September 4, 2013


America 3.0: The Coming Reinvention of America (James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, August 20, 2013, The American)

America has already once made a change on the scale of that which is happening now. That was when it transformed itself from the rural and agrarian society of the founding era -- which we call America 1.0 -- to the urban and industrial society that peaked in the mid-20th century -- which we call America 2.0. That earlier transition, from roughly 1860 to 1920, was more painful than most people think. Yet the transformed, industrial America became the wonder of the world. 

The American political and economic regime now in crisis was built for the world of America 2.0. Today, we are in the midst of a dramatic transition to a new technological and political configuration -- which we call America 3.0. Institutions that once looked permanent are cracking at the foundations. Technology will drive the transition, and the shape of future technology can only be known in broad outline. 

Most importantly, the cultural foundation of America, based on its unique type of family life, will remain intact. This is the continuous thread linking each of the three "versions" of America. Our deeply rooted orientation toward personal and economic freedom will allow us to dismantle America 2.0 and build a better, freer, and more prosperous America 3.0 in its place.

American Exceptionalism: Based on the American Family

American exceptionalism is based on our family structure, which has the following characteristics. 

Individuals freely select their own spouses. There are no arranged marriages and very few limitations on whom a person can marry; essentially, only marriage to close relatives is forbidden.

Women enjoy a high degree of freedom, autonomy, and equality.

Parents are free to give more or less financial assistance to different children, and they are not required to treat their children equally.

Grown children leave their parents' homes, marry, form new households, and create new families of their own.

Extended families are weak. People have no right to help from relatives.

These things seem normal to Americans, but many cultures have dramatically different customs. For example, in some cultures extended families act as protective networks and their members have a duty of loyalty and assistance to one another.

As a result of our family structure, American culture has the following characteristics.

Americans Are Individualistic. The American family pushes Americans to be autonomous, self-reliant, and freedom-loving.

Americans Value Liberty. Americans expect to be on their own, choosing their own spouses, making their own way in the world, and managing their own affairs. 

Americans Are Non-Egalitarian. Americans have a comparatively low interest in economic equality. 

Americans Are Competitive. Americans generally consider an economy with winners and losers to be fair. They believe in a minimal safety net compared to other communities. 

Americans Are Enterprising. The family has been the engine of economic progress in America, creating America's well-known "go-getting" and "hustling" spirit. 

Americans Are Mobile. Americans form their own families, acquire their own homes, and have always been willing to move to where the work is. 

Americans Volunteer. Because Americans do not have extended family networks, they have formed voluntary associations as the foundation of the economy and of civil society.  

Americans Have Middle-Class Values. Most Americans, whatever their actual wealth, consider themselves to be middle class, and they are interested in public order and safety for their families and property. 

Americans Have an Instrumental View of Government. They see the government as a tool to accomplish things that benefit them and protect the interests of the middle class.

These factors led to one of America's greatest achievements: the creation of suburbia. A house that fits one family and provides some comfort and privacy is the heart of the American dream.

Where did these cultural patterns come from? The short answer: England. America inherited its family structure from its mother country. It has been a critical factor in many of the political, legal, economic, and cultural developments in England, and then in America, for 1,500 years.

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Posted by at September 4, 2013 6:11 PM

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