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America's so-called greatness

02 December 2011, 09:39 Motley_Fool

It is a generally accepted fact that the United States of America was a great country.

Some would argue that it still is; they are wrong. If you think about it honestly for a moment you will agree it is no longer the case. It remains true that there are still many things that are impressive about America, such as their military and the amount of debt they have. Overall, however, America has lost its greatness, that quality of being untouchable regardless of the circumstances. The OWS movement is indicative of this.

It is important to understand why America was great, because it allows them to reclaim it and others to follow in their footsteps.

It is widely misunderstood. This lack of understanding meant that the critical component of it has been lost without their realisation.

What is generally focused upon is men who achieved a measure of greatness. Men such as JD Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

This half-measure still remains, but it does not complete the picture.

We recognise these men because they achieved tremendous wealth in their lifetime.

Men are still allowed to succeed, though they are sorely hampered, but are men still allowed to fail?

The answer is quite obviously no. From regulations protecting the wealthy right up to Too Big To Fail, in the USA today the wealthy are not allowed to fail. They are allowed to influence law and regulation to protect their wealth and industry, not by their ability, but by law, ie the rule of force.

This same advantage is not afforded to their would-be competitors, the entrepreneurs that would like to challenge their command of industry. In fact small businesses are deliberately hampered by the laws and taxation regulation that big industry lobbies for - for the precise reason of safeguarding their wealth and position.

If one looks at history there is the critical difference that set America apart in its young days. It set them apart from the rest of the world, and is the reason for their greatness, whether acknowledged or not.

From tribalistic Africa to medieval Europe, those in control of wealth have always been able to keep their position with the use of force. It is true today again in the USA.

Perhaps the OWS crowd senses the problem, even if they are unable to articulate what is lacking.

If one has to distil in a single sentence why America was great, it would be this:

Men were allowed to fail, despite their wishes to the contrary.

This one attribute of a young America above all others is the reason. It is why they prospered and were able to build so much wealth in such a short period.

When wealth and position is protected by law, those in power become complacent, they no longer strive for efficiency, they become lethargic and dull. The possibility of failure, the sharp edge of the cliff, the battle...that is what keeps man in his best form, using his best ability, producing the most he is able. When younger sharper competitors are able to slice away at an old weary opponent, and use those resources more efficiently, then wealth is created and society thrives.

Today America is a sad imitation of its former glorious self. This loss is a tragedy.


The Fool

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