Freedom and Flourishing, and American Exceptionalism

There is a fairly nice review of my book (The Case for Rational Optimism) at Winton Bates’s “Freedom and Flourishing” blog. Click here. The blog looks pretty interesting.

Winton is Australian, and says he’s “strongly opposed to American exceptionalism.” But I appreciate his saying that my book makes a stronger case than he’s seen  anywhere  that America does still stand for high ideals.

“American exceptionalism” is a loaded phrase. I didn’t use it in my book. It’s obvious that, in a lot of ways, America is not “just another country.” And I think the world would be in a lot worse shape if there were no such country. I doubt America’s critics would really prefer a world in which the pre-eminent power were China or Russia. But none of that means America is outside the rules of the international system (such as they are). Great power brings with it great responsibility. I believe America has acted as responsibly — more, in fact — than could be expected of any great power. Perfect? No. Good? Very.

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One Response to “Freedom and Flourishing, and American Exceptionalism”

  1. Winton Bates Says:

    Hi Frank
    Thanks for the link to my blog.

    In writing that I was opposed to American exceptionalism, I had meant to express opposition to the view that it is OK for America to use its vast power to throw its weight around internationally because America is an exceptionally virtuous country. My view is that America should be careful to act with restraint in its relations with other countries even when it is pursuing causes that I agree with e.g. fighting terrorism and promoting the spread of democracy.

    When compared to other great powers in history (probably including Britain in the 19th century) I think America has generally shown a fair amount of restraint in its relations with other countries. However, at times the perception of insufficient restraint has tended to be counter-productive because it has generates additional hostility in countries that have a tendency to be unfriendly and political opposition in friendly countries and even within the US.

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