I occasionally hear someone in the news speak of "American Exceptionalism", the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations; that we are unique among nations and generally superior to them in almost any measureable category. That's a nice thought but it's just not reality. That's not to say that it cannot be attained at some future time. So, let's discuss what America would be like if this nation could truly be called exceptional.
That America would resemble the one that existed after the Second World War when people felt really good about themselves. Tom Brokaw even wrote a book about Americans of that time and coined the term, the "Greatest Generation." During those times, the future was bright, and the sky was the limit; everything was looking up as the nation entered an era of what was anticipated to be an indefinite period of peace and prosperity.
That generation had the opportunity, and the potential, to lead the nation in exactly that direction and it did, for a time, but then a succession of wars and military actions interrupted those hopes and dreams. But what if America had not taken that turn in the wrong direction? Let's attempt to describe a future America as it might have been initially envisioned by those in the 1950's as they contemplated how America could evolve into an exceptional nation and society.
The America that they envisioned would be a prosperous country with a robust economy. The American dream would be in effect with lots of upward mobility for all citizens