950-1975 was a temporary elevation of wages that were thereafter under downward pressure from foreign competition. Trying to protect domestic producers and workers from competition is a self-destructive activity as explained in 1776 by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations.

      Marriage is a relationship that people enter into for mutual benefit. When the state pays people for not working and pays for the support of children the parents cannot pay for, the result is to undermine marriage. That is true in any country. Marriage is becoming less frequent in Europe as well as America. There is an excellent book that covers this topic, Losing Ground (1984) by Charles Murray.

      The U.S. Constitution is not an instrument of liberty. It is an instrument that endows Congress with vast coercive powers. This is discussed in detail in CTLR (Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution) chapter 9 entitled Political Democracy in America.

      The debt of the U.S. is an enormous problem that is discussed in Political Democracy in America. The debt is due to politicians making promises and thereby creating liabilities that can never be paid. So they won’t be paid, and to avoid payment the state will debase the value of the dollar, which it has been doing steadily for the past 80 years.

      The solution to this is among the purposes of CTLR: to describe a social structure based on free enterprise, voluntary association, and the absence of political coercion. Getting from here to there is a difficult problem, but it is a problem of transition.

  5. Jim Jones says:

    Fred — Great ideas presented as always with the rationality of well-thought out reason and full of optimism. In view of both: 1) your comments; 2) as well as those of responders to your blog – yours as well as Galambos’ and Snelson’s voices – all are a voice in the wilderness. As a matter of fact, such are the voices of Von Mises and the other great Austrian economists as evidenced by the continuing politically controlled mad rush to perpetuate Keynesian concepts. And, how about the other social scientists – the voices of Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Frederic Bastiat, Spencer Heath, Ayn Rand and a myriad of other freethinking past and present voices in the wilderness – unheard and unknown to the majority of present-day Americans that, YES – many of whom came to this former bastion of individual sovereignty and freedom from other lands. Our great progress compared to all other lands between 1781 and the early 20th century was because of the virtual lack of political control over either the individual or production. So, that was then, and now IT IS A DIFFERENT STORY. What I admire most about you and your convictions, is your undying belief in how a social product can be built as a free enterprise alternative to the insanity of the political processes that threaten us all – here in the U.S. as well as all other nations of the world. But, as you, I and a number of others – so influenced by the voices in the wilderness that you support through CTLR have come to understand – building individual sovereignty and freedom as a product within the social science domain is entirely different than building an iPhone in the physical science domain. It is damned hard, but it can be accomplished and it is worthwhile as you so clearly understand. The challenge is to convert the voice in the wilderness to a voice that speaks to the people directly to offer a turning around of ideas – a true REVOLUTION of thought – that finally can replace the state controlled nature of all our freedom-loving lives. Please keep up the important work that you so capably do and count on me as one of your most ardent admirers and supporters.

    • fgmarks says:

      Dear Jim: The voice of truth will not languish in the wilderness. Already I have received comment on the blog or the chapters from people I never knew before. Just yesterday there was one from a man using an email address from Vanderbilt University. The word is getting out. Proprietary government services have become a growth industry. The gradual weakening of the state will be a spur to the continuance of proprietary government and its growth.People I meet seem genuinely responsive to the idea that politics is not a solution to social problems but is in effect the cause of social problems and pathologies.

      Fred

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