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Is the United States exceptional? Show more Show less
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American exceptionalism is the belief that America is the greatest and freest nation on earth, destined to guide mankind to true freedom. The supporters of this idea adduce America's unique history and establishment, as well as its values, ideals, and strength.

Yes, America is exceptional but not necessarily in a good way Show more Show less

America is exceptional for the wrong reasons. It has a history of brutality against other peoples, a record of fighting many wars wherein scores of civilians were killed, and it refuses to sign most human rights treaties. It is exceptional from these mistakes, not its successes.
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America has exceptional statistics across social, health and welfare areas

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The Argument

There are a number of social measures where America performs relatively poorly, including poor health, homicides and gun violence. [1] Health outcomes compared to money spent: The U.S. devotes more of its national income to healthcare relative to other OECD countries (e.g. in the UK people contribute £4,000 pa on their healthcare compared with £10,000 in the USA) [2] with hundreds of thousands Americans per year declaring bankruptcy due to health care bills. [2] Three times the world average of this is on administrative costs. Despite the amount spent, the USA is amongst the very worst of wealthy nations on a succession of health measures including average life expectancy,[3] where the US sits with South America, well below the UK, Western Europe, NZ, Australia and Canada.[4] The contrast with the amount spent on health makes the US even more of an outlier.[5] Incarceration: The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, but about 25 percent of the prisoners.[6] Prison conditions and sentences are “vastly harsher” than comparable countries [7] It is the length of sentences that makes the statistics so stark. Reasons include draconian drug laws and bail policies that criminalise poverty and sentences that do not fit the crime.[7] Gun violence is closely linked to gun ownership, which is twice the rate of the next closest country.[8] 73% of all homicides are gun related c/w 3% in UK. It is the leading method of suicide. There were 1,004 people shot dead by police in 2019. The second amendment right to bear arms and the $5 million a year on lobbying by the NRA has meant that despite a seemingly endless procession of mass shootings it is only recently that polls found more people were interested in gun control than the right to bear arms. Parental leave: The USA only OECD member that has not passed laws requiring businesses and corporations to offer paid maternity leave to their employees.[9] There is a patchy record on all civil rights. These range from state sanctioned torture at at Abu Ghraib to the contradictory position that see women’s reproductive rights increasingly curtailed whilst little welfare or care available for women living in poverty who decide to keep a child.

Counter arguments

Premises

[p1] The USA is an outlier amongst wealthy Western nations across multiple social and health measures [p2] These make it exceptional

Rejecting the premises

Further Reading

Bates D. W. (2010). Primary care and the US health care system: what needs to change? Journal of general internal medicine, 25(10), 998–999. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-010-1464-0 Nolte E, McKee CM. Measuring the health of nations: updating an earlier analysis. Health Aff (Millwood) 2008;27(1):58–71. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.27.1.58

References

  1. https://madison.com/wsj/opinion/letters/american-has-become-exceptionally-bad----mike-pfrang/article_a04f3a25-fca5-5971-85a5-f6f89219227e.html
  2. https://time.com/5708811/american-broken-health-care-british/
  3. https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2019/07/how-does-the-us-healthcare-system-compare-to-other-countries
  4. https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy
  5. https://ourworldindata.org/the-link-between-life-expectancy-and-health-spending-us-focus
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2016/07/01/why-are-incarceration-rates-in-the-us-so-high-relative-to-other-countries/#19264225f836
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/americas/23iht-23prison.12253738.html
  8. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/-sp-america-only-developed-country-paid-maternity-leave

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This page was last edited on Friday, 17 Apr 2020 at 12:33 UTC

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