During the 1770s and 1780s, King Louis XVI’s subjects were fascinated with all things American. That fascination often centered on America’s celebrity diplomat, Benjamin Franklin. During his nine-year stint first as America’s commissioner and then as its ambassador to France, Franklin was fêted by the elite of French society as the embodiment of American freedom and virtue, as evidenced by his homespun simplicity and coonskin cap.

The culmination of the French frenzy for America can be seen in the contest sponsored in the 1780s by the Abbé Raynal, a well-known philosophe, for the best essay on the question, “Has the discovery of America been beneficial or harmful to the human race?” From the first settlement at Jamestown in 1607 to the present day, tens of millions of people from around the world have answered Raynal’s question by voting with their feet and immigrating to America. But imagine if Raynal’s question were asked of today’s American college professors, members of the National Education Association, the talking heads of the mainstream media, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the ceos of America’s Fortune 500. One suspects that a large number, maybe even a majority, would answer in the negative.

On July 4, 2026, will we celebrate or desecrate 1776?

As we approach the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, we find ourselves in a rather embarrassing situation. On July 4, 2026, will we celebrate or desecrate 1776? Some Americans will no doubt want to mark the occasion with toasts, readings, flag waving, fireworks, and the consumption of adult beverages. Many such people still exist, but patriotism and reverence for the men, actions, and ideals of 1776 are fading. Others will no doubt declare July 4, 2026, a day of national mourning. Some might even burn the flag.

We are reminded almost daily now that America’s ruling class, particularly those in the opinion-forming business, views the American founding as a tragedy of epic proportions. America’s true founding, we have been told, was not in 1776 but in 1619, when the first slaves were brought to England’s North American colonies, which of course means that America was built on an immoral foundation. But the contempt of the “Hate America First” crowd goes beyond the question of slavery. In fact, were slavery never to have existed in America, today’s ruling class would still no doubt hate America. They don’t primarily hate America for its original sin and its hypocrisy; they hate it for what is best about America, for its highest moral ideals (the very ideals that ended slavery) and its free institutions. To be more precise, they hate America because it is the capitalist nation par excellence (or at least it was), and laissez-faire capitalism is what they hate most.

This much is certain, though: a nation that hates itself cannot stand. It may be said that this nation is now engaged in a cultural civil war about what America was, is, and should be. On the surface, it’s a war about political power, who controls it, and how that power will be used to define America’s past, present, and future. At a deeper level, it is a war about the nature and meaning of America, which means a war about America’s founding principles and institutions. The stakes are high and the outcome is uncertain.

If America is to be defended, it must be understood. What follows is my understanding, as a historian, of what I think is best and most heroic about America.

The United States of America is the first nation in history to be founded on the basis of certain philosophical principles—principles that are encapsulated in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, which says,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

When Alexander Hamilton wrote in the first essay of The Federalist that America was the first nation in history to be created on the basis of “reflection and choice” rather than “accident and force,” he was pointing to the Declaration’s truths and the implementation of those truths in new constitutions, governments, and ways of living. Abraham Lincoln was therefore right when he suggested at Gettysburg that America was founded as a propositional nation, one “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

A related feature of the United States is that it is often identified as an “ism.” The “ism” in Americanism suggests that being an American is part philosophy, part way of life, part attitude, and even part personality. Broadly defined, Americanism is that philosophy which identifies the moral character and sense of life unique to the people of the United States, and which was subsequently translated into practice by millions of ordinary men and women in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America.

Interestingly, the idea of Americanism has no foreign counterpart. No other nation has anything quite like it. We may speak of a Spanish, a French, an Italian, or a Persian culture, but there is no Spanish-ism, French-ism, Italian-ism, or Persian-ism (though de Gaulle spoke of “une certaine idée de la France”). Americanism is, by contrast, more than just a culture steeped in historically evolved folkways (the forms and formalities associated with speech dialects, food, music, dress, architecture, etc.). America’s traditional folkways are no doubt different from those of any other nation, but such cultural accoutrements do not capture the essence of what America is or what it means to be an American.

