Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Essential (and Exceptional) American

In his weekly e-mail newsletter, this one entitled "The Essential (and Exceptional) American," Newt lays out why the concept of American Exceptionalism is so important and why the left gets it wrong.
Asserting American Exceptionalism is not a vain exercise in building our national self-esteem by boasting about our country's great wealth and military capability.

It is also not an argument that says America can 'go it alone' on the world stage.

Nor is it a belief that America's success is pre-ordained by the Almighty, no matter what we do (which is not to say that the hand of Providence cannot be seen during key points in American history.)

Instead, American Exceptional ism is an idea as old as our country itself. The Founding Fathers understood that the vast resources at our fledgling country's disposal coupled with our puritan roots and lack of a feudal past meant that the United States was uniquely positioned to thrive as an exception to the corruption and poverty of other countries.

More importantly, they understood that the new nation was the first to be founded on the self-evident truth that individual rights come directly from God, not the church or a King, and that citizens loan that power to the state. In America, the individual is sovereign, not the government, which was a revolutionary break with previous forms of government in the world.

This relationship was expressed in our founding political document, the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Having defined it, Newt goes after liberal critics of it:
The Left routinely mocks the idea of American Exceptionalism, with one liberal writer recently dismissing it as an exercise in 'toasting our fabulousness.'...But what the Left fails to understand is that the relationship between God, the citizen, and the state, understood by our founding fathers and expressed in the Declaration, shaped the Constitution (which identifies the source of the new government's power as "We the people..."), our subsequent national policies, and our enduring understanding of American Exceptionalism.
America developed a free market economic system not based on some academic analysis that it is more efficient at creating wealth, but because if the individual is sovereign, the idea of the state trying to organize human activity is abhorrent, a violation of the individual's right to pursue happiness.

Instead, our country believes the proper role of government in the economic sphere is to create a framework that maximizes the ability of citizens to engage in free exchange, such as putting the weight of law behind the enforcement of contracts and by prosecuting fraud. It is not the role of government to try and redistribute wealth, create new entitlements or bail out politically connected special interests.

Similarly, America's great freedom of religious practice did not evolve based on a simple desire to create social harmony. It is a direct consequence of this historic understanding of the relationship between God, the citizen and the state. If "our Creator" is the source of our unalienable rights – including the right to know and worship God – then it is illicit for government to get between the citizen and the worship of God.

The modern distortion of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which has been used to justify the tearing down of crosses on public land and the harassment of civic organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, is an explicit violation of this natural order.

The Left hates the idea of American Exceptionalism because it sets boundaries on the power of the state. The Left's desire for ever bigger government clashes with the core principles of America's exceptional founding.

That's why the Left is engaged in an unending war in academia and Hollywood to reduce the exceptional nature of America's founding by trashing the integrity of our founding fathers and trying to paint our country's enormous and rapid rise in wealth and power as due to almost anything other than the freedoms we enjoy.
Newt's daughter, Jackie, has a book out, titled The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own.

You can sign up for Newt's weekly newsletter here.

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