The American Idea Is Far from Doomed!


The Atlantic monthly magazine is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year.  In 1857 its founders envisioned that the magazine would “honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea.”  In the current issue one of its writers asks, “Is the American Idea Doomed?” and claims that it has few supporters on either the left or the right.  Well, I happen to be in the middle and I think the American idea is doing very well indeed.


  • The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. as the world’s most competitive large economy and, in fact, the U.S. is getting richer faster than anybody else.
  • Productivity growth in the digital industries has grown at the annual rate of 2.7% over the past 15 years compared with only an anemic .7% annual growth in productivity in the physical industries. The U.S. economy is becoming more digital all the time.
  • The four U.S. companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are in the process of revolutionizing all aspects of life not only in America but all around the world.
  • According to the Kauffman Foundation  entrepreneurship is flourishing in the U.S. (see chart), and not just in Silicon Valley.

  • According to Freedom House  democracy has made much progress around the world in the last 30 years, even if further growth has stalled for the past ten years. Other democratic countries are our best friends and so we want more of them.
  • Granted Donald Trump is a wild card. So far his record is mixed but he hasn’t made any big mistakes (liking dragging us into war or hurting the economy). It is unlikely that he’ll slow our huge forward momentum whether or not he helps it.

Conclusion. “The democratic experiment is fragile” (perhaps!) but it’s also got a lot going for it right now. We can never afford to be complacent but we need not be pessimistic either.

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2 thoughts on “The American Idea Is Far from Doomed!

  1. Many citizens tend to forget that only 14% of the world’s citizens live in a nation that enforces Freedom of Expression: 1 billion out of 7 billion. The citizens of the USA represent 1/3 of the 1 billion with a Freedom of Expression privilege. It means that 6 billion of the world’s citizens are unlikely to fully understand our heritage and the reason why we believe it requires vigilant defense. As a reminder, our Constitution’s First Amendment rights include Religion, Speech, Press, Peaceful Assembly, and Petition. It also means that we are better at building the TRUST, COOPERATION and RECIPROCITY required for each citizen to solve the Social Dilemmas that they encounter while participating in the civil life of their community. Sadly, our ability to extend this to the Social Dilemmas occurring within each family and their children has serious declined as indicated by the homicide/suicide rates of young adults, opiate addiction, and seriously declining social mobility for those citizens living in poverty. In the midst of a basis for a hopeful future, our nation has deep seated problems as we attempt to reconcile the stewardship of our nation’s KNOWLEDGE, RESOURCES, and HUMAN DIGNITY.

    • I agree with you that our First Amendment rights of free speech don’t translate into resolving the many social dilemmas in our society. We’ll be an even stronger society if we can do a better job of lifting up the many people who fall through the cracks of our free society.

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