What, then, is the philosophy of Americanism? What is its source and what are its core tenets? The core of Americanism is summed up in the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson once described as “an expression of the American mind.” The Declaration’s philosophic principles illuminate what is most unique and important about America and Americans. This particular expression of the American mind forever associated the American way of life with a social system that recognized, defined, and protected as sacrosanct the rights of individuals. The greatest achievement of the American Revolution was to subordinate society and government to this fundamental moral law.

The greatest achievement of the American Revolution was to subordinate society and government to this fundamental moral law.

The radical transformation in thought and practice that followed had enormous implications for the development of a new American society in the century that followed. The revolutionaries’ ethical individualism promoted the idea that human flourishing requires freedom—the freedom to think and act without interference, which means security from predatory threats against one’s person or property. Freedom requires government, but only government of a particular sort—the sort that protects individuals from force and coercion and that defines a sphere of liberty in which individuals are free to pursue their own welfare and happiness. Within that protected sphere, American revolutionaries and their nineteenth-century heirs created a new world unlike anything anywhere else.

The moral philosophy of the American Revolution was closely associated with the idea of self-government—that is, with the idea that individuals must govern themselves in the fullest sense of the term. In this new world, the individual replaced the government or the tribe as the primary unit of moral and political value. Politically, this meant sovereign power began with self-governing individuals and extended outward in concentric circles of voluntary association, but never beyond the reach of a man’s direct or indirect control. Obversely, this meant that political power should be imploded from federal and state governments right down through townships and towns and then on to neighborhoods and homes and finally to the individual.

Jefferson described the relationship between individual self-government and the various layers of political government this way:

The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.

Alexis de Tocqueville saw the same thing when he visited the United States a generation later. Americans, he observed, “have a secret instinct that carries them toward independence . . . where each village forms a sort of republic habituated to governing itself.” Government was to have no power that was not explicitly delegated to it by the people and for specific purposes. Or, as John Taylor of Caroline put it, the “sovereignty of the people arises, and representation flows out of each man’s right to govern himself.”

Constitutionally and politically, the revolutionary generation was concerned primarily with the use and abuse of power. They understood and accepted the truth that Lord Acton’s famous maxim later captured: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When they designed the federal constitution and those of the states, the Founders employed a plethora of institutions and mechanisms (separation of powers, bicameralism, federalism, judicial review, and bills of rights) that were intended to weaken or disperse the centralizing tendencies of government power. In Federalist 48, James Madison summed up the problem this way: “power is of an encroaching nature, and . . . ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”

The primary problem confronted by America’s revolutionary constitution-makers was how to tame and harness the grasping power of government in a way that would serve the legitimate functions of government. Their innovative solution was to subordinate governments to laws. By constitutionalizing their governments, the Founders sought to constrain arbitrary political rule with the rule of law—laws universal and objective, known and certain. “In questions of power,” Jefferson declared, men were not to be trusted, and so they should be bound “from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Government officials would be denied discretionary power in applying the law, and the law applied to one man would apply to all men. By explicitly and exactly defining the power that may be exercised by government, written constitutions created protected spheres of human action that were knowable and predictable.

The Founders’ (both Federalists’ and Anti-Federalists’) ideal form of government was the original version of what is sometimes called the “night-watchman” state. They supported a government strictly limited to a few necessary functions, aided by low taxes and a frugal budget, and engaged in minimal levels of regulation. Jeffersonian Republicans envisioned a government that would function without a standing army, eliminate debt and dramatically reduce federal taxes and tariffs, shun public works projects and internal improvements, and reduce controls and regulations on the economy. Even Alexander Hamilton, the founding generation’s greatest advocate of energetic government, saw the legitimate functions of the national government as strictly limited to:

the common defense of the members—the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks—the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the states—the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.

Ideally, government’s role was to protect individuals in their rights by serving as a neutral umpire, sorting out and judging conflicting rights claims.

