That fount of wisdom, Baghdad Bob, put it more simply: "In saying that, you're now too far from reality."
What Do We Mean By American Exceptionalism?
Essentially, this: how and why the US differs from other advanced industrial democracies on key indicators, especially the EU, political, cultural, and economic . . . for good or bad. In the first couple of articles in the series, to be more concrete, six traits that single out the US as noticeably different from the EU countries --- or for that matter, to an extent even from the other English-speaking federal countries, Canada and Australia --- were set out as our comparative guides. Given all the intervening buggy articles, they are trotted out for view in this article again, mainly to pick up the thread of the overall analysis. Several more articles will follow before the series reaches the home stretch and spots the final post ahead, never mind galloping past it once and for all.
Believe it or not, we are still spelling out the implications of the first trait --- a general mistrust of concentrated political power --- that has no equivalent elsewhere, for good or bad . . . and it isn't always for the good.
What, Still The First Trait In Play?
Yes, no help for it . . . or so it seems. Connoisseurs might remember why. As it turned out, the first two articles that spelled out the US's exceptional traits, then started to probe first one --- noticeable differences in political institutions : a strong federalism without parallel, a separation of powers at the center, judicial oversight of Executive and Congressional actions --- prompted several lengthy exchanges with buggy visitors, both Americans and non-Americans. A separate article was devoted to each of those exchanges, some in line with buggy views, others not: if you want to look at them, they are catalogued in the buggy archives on the side-bar to the left (click on American Politics and Economics, then scroll down to November and December 2003.)
Another thing then intervened in early and mid-December. Specifically, a long three-part series on the New Anti-Semitism in the EU was uncoiled . . . followed by a couple of articles (really, a response to a professor abroad unhappy with some earlier buggy views) on social constructivism as both an ideology and a social science methodology for making sense of human societies. Those two articles can be found in the philosophy section of the archives. As you can see by letting your gaze drift downward on this buggy home page, there have also been some articles on American foreign policy in the Bush era.
The series now resumes, not that it won't likely be interrupted again by other articles . . . all depending on what's going on in the world, or what the buggy prof hears from others who visit our site . . . usually, as it happens, in direct email communication, or what swirls up out of the colliding thoughts and whirling confusion of the buggy mind at 3:00 in the morning. What follows first are some general stats about the US compared with the EU, China, and Japan . . . the potential power-rivals to the sole super-power status that the country now enjoys. Lots of other stats will figure in future articles, such as the relatively low governmental spending on social programs in the US . . . or for that matter, low spending of any sorts save on defense and education, two areas where the US turns out to be the high-roller among countries.
PART ONE: THE POWER POTENTIAL OF THE US AND POSSIBLE PEER RIVALS IN THE FUTURE
The following table brings out what is startling --- no other word for it --- about the American power lead over all other countries in the world, especially those that might figure one day as peer-rivals . . . whether friendly or not. When Hubert Vedrine, the French Foreign Minister at the time, wrote a book back in the late 1990s with Dominique Moisi, a Harvard-Ph.D. in IR, on France and global power, they referred to the US as a hyper-puissance: a hyper super-power. Strained as the term is, it does capture something unique about the global distribution of power: not since the Roman Empire dominated Europe, the Mediterrranean, North Africa, and the Middle East --- essentially, all it wanted to rule --- has there been a country that has achieved, for good or bad, the position of pre-eminence that the US enjoys.
Note: if anything, the following table understates the power gap. It doesn't set out the enormous intrusion, day-in, day-out --- welcome or unwelcome --- of American culture into the lives of all other peoples around the world.
|Population Millions|| GDP |
|Per Capita |
|Per Capita As % of US||Military |
GDP and Per Capita Income are all converted to purchasing power parity and involve
estimates through the end of 2003.
Sources: EU, OECD, CIA WorldFactbook, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and World Bank