Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity — in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land, and bread.”
In contrast, our revolutionaries shouted “Don’t tread on me!” and “Give me liberty or give me death!” The Founders were convinced that constitutionally protected freedom would allow the individual to create wealth apart from government. Such enlightened self-interest would then enrich society at large far more effectively that could an all-powerful state.
Such constitutionally protected private property, free enterprise, and market capitalism explain why the United States — with only about 4.5 percent of the world’s population — even today, in an intensely competitive global economy, still produces a quarter of the world’s goods and services. To make America unexceptional, inept government overseers, as elsewhere in the world, would determine the conditions — where, when, how and by whom — under which businesses operate.
Individual freedom in America manifests itself in ways most of the world can hardly fathom — whether our unique tradition of the right to gun ownership, the near impossibility of proving libel in American courts, or the singular custom of multimillion-dollar philanthropic institutions, foundations, and private endowments. Herding, silencing, or enfeebling Americans is almost impossible — and will remain so as long as well-protected citizens can say what they want and do as they please with their hard-earned money.
—Victor Davis Hanson, on America’s exceptionalism