The classical liberals of the early republic supported a form of government that would ensure their liberty and material safety by prohibiting murder, assault, theft, and other crimes of coercion and fraud. James Madison summed up a “just government” as one that “impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” Jefferson was particularly sensitive to the tendency of government officials to intervene in both the spiritual and material lives of their fellow citizens. This is why he claimed that the “opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction” and that the acquisition, production, ownership, and trade of men’s property should not be the proper purview of government. Jefferson therefore supported both the separation of church and state as well as the separation of economy and state. He did not think that government should be in the business of religion, nor did he think it should be in the business of business. He strongly inclined toward supporting a policy of religious and economic laissez-faire.

The Founders’ emerging view of the purpose and role of government was most clearly described a generation later by William Leggett, one of the great antebellum individualists. “Governments,” Leggett announced, “possess no delegated right to tamper with individual industry in a single hair’s-breadth beyond what is essential to protect the rights of person and property.” Like Leggett, most Americans of his time distrusted political power, believing that a good society was defined by the paucity of its laws. Accordingly, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was little government in America relative to the major countries of Europe. In fact, government at most levels before the Civil War was Lilliputian compared to what followed in the postbellum period. In 1839, John L. O’Sullivan, the editor of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, memorably captured the post-revolutionary view of government:

The best government is that which governs least. No human depositories can, with safety, be trusted with the power of legislation upon the general interests of society, so as to operate directly . . . on the industry and property of the community. Legislation has been the fruitful parent of nine-tenths of all evil, moral and physical, by which mankind . . . since the creation of the world has been self-degraded, fettered and oppressed.

According to O’Sullivan, in domestic affairs, the action of legislatures

should be confined to the administration of justice, for the protection of the natural equal rights of the citizen, and the preservation of social order. In all other respects, the voluntary principle, the principle of freedom . . . affords the true golden rule. The natural laws which will establish themselves and find their own level are the best laws. This is the fundamental principle of the philosophy of democracy, to furnish a system of administration of justice, and then leave all the business and interests of society to themselves, to free competition and association—in a word, to the voluntary principle.

Prior to the Civil War, the federal government was limited primarily to protecting the nation from foreign invasion, preserving the peace, and adjudicating disputes among citizens or states. Much beyond that, it dared not go. Leggett summed up the prevailing political worldview with the following maxim, which he recommended “be placed in large letters over the speaker’s chair in all legislative bodies”: “do not govern too much.” Government in America prior to the paroxysms of secession was therefore not much more than a night-watchman protecting its citizens.

As William Sampson, a recent émigré from Ireland, observed, “the government here makes no sensation; it is round about you like the air, and you cannot even feel it.” Americans, said Leggett, were an independent lot who wanted little to “no government to regulate their private concerns; to prescribe the course and mete out the profits of industry.” They wanted “no fireside legislators; no executive interference in their workshops and fields.” In America, wrote the nineteenth-century individualist Josiah Warren, “Everyone must feel that he is the supreme arbiter of his own [destiny], that no power on earth shall rise over him, that he is and always shall be sovereign of himself and all relating to his individuality.” America’s new-model man mostly just wanted to be left alone.

The Founders’ idea of government was also reinforced by the realities of life in nineteenth-century America. Wherever there was a frontier in the early republic, government was especially thin, light, and weak. American pioneers, having broken free from the mother country, began a process of declaring independence from their state and local governments, and, finally, from each other as they migrated in ever-increasing numbers to the western frontier, which continued to push toward the setting sun until the close of the nineteenth century.

The American Revolution began as a revolution in ideas, but its ultimate success required that theory be translated into practice. The whole purpose of the Declaration’s moral principles was to liberate men to act. Thus, the ideas and institutions of 1776 launched one of the greatest moral, social, and political transformations in world history. A new civilization—a republican civilization—was born, free from the encrusted hierarchies of old-regime Europe, free from artificial privilege and haughty arrogance, free from ostentation, decadence, and corruption, free from vicious medieval laws, free from overweening state power, and free from the cynicism of low expectations.

