There *is* American Exceptionalism. It’s that we intentionally confuse social welfare with totalitarianism. We confuse economic models with "more" or "less" individual freedom. This belief is actually not the case. Our freedom lies in our ability to speak our minds, limitations on the government to intrude on our homes or compel us to incriminate ourselves, providing a non-violent means of revolution, etc.
What has resulted from our economic model is the situation we have today, no matter who is in office Americans work more for less "life" than pretty much any modern country. Furthermore, we stubbornly resist any idea that has been implemented elsewhere (say, Europe) before we thought of it as being "European". Except for describing a vacation location, the word "European" is pejorative.
I’m an incredibly lucky person. I was born into a place on Earth where, as a white male, I could enjoy "The American Dream" at the lowest difficulty level needed to obtain it.
But today that same demographic doesn’t have the same option. And it’s not being taken away by increasing minority populations or affirmative action or illegal immigration. It’s being taken away by student loan debt, a housing market viewed as a profit center, a health industry that is so institutionalized against change it is actually incented to treat disease for money rather than cure it, corporate taxes that have so many loopholes the effective rate is zero which deprives the government of revenue, politicians that have to worry about re-election more than governing, and finally, a system that feeds direct control of our well being, infrastructure, defense, drug approval, rights, and all the machinations of government into a tiny fraction of the population who gamed the system then used it to buy and sell the politicians they need to achieve their goals.
Their goals. Not our goals. Not society’s goals. Not the country’s goals. It’s hard for the lowest difficulty people, so imagine everyone else.
I’ve left out a bunch. The challenges of sex and race, our privatized prison system and militarized police. Our need to build weapons we don’t need to fight wars we should have thought twice about before getting into.
This article really resonated with me and I urge everyone, conservative and liberal to read it. It’s not anti-conservative or anti-patriotic or anti-liberal to suggest someone is doing something better. It doesn’t much affect our power as a nation state to implement some of these ideas.
We used to be a country that took on big social changes or projects. The Civil War. An income tax. The railroads. The highway system. Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid. Federal oversight of safety of everything from cars to food to drugs. Landing on the moon. Rovers on Mars. The space shuttle.
I don’t expect anyone to wholesale change their minds over one article, and there are loads of challenges and caveats to some of what I said above. But when solving these problems the American Way is to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then work to undo as much of the good as we can because either it wasn’t perfect or it’s a "non-american" idea.
It’s time we looked around, and realized we’re not some lone beacon on a hill that no one else must ever live without. Because we’re feeding our own people, our values, and the very future of the country into the fire that lights that beacon. And it’s not necessary.