“The land of the free and the home of the brave” Francis Scott Key, 1814
I live in (Omaha) Nebraska, home of the “Good Life.” I am an optimist by nature but also partly because of where I live. The state unemployment rate is 2.2%, the lowest in the nation. We have effective and efficient government at both the state and local levels. The crime rate is low overall. We do have some problems such as crowded prisons and a poor state foster child program, but they are being addressed in an open and transparent manner.
Perhaps it is partly because of my own secure and pleasant life that I am so optimistic about the future of our country. My last post discussed the great strength of our country’s democratic traditions. Today I elaborate on why I believe our country will continue to prosper socially and economically for many years to come.
- The American Dream is alive and well. Wages for the typical worker have grown (in real terms) by more than 20% in the last three decades. Most Americans in their 40s are doing better than their parents were during their 40s (see attached charts).
- America should not fear the rise of China. The U.S. rightly helped China emerge from its sluggish past and has recently been making rapid economic progress. But China has a severe demographic problem. The UN predicts that the number of working-age Chinese, between now and 2100, will fall by half while the number of working-age Americans will increase by 15%. This leads to the further prediction that the Chinese economy (GDP), relative to America’s, will peak at 76% by 2040.
- The world’s largest companies. Seven of the world’s ten largest companies are American and two are Chinese copycats. This is a tribute to the initiative, inventiveness, and hard work of individual Americans. Our immigrant forebears had to take initiative and personal risk to get to America. We have clearly benefitted greatly from the “can do” spirit of those who came before us.
- Emphasis on personal freedom. In addition to our strong tradition of democratic government, we have a strong tradition of individual freedom. Freedom is a tough concept because it means the freedom to fail as well as the freedom to succeed. But our society strives (even if imperfectly) to provide equal opportunity for all, especially in terms of foundational education and equality under the law. Ultimately, however, each of us has to take personal advantage of these opportunities in order to succeed in life.
Conclusion. Of course, the United States should never take its premier world status for granted. But we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave” for a good reason. We are the descendants of immigrants and pioneers who wanted personal freedom and were willing to take great risks to obtain it. Our brilliantly conceived democratic form of government has now lasted for 233 years (the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788). All we have to do, so to speak, is to strive to live up to the ideals of our predecessors.