As is so often the case, the nature and meaning of this new society was eloquently captured by an outsider who came to America to experience its way of life. In 1782, J. Hector St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, a transplanted Frenchman living in the United States, published his Letters from an American Farmer. The Frenchman’s letters ask a fascinating and enduring question: “What then is the American, this new man?” Crèvecoeur’s question suggests that Americans were somehow different from all peoples everywhere past and present, and thus he invites us, some 240 years later, to reflect on America’s new-model man.

As the ideas of the Revolution spread westward through the Cumberland Gap, they were lived by pioneer men and women day by day on the frontier.

Crèvecoeur’s new-model man was born of a fortuitous meeting between the ideal and the real, between the Declaration and the frontier, between the ideas of men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and the actions of men like Daniel Boone and Ethan Allen. As the ideas of the Revolution spread westward through the Cumberland Gap, they were lived by pioneer men and women day by day on the frontier. Over the course of a century, American ideas of freedom combined with the experience of life on the frontier to create a uniquely American spirit or sense of life—one defined by certain virtues, such as rationality, independence, honesty, adventurousness, energy, daring, industry, hope, idealism, enterprise, and benevolence.

Almost immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, tens of thousands of men, women, and children began to move west from the original thirteen colonies. The theoretical liberty of the Declaration of Independence was being realized and even improved upon by the open space of the American frontier. In 1817, George Flower, an Englishman recently transplanted to the Illinois prairie, noted that: “The practical liberty of America is found in its great space and small population. Good land, dog-cheap everywhere, and for nothing, if you will go for it, gives as much elbow-room to every man as he chooses to take.” Europe’s poor and frustrated found in America a New World asylum for liberty, where “[t]hey come, they toil, they prosper.” The frontier experience, Flower noted, “is the real liberty of America.” The distinctively American ethos associated with frontier life was grounded in the belief that individuals are morally sovereign and that they therefore must be self-starting, self-governing, and self-reliant in order to succeed in life. They just needed, as Flower said, a little elbow room.

Another Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, captured better than anyone before him or since the nature and meaning of this new, rapidly emerging, American sense of life. In what we may call Tocqueville’s America, “hardy adventurers”—avatars of Crèvecoeur’s new man—left the shelter of their “fathers’ roofs” and plunged “into the solitudes of America,” where they sought a “new native country.” They marched westward toward the “boundaries of society and wilderness.” Living alone and far from the comforts of civilization, the “pioneer hastily fells some trees and raises a cabin under the leaves.” While all “is primitive and savage around him,” he brings with him the ideas that freed him to leave in the first place: he “plunges into the wilderness of the New World with his Bible, a hatchet, and newspapers.”

Despite the poverty and roughness of his condition, America’s new-model man knew “what his rights are and what means he will use to exercise them.”

Through this process, according to Tocqueville, Americans are habituated “little by little to govern themselves.” Frontier life was partly defined by the absence of government (including legislatures, courts, police, and armies), all of which eventually followed from the rear. Until the end of the nineteenth century, a decent, law-abiding frontier American could pass through life and hardly see or feel a trace of government beyond the post office and the marshal. For the most part, governments at all levels left men and women alone. Despite the poverty and roughness of his condition, America’s new-model man knew “what his rights are and what means he will use to exercise them.” And once men came to believe that they owned and controlled their own lives free from the burden of overbearing government power, they began to pursue their own interests and to tear down inherited social, political, and economic barriers. Liberated from Old World habits, regulations, and taxes, this new American society produced a new sort of man defined by entrepreneurial energy and creativity. It aroused and liberated previously dormant acquisitive impulses and freed the members of the “natural aristocracy”—a concept promoted by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—to build a new kind of commercial society.

