The United States of America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth. It is, by definition, unique. Indeed, the study of American politics is generally considered to be so special that it warrants its own sub-field in most political science departments. Those who do try to compare America typically write about what is called “American Exceptionalism.”1 Of course this makes eminent sense, America is the dominant military and economic power in the world and it has used this power to shape the world around it. Even in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in history, America produces approximately 25 percent of the world gross product. No other country has the influence (for good or ill) as does the United States.
There can be no gainsaying that at the end of the 20th century America is the world’s leading nation and preeminent power. America’s GNP is now greater than the total GNP of: China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland, combined. It was not simply "luck" that has made the America so rich and powerful. This essay will argue that America’s economic success has been a product of both the incredible resources found in this country and the remarkable ability of the American people to make the most of those resources. Our Constitution, and the First Amendment specifically, have played an enormous role in the evolution of both our land and our culture. As Martin Diamond suggests, it is impossible to understand America without appreciating the formative influence the Constitution has had upon it.
Anyone who witness the current debate on health care reform in the US knows that a (or the) critical constraint on the expansion of public assistance in this area is our inability to raise sufficient funds to finance a comprehensive program–even when over 80% of the American public believe that "the government should insure that no one goes without health care because they cannot afford it" (Gallup 1979' Roper 1994). The case of health care policy is not unusual. The vast majority of public spending programs in America are widely supported by strong majorities of the public, by the politicians who sin on the committees that oversee the particular programs, and by the civiil servants that administer them. It is very clear that Americans do not like the symbol "big government." But when asked about government programs for public roads, public education, the national guard, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the environment, public health, drugs, crime, space exploration, and virtually every other specific thing that government provides the public, large majorities of Americans say they either like the programs as they are, or want to see them increased.