Note from Senior Managing Editor Christina Grieves: As we head into a holiday weekend, I would like to wish all of you a happy Independence Day from everyone at Liberty Through Wealth! Despite the many challenges that 2020 has brought, there are still so many reasons to celebrate. That’s exactly what Alexander Green discusses in his article today.
We welcomed Allison Brickell as a Managing Editor to our team this week. Allison has been with The Oxford Club for more than five years and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our team. I hope you’ll join me in giving her a warm welcome!
I hope that each of you has something to celebrate and that you have a wonderful Fourth of July!
You don’t hear much about American exceptionalism these days. Except for the exceptional negatives.
Over the last several weeks, the media have reminded us that we had the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, the most social unrest since the 1960s and that we lead the world in deaths from COVID-19.
Gallup reported last month that only 42% of those polled say they are “extremely proud” to be American, the lowest percentage in two decades.
There is a sense among many – magnified by the pandemic, no doubt – that we are no longer an exceptional nation, that the country is in decline and the American Dream is over.
Let’s begin with a few indisputable facts:
- The American military – the primary defender of the free world – has never been stronger.
- American life expectancy has never been greater. In 1900, life expectancy in the U.S. was less than 50 years. The near doubling of the human life span may be the single greatest achievement in the history of civilization.
- Our standard of living has never been higher. Look around you at all the laborsaving devices, the huge variety of goods and services available, the luxuries – from Ultra HDTVs to Starbucks’ lattes to high-thread-count sheets – that permeate your existence.
- Our homes have never been larger. According to the Census Bureau, the median square footage of newly built single-family homes is 2,322 square feet. That’s 52% larger than the median home built in 1973.
- We enjoy more leisure than ever before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that the average American workweek – at 34.5 hours – has never been shorter.
- Computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones – that are revolutionizing our lives – have never been cheaper or more powerful.
- We are the world leader in technological innovation. The telephone, the television, the airplane and the internet were all invented here. So were blood transfusions, heart transplants and countless vaccines. (If we are no different from other Western democracies, why were transformative companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram, PayPal, Tesla, Uber and Airbnb – to name just a few – all founded here?)
- Since 1950, approximately half of all Nobel Prizes awarded in the science fields have gone to Americans.
- Our space probes and orbiting telescopes explore and explain the cosmos. We put astronauts on the moon over half a century ago. The SpaceX launch and last month’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket – the first manned U.S. space mission in over a decade – demonstrate the technological prowess of our private sector.
- COVID-19 is a worldwide plague. Yet three companies are leading the charge for a vaccine and are already moving into the final phase of human trials: Moderna (Nasdaq: MRNA), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). All of them are American.
- Contrary to media images, American cities have been growing steadily safer for decades. Violent crime is in a long-term cycle of decline.
- Statistics show that divorce rates, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancies and abortions are all down.
- Educational attainment has never been higher. Eighty-eight percent of Americans have a high school diploma. Fifty-nine percent have some college. Forty-two percent have an associate or bachelor’s degree. (For comparison purposes, in 1952 only 6.4% of Americans had completed college.)
- The essentials of life – food, clothing, energy and shelter – (in inflation-adjusted terms) have never been more affordable.
- All forms of pollution – including greenhouse gases – are in decline.
- American agriculture is the envy of the world. Our farmers now grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s – on 20% less land. The yield per acre has grown sixfold in the past 70 years.
- For decades, experts warned us that we had to end “our addiction to foreign oil.” Yet thanks to new technologies – like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – we are not just one of the world’s largest energy producers but a net exporter.
- The U.S. leads the world in science, engineering, medicine, entertainment and the arts.
- No nation attracts more immigrants, more students or more foreign investment capital.
- Americans are the most charitable people on Earth, both in the aggregate and per capita. The Giving USA Foundation recently reported that U.S. charitable donations hit a record $449.6 billion last year.
- The dollar is the world’s reserve currency.
- Americans are just 4.3% of the world’s population yet we create nearly 30% of its annual wealth.
- Our economy is No. 1 by a huge margin. It is larger than Nos. 2 and 3 – China and Japan – combined.
- Median household income hit a record last year, as did U.S. household net worth.
Despite our good fortune, polls show that Americans are less optimistic about the future today than in 1942, when we were in the fight of our lives against Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito.
Maybe we need a humorist to wake us up. As Dave Barry notes…
My mom, like my dad, and millions of other members of the Greatest Generation, had to contend with real adversity: the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, hunger, poverty, disease, World War II, extremely low-fi 78 rpm records and telephones that – incredible as it sounds today – could not even shoot video.
Your ancestors a few generations removed would view your life today as the realization of some utopia, a golden age.
Yet we should celebrate our exceptional past, too.
Fireworks will fill the skies this weekend because our nation’s founding was revolutionary – not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another but in placing political authority in the hands of the people.
Our Declaration of Independence is a timeless statement of inherent rights, the true purposes of government and the limits of political authority.
Our core beliefs are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the longest-serving foundation of liberty in history.
Our nation’s growth and prosperity have been extraordinary. How did our small republican experiment transform and dominate global culture and society?
Geography played a big role. Buffered by two oceans and a rugged frontier, we had plenty of cheap land and vast natural resources. (But then so did countries like Russia and Brazil.)
Entrepreneurs were given free license to innovate and create. Profit was never something to apologize for. Rather it was viewed as proof that businesses offered customers something more valuable than the money they traded.
Historically, we have opened our arms to tens of millions of immigrants who dreamed of a better life and helped to build this country.
We still take in more immigrants annually than any country in the world. In the process, we have developed an astounding capacity for tolerance.
Racial tensions flared recently with the unconscionable death of George Floyd.
But the mainstream media’s narrative – that we are a racist, sexist and homophobic nation – is unfounded.
We might all know a few individuals who fit those descriptions. But polls show that the majority of Americans today favor gay rights, interracial marriage and economic equality.
And no other majority white country in the world has elected a one-term – much less a two-term – black president.
The average woman in this nation makes less than the average man, true. But that is not de facto evidence of discrimination.
Studies reveal that after accounting for vocation, specialization, education, experience and hours worked, the difference between what men and women earn is negligible.
It is against federal law to pay a woman less than a man for the same work. (And we have no shortage of tort attorneys.)
As Ayaan Hirsi Ali tweeted last month…
What the media do not tell you is that America is the best place on the planet to be black, female, gay, trans or what have you. We have our problems and we need to address those. But our society and our systems are far from racist.
I’m not suggesting that other nations don’t have proud histories, unique traditions or beautiful cultures. I’m delighted when I get a chance to visit Sydney or Buenos Aires, not to mention Paris or Rome. There’s a lot to love about day-to-day life in other countries.
But people around the world don’t talk about the French Dream or the Chinese Dream. Only one nation is universally recognized as the land of opportunity.
That’s because America cultivates, celebrates and rewards the habits that make men and women successful. Anyone with ambition and grit can move up the economic ladder. Everyone has a chance to improve his or her lot, regardless of circumstances.
As JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece:
America’s future has never been brighter. The U.S. has the best universities, hospitals and businesses on the planet, and our people are the most entrepreneurial and innovative in the world, from the factory floor to the executive suite. We have by far the widest, deepest and most transparent capital markets, and a citizenry with an unparalleled work ethic and “can do” attitude.
American ingenuity, technology and capital markets have created dramatic improvements in communications, transportation, manufacturing, computing, retailing, food production, construction, healthcare, finance, pharmaceuticals, robotics, sensors, artificial intelligence, genetics, 3-D printing and dozens of other industries.
These haven’t just benefited citizens here but people all over the world.
The pandemic has delivered a once-in-a-century setback. But it isn’t a knockout punch.
In fact, there are clear signs that our amazingly resilient economy is already on the rebound.
Retail sales soared 17.7% in May, more than double estimates and the biggest single-month jump ever.
Home prices are up. The price of oil doubled last month in anticipation of greater demand. The stock market has rallied over 40% from the March 23 low. And we learned this week that the economy added a record 4.8 million jobs in June.
Only time will tell, but markets are signaling that we may have just experienced the shortest recession in history.
The notion that America is an exceptional nation is not, as some would argue, just a crude strain of patriotism.
Our country embodies timeless ideals, an optimistic attitude and an enthusiastic endorsement of the pursuit of happiness.
If you’re looking for something to celebrate this weekend, try this: Americans are living longer, richer, freer lives than at any time in history.
Yes, we have made missteps along the way and face no shortage of problems and challenges today. But this weekend you might celebrate who we are, what we’ve done and just how far we’ve come.