Post-revolutionary American society was also characterized by constant movement. The people of the early republic were restless, rootless, and sometimes homeless. It was not uncommon for individuals and families to move from place to place—almost always westward—every few years. Nor was it uncommon for them to change jobs and professions with some regularity. When Tocqueville toured the country, he encountered Americans “who [had] been successively attorneys, farmers, traders, evangelical ministers, doctors.” In Tocqueville’s America,

a man carefully builds a dwelling in which to pass his declining years, and he sells it while the roof is being laid; he plants a garden and he rents it out just as he was going to taste its fruits; he clears a field and he leaves to others the care of harvesting its crops. He embraces a profession and quits it. He settles in a place from which he departs soon after so as to take his changing desires elsewhere. Should his private affairs give him some respite, he immediately plunges into the whirlwind of politics.

The American frontier became the refuge where ambitious men and women could escape their past and the burden of living for others—the guilt, the pressure, and sometimes the compulsion to live one’s life for family, tribe, church, king, or state. It was the place where men and sometimes even women could reinvent themselves. Only in America could a man who came from nothing prove his ability and worth and become a man of accomplishment and wealth. Only in America could there be such a creature as the “self-made man.”

The American ideal of the self-made man was a reality for many nineteenth-century Americans. The best exposition of the self-made man as both ideal and fact is found in the speech of a runaway slave, Frederick Douglass. In an 1859 lecture titled “Self-Made Men,” Douglass defined in unmistakable terms the story and the qualities of the quintessential American:

Self-made men . . . are the men who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results. In fact they are the men who are not brought up but who are obliged to come up, not only without the voluntary assistance or friendly co-operation of society, but often in open and derisive defiance of all the efforts of society and the tendency of circumstances to repress, retard and keep them down. They are the men who, in a world of schools, academies, colleges and other institutions of learning, are often compelled by unfriendly circumstances to acquire their education elsewhere and, amidst unfavorable conditions, to hew out for themselves a way to success, and thus to become the architects of their own good fortunes. They are in a peculiar sense, indebted to themselves for themselves.

Douglass observed America’s self-made men all around him, and of course he was the living embodiment of the ideal. Notably, he did not think that the success of the self-made man was due to accident or good luck. Instead, success in life could be explained, he insisted, “by one word and that word work! work!! work!!! Work!!!!”

The uniquely American ethos of rugged individualism did not mean that its adherents lived alienated and crabbed lives in atomistic isolation from one another. It did not mean that Americans were indifferent or unneighborly toward each other, that they did not help each other during emergencies or times of distress. Quite the opposite. These rugged American individualists joined together in bonds of civic friendship as they experienced and lived through seemingly never-ending crises and disasters, such as injury, unemployment, floods, fires, tornadoes, native attacks, and diseases such as smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, yellow fever, and influenza. The moral and political philosophy by which they lived was no antisocial creed that confined men to their own spiritual cages. Together, as friends and neighbors, these westward-moving Americans built cabins, houses, barns, roads, canals, villages, towns, and cities. Freedom produced unparalleled social cooperation.

In the years between the Battle of Yorktown and the First Battle of Bull Run, American society developed its own principles of attraction and cohesion that naturally melded its individual participants into a common culture. Paradoxically, the country was held together by a system of individualism and commercial liberty that encouraged and generated new associations and bonds of civil cooperation. As Tocqueville observed, “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite.” Ordinary Americans voluntarily united with each other to form all kinds of benevolent associations in order to improve their material and spiritual lives. According to Tocqueville, the Americans not only have

commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; American use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.

By the end of the nineteenth century, during what should be called the “Era of Freedom and Enterprise” (not the “Gilded Age”), the American people also demonstrated a remarkably generous spirit of neighborly charity. The rugged individualists of the frontier era built little platoons of social benevolence all over America. They understood that it was in their rational self-interest to join together with others in order to help their neighbors during emergencies. Mutual-aid societies, fraternal organizations, churches, neighbors, and families took care of the poor and indigent. Private charity, however, was often conditional on the recipients working for their assistance, unless the recipient was truly disabled. It also demanded that recipients accept certain moral responsibilities, and it made a distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, between those who could not help themselves and those who could.

The system of freedom and self-interest (rightly understood) bred genuine kindness, generosity, and friendship.

The system of freedom and self-interest (rightly understood) bred genuine kindness, generosity, and friendship. Accordingly, the bonds of community in America were the strongest when its citizens were the freest. In pre-Progressive America there was less government and more civil society; political power was weak and social benevolence was strong. This, then, was the great paradox of American society: it united radical individualism with the tight bonds of civil association. The former was responsible for the latter. What made this revolutionary society unique was that the force and authority of government and the ties of land and blood were not what held it together, as was true of most countries of the Old World. The American people were united instead by self-interest, rights, freedom, money, benevolence, voluntary associations, and—most importantly—a common moral ideal.

Americanism as a philosophy and as a way of life created a sphere of freedom for individual action unavailable in the Old World. Americans could start a business, producing and trading without government control; they could enter into any occupation without a government-approved license; they could freely contract with other individuals or groups to mutual advantage without government permission; they could accumulate vast amounts of wealth and then hoard and count it, spend or invest it, or just give it away without fear of it being confiscated by the government; they could educate themselves and their children however they pleased without having to fund, attend, or send their children to a government-run school; and they could otherwise do whatever they wanted, unfettered by government officials—as long as their actions did not entail violence or fraud against others. This is what it meant to live in a free society, and this is what it meant to be self-governing. This was the “ism” in Americanism.

The philosophy of Americanism not only enabled several generations of men and women to settle a largely uninhabited and hostile continent, it also led to the greatest era of scientific, technological, and industrial discovery and invention in human history. The closing of the western frontier at the end of the nineteenth century was replaced by the opening of new frontiers discovered by new explorers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The freedom philosophy of Americanism liberated the creative and productive powers of ordinary individuals. It inspired nineteenth-century Americans to develop new republican institutions and spread them across a vast continent, to emancipate four million men, women, and children from the bondage of chattel slavery, and to invent and develop thousands of new life-enhancing devices, such as the telegraph (transcontinental and transatlantic), the reaper, the sewing machine, the camera, the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, the motion-picture projector, and the internal-combustion engine.

The pioneers who settled the American West were followed by a new generation of strivers—men such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Charles Goodyear, James J. Hill, Henry Ford, Orville and Wilbur Wright, John Roebling, Samuel Morse, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell—who explored entirely new areas in the heavy industries (steel and oil), transportation (railroads, steamships, automobiles, airplanes), engineering and architecture (skyscrapers, dams, and suspension bridges), and communication (telegraphs, telephones, and radios). They in turn were followed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by inventors and entrepreneurs who have once again discovered entirely new worlds, inside subatomic particles and outside of our solar system. Today, the new frontier might be found inside a computer chip the size of your fingernail, or in a laser beam than can create sight where there was once only blindness. The American frontier is not a place on a map; it’s a state of mind—a uniquely American state of mind.

Americanism and its corollary principles of individualism, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism have revolutionized human life. The philosophy of Americanism set men and women free to invent new life-enhancing and life-saving products that have improved the quality of human life immeasurably. There has been greater innovation in the last two hundred years than in the previous two thousand. Today, by flicking a switch, we can create light where there was only darkness, or heat a home where there was only cold; by pushing a button we can have instantaneous conversations with friends and loved ones all over the world; by turning a key we can transport ourselves thousands of miles via automobile or plane to see exotic new lands, and with the turning of a dial we can watch our favorite sports teams play on the other side of the globe or watch live coverage of a man walking on the moon. Americanism has created a world with life-saving medicines, through the production of vaccines and antibiotics and via medical technologies such as ultrasound and mri, which have dramatically improved and extended our quality of life.

What makes America a unique and extraordinary nation is the philosophy that allows ordinary men and women to pursue their own selfish values—to be inventive, imaginative, and hard working—free of social control and government meddling. The United States of America was made great precisely because its “Don’t Tread on Me” philosophy liberated ordinary people to achieve great things both individually and cooperatively.

The American experiment in self-government was a novus ordo seclorum. We must fight to keep alive the flame of American liberty for the new explorers of the twenty-first century and beyond.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 40 Number 1, on page 41
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