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Related Talks

America’s Exceptional Work Ethic


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 Edward Lazear

Why has the American economy been so successful?  Lazear identifies the traits that paved the way for success: The United States has always been industrious, mobile, welcoming, and compared to others – light on regulation and taxes. While the United States has had success for over two centuries, Lazear warns that recent policy trends have deviated from the historical path and urges policymakers to return to the proven formulas for success. [DOWNLOAD .PDF] 

by John Cochrane

Cochrane locates the source of America’s exceptional nature in its legal system. America’s constitutional government, created with checks and balances and instilled with the respect for the rule of law, allowed it to prosper. But recent cracks have appeared due to the modern-day expansion of the administrative state. Economic growth and individual rights are in jeopardy if the trend of using the law for political purposes continues. Cochrane remains optimistic, however, considering the strength and historical durability of our institutions. [DOWNLOAD .PDF] 

by Niall Ferguson

What made American historically great? Ferguson expands on the four factors Tocqueville identified, namely America’s limited government, decentralization of power, preference for liberty above quality, and citizenship based on norms, not genes. Ferguson reminds us that the American approach to government and liberty are unique to our country, but warns that our prosperity is threatened by recent institutional decay. [DOWNLOAD .PDF] 

by Lee Ohanian

Ohanian discusses the remarkable history of American entrepreneurship, what it took to create it, and how to foster it into the future. Unfortunately, regulatory intrusions into doing business are on the rise, and American entrepreneurship is suffering from it. Ohanian calls for America to maintain its willingness to reallocate capital and labor from mature, declining businesses to very young growing businesses. [DOWNLOAD .PDF]