Is America Still Exceptional?

Either I don’t understand what Dan Drezner is getting at in his Washington Post op-ed or he’s overstating his case. I can’t do justice to it with an excerpt so read the whole thing.

The battle over American exceptionalism has been going on for longer than I’ve been alive. While it might be true as Dan asserts that President Obama believed in American exceptionalism (I don’t think he did as I understand it) but I think it would be hard to argue against the proposition that he was trying to move the U. S. in a more centralized, more social democratic direction, something I think that many of his supporters would laud.

The United States is still much less centralized in its government and much less hierarchical than other OECD countries. It’s a genuine outlier. Its trade is freer, its taxes lower, its safety net more limited than other OECD countries. Adjusted for population, it has more universities, more churches, more private charity, and more crime than other OECD countries. It provides much less government foreign aid than other OECD countries. It has had a higher immigration rate for longer than most other OECD countries.

If America has stopped being exceptional I would point to several watersheds: the systematic abrogation of responsibilities by the Congress over the period of the last half century, the incorporation of the Bill of Rights in 1925, Wickard v. Filburn (which gave the Congress control over just about anything under the rubric of “interstate commerce”), and the progressive reforms late 19th century including popular election of the Senate and the income tax. For good or ill these have worked synergistically to make the United States a lot less exceptional.

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