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This question will supplement the thread on "American Exceptionalism". Is American "Exceptionalism" over?

World War II got the US out of the Great Depression. We beat our guns into ploughshares with a vast increase in consumerism. This was, in part, an accident of geography; WWII was fought on European and Asian soil, not American soil.

Ike warned of the Military-Industrial Complex, yet our Defense costs as much as the next 10 countries combined; we are the arms merchant of the world. Millions of Americans make a good living from Defense-related manufacturing. Is this healthy?

Ike built the Interstate Highway system, suburbs blossomed and consumerism took off. This created a vast market for autos, housing supplies and consumer goods. Now those same suburbs need vast infrastructure repairs and improvements.

We promise too much and tax too little. Now American faces a vast shortfall in Social Security, Medicare and pension funds.

Enter credit cards. We could avoid delaying gratification by buying on credit. This allowed the financial service sector to beome the parasitic institution it has become. The vampires on Wall Street have shifted wealth from the middle class to the rich. Now the paradox of thrift has kicked in as Americans pay down debt and don't buy consumer goods.

Will we speak of Chinese Exceptionalism in a few years? Our "long-term" planning consists of meeting each crisis as it occurs. China is investing $1 trillion on a smart grid. Are we? The are graduating far more engineers than we do, so is India.

Our free enterprise system didn't work in the last financial crisis because of a failure of Adam Smith to consider one underlying principle: Directional Greed. His belief was that individual greed would cancel out. What he never considered was that collective greed could be directional i.e. the public, the financial services sector and the government all wanted the housing bubble. Now we face the consequencs of this failure of the Adam Smith paradigm.

Are we witnessing the end of an empire?

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  • Nov 12 2012: I heard some time ago that exceptionalism was not a compliment when Doqueville coined the expression. We have our weirdness ;like everyone else. Listen to Gallileo and Madame Curie - be humble enough to think and learn. The alternative - epistemological closure is terrible to consider.

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