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America’s Exceptional Economy


To learn more, click below to read essays by Hoover Institution fellows on the nature of American Exceptionalism. These essays appear in the book American Exceptionalism in a New Era, edited by Thomas W. Gilligan.

The authors show how America and its people have prospered and emerged as global leaders by prizing individuality and economic freedom and explore key factors in America’s success, including immigration, education, divided government, light regulation, low taxes, and social mobility. America isn’t perfect, they argue, but it is exceptional.

Taken together, the essays form a broad exploration of American attitudes on everything from tax rates and property rights to the role of government and rule of law. They examine the beliefs of statesmen including Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, and Ronald Reagan—each of whom considered America fundamentally different from other nations.

Finally, they outline the ways American exceptionalism may be in decline, with consequences both at home and abroad. At a time when “the idea of the American dream is not in high repute in our public discourse,” the authors collectively argue that the United States must continue to believe in itself as exceptional and indispensable or else face a world where America no longer sets the standard.

by Paul Peterson

What makes American exceptional? What sets it apart from other nations? Using lessons that Tocqueville observed about America over one hundred and fifty years ago, Peterson identifies America’s unique capacity to preserve liberty within a democracy. While the American character was defined by its early history, geography, adoption of universal education, and continuous immigration, ultimately putting its citizens at the center of the political system has kept its institutions exceptional. [DOWNLOAD .PDF]

by Michael McConnell

The respect for the rule of law is unique to America and a defining part of its history. McConnell reminds us that the American revolution was about vindicating the legal rights not just of American colonists, but the legal rights of all. The founders’ respect for law and property was intentional and deeply self-conscious. No matter his status, no one is above the rule of law. And while embracing it has led to a just and prosperous society, the rule of law faces numerous threats today. [DOWNLOAD .PDF]

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by Gary Libecap

The United States has been unusual in its protection of property rights. Its early history saw immigrants coming from lands where owning property wasn’t an option. Property rights put the individual in control over the state. But Libecap cautions that recent trends in environmental policy are threatening the rights of individuals through expansive regulation and takings. [DOWNLOAD .PDF]

by Stephen Haber

Haber recounts the importance of intellectual property rights on American economic development. America’s earliest experience with patents rewarded the development of property rights and discouraged monopolies by letting inventors trade with those who could implement their ideas and get them to market. When Congress embraced property rights early on as a way to spur innovation and economic growth, it set the stage for the United States to eclipse the rest of the world in the 1800s. [DOWNLOAD .PDF]