[American exceptionalism] is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be, so to speak, the spokespersons of their anxieties are, in most cases, stunningly ignorant.
― Zbigniew Brzezinski
The World Economic Forum annually puts out a wonderful report that ranks countries in numerous areas. The “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013” should serve as a wake up call to those who hold tightly to their unshakable faith in American Exceptionalism. Turns out that America, while certainly good in many respects, isn’t all that exceptional…except in the imaginations of those on the Right married to the delusion that “WE’RE #1!!”
The report rates 144 countries based on a number of criteria, and those convinced that America is Top Dog are in for a rough landing. According to the report, America is
34th in “Life Expectancy”
41th in “Infant Mortality”
38th in “Quality of Primary Education”
58th in “Primary Education Enrollment Rate”
28th in “Quality of the Educational System”
47th in “Quality of Math and Science Education”
6th in “Quality of Scientific Research Institutions”
10th in “Willingness to Delegate Authority”
42th in “Cooperation in Labor-Management Relations”
34th in “Diversion of Public Funds [due to corruption]”
54th in “Public Trust in Politicians”
42th in “Irregular Payments and Bribes”
136th in “Government Debt [as a % of GDP]”
103th in “Total Tax Rate”
47th in “Number of Procedures Required to Start a Business”
And on it goes, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. No matter how wonderful America is, and I’m proud to be an American, we have no claim to feeling exceptional. OK, so we’re #1 in both “GDP” and “GDP as a Share of World GDP.” Beyond that, we have a lot of work to do in health care, education, infrastructure, corruption, investor protection, technology, taxes…yada, yada, yada….
I suppose this is what we get for being complacent. We’ve become so comfortable in the smug self-assurance of our presumed superiority that we’ve taken our collective eye off the ball. In so doing, we’ve been passed by a goodly segment of the developed worked, and in some cases even the not so developed world.
America used to be the country of big ideas, of doing things that were hard. Now we’re governed by a political class which deals in limitations and what American doesn’t have the resources for. Republicans and the Tea Party are about what America can no longer afford, and so striving and thinking about doing big things has become a relic of our past. JFK challenged us to go to the moon; these days we can barely maintain our roads and bridges. Big things? Not while there are those in Congress focused on limitations.
Is it any wonder we’re no longer #1?