What Makes America the Greatest Country in the World?


[YouTube Clip] - via VideoSift

In the premiere of HBO's new Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom, news anchor Will McAvoy played by Jeff Daniels was asked "what makes America the greatest country in the world." To which he replied that it isn't.

There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies."

The topic of why America is/isn't the greatest country in the world (why, just in time for July 4th) is definitely controversial. In a series about American exceptionalism, Todd Leopold of CNN remarked that despite the United States not being number 1 in several objective measures, acknowledging that the country isn't the greatest in the world is "the third rail of American politics."

Good luck in saying that aloud, however. Forget Social Security. The third rail of American politics is acknowledging we may not be the greatest country in the world.

"If you can think of a politician who can say consistently 'We're not No. 1; we're not No. 1,' then I'd be very surprised," says Melvyn Levitsky, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and former ambassador to Brazil.

But why can't we acknowledge the problems? Isn't that the first step toward fixing them?


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America's greatness doesn't have anything to do with statistics. Any country can be made to look good or bad using any number of conflicting reports and studies. That's not saying that the U.S. doesn't have problems and issues that need to be dealt with but that is a part of the human condition that is true throughout the world no matter what the country. What makes America great are the high ideals and standards spelled out in our founding documents and our continuous struggle to live up to, fulfill, and fight for them. That is what makes America exceptional. So bite me Aaron Sorkin! Oh yeah, freedom of speech is also one of those things that makes America great.
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Tim C: You are not the only country with freedom of expression or grand ideals in their constitution. Given how far you have fallen from those ideals (personal liberties being my personal favourite), I fail to see how either of those in any way bolster your case that Amierica is better than, say, Norway where they have the exact same ideals and are much better when measured against them.

Grey Wolf
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@Grey Wolfe: Norway is a very nice country, I'm sure. TimC's comment was mostly correct though. No country is ever going to be first in everything. And in fact, I think the US does pretty poorly in a lot of areas. Though I'm not sure what you mean about personal liberties, if you mean Bill of Rights type protections. Given your spelling choices, I'm guessing you're from one of our fellow anglophone countries, in which case, we have better protections for freedom of speech, for instance, than you'd see in your country. (Or Norway, for that matter.) I think his larger point was that greatest or best country is a subjective choice.

So while I could spend hours listing things about other countries I think we could emulate, if I had to pick one country that's the best, I'd probably still pick the US. What's more, if you consider voting with your feet, it seems like most people agree. The US has far and away the highest immigration inflow of any country, with vastly more people trying to get in, than actually make it.
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