American Success: A Lie?

Allow me to tender a thesis: that America’s global hegemony is based on an incredible optimism which drives boldness, innovation, creativity, and many other noble, success-yielding characteristics.  But this optimism is based on a narrow set of conditions found in the late 1600s and the early 1700s that weren’t sustainable.

Here were some of the conditions: The American Colonies had several notable advantages over England, according to Paul Johnson, author of A History of the American People.   Johnson talks about the myriad advantages enjoyed by the colonists in this era: meat was more plentiful than in England, so the average height of a colonial man was several inches taller than his British counterpart; wood was plentiful; ‘the new world’ was agriculturally rich and seemingly limitless in size.  Land, though granted by the British crown, was effectively free for use by most.   This may have been one of the only times that good, productive land was effectively free for so long.

Americans enjoyed many advantages because of these conditions: they grew larger families, literacy rates were higher, and government, which extended from across the Atlantic, had a necessarily weak grasp on society in an age of slow communication.

While these conditions were clearly unsupportable in the long term, (land eventually became more scarce as property rights asserted themselves in full measure, and government eventually sprang up in greater measure on this side of the Atlantic) they may have bred into the American spirit an ethos of wild optimism that marked American expectations and conduct, even down to our present age.

What do you think? Are there counterpoints to this argument?

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