American exceptionalism

Growing up a red-blooded American, I believed America was a special place, a proud beacon shining the light of freedom upon humanity… or something. Anyway, I listened to Rush Limbaugh.

Then I went to Berkeley and they cured me of those ideas and I started listening to Democracy Now!.

Statistically, though, the U.S. is a special place. I don’t mean special in the we’re-an-outlier-in-the-good-way sense. I mean special in the why-the-hell-do-they-compare-Sweden (pop. 9m)-to-a-country-with-300m-people sense. We’re bigger than most everyone else. This means our political system is different (making our institutions different) than most other places, too. Scale suggests our “Parliament” shouldn’t spend much time debating airport expansions and hospital locations. Transportation and health care policy are delegated to the State level.

In comparing most policy differences, then, it makes sense to compare U.S. States to other countries, a la this map:

And in some cases, its more appropriate to compare U.S. cities to countries… like Sweden vs. New York City (population 8m).

2 Responses to “American exceptionalism”