The American Balance Sheet


How to size up and evaluate the American experience. Boosters will insist there’s never been a nation like ours. Our country is exceptional, has advanced human society in innumerable ways. How fortunate Americans are to live here and not elsewhere. Undoubtedly they have a strong case. On the other hand there surely are two sides to this story, one of which rarely receives the same amount of consideration. Below is a summary (mostly in chronological order) of notable developments that have occurred in the United States over the centuries. What grade would you assign to America’s overall performance?
 P R I D E  
** Religious diversity and freedom ** No hereditary aristocracy ** Widespread land ownership ** Impressive social nobility (B. Franklin, A. Hamilton, et al) ** Ideals of Declaration of Independence ** Rule of law ** Bill of Rights ** An advancing democracy ** Political stability (minus Civil War) ** Expansion of public education ** Free and vibrant press ** 19th century prison reform ** Women advancing ** Individualism unleashed ** Craft union organization ** Ending debt imprisonment ** The West beckons ** Accommodating waves of immigrants ** Keeping the military in check ** Freedom of association and voluntarism ** An ever expanding middle class ** Persistence of reform and generations of reformers ** Protections for labor ** A hospitable business environment ** An inventive people ** Robust charitable and philanthropic activities ** Vibrant urban culture ** Resisting monopolies ** Efforts toward equality ** Expanding home ownership ** World class universities ** Natural beauty ** Preservation of nature ** Victorious in two World Wars ** Pharmaceutical advances ** Repeated technological innovations ** World class hospitals ** Boundless consumer choices ** Enormous productivity ** Entertainments galore ** Consistently outstanding Olympians ** Endless leisure and recreational offerings ** World leadership.**
** Slavery ** Indian removals and annihilation ** Wealthy exercise disproportional power ** Racism and persistent racial violence ** Immigrant discrimination ** Anti-Semitism ** Anti-Catholic prejudice ** Recurring economic instability ** Fierce resistance to unionization ** Chinese and Japanese exclusion ** Systematic segregation of black Americans ** Industrial monopolies **Worker accidents ** Exaggerated fears of radicals ** Periodic Red scares ** Clandestine domestic surveillance ** Organized crime and gang violence ** Female subordination ** Sexual repressions ** Eugenics experimentation ** Sterilizations ** Homophobia ** Domestic violence ** White collar crime ** WASP dominance ** Inequality of incomes and wealth ** Persistence of Poverty ** Corruption ** Environmental deterioration ** Urban blight ** Rural decay ** Shortages of affordable housing ** Loneliness and suicides ** Obesity ** Drug addictions ** Gun deaths ** Major gaps in medical insurance coverage ** Gambling ** First and only use of Atom bomb **Agent Orange ** Gridlocked roads ** Gerrymandering and voter suppression ** National political gridlock ** “Big money” into politics ** Substandard infra-structure ** College loans, personal and government indebtedness ** Sluggish wages ** Education deficiencies ** Retirement saving deficits **
On balance, what do you think? Every nation has its positive features and its flaws. Is there any way to draw objective comparisons among them? Can there be some measure of national achievement in comparison to its potential? Based upon what has been presented, can Americans substantiate their claims to being a “most favored nation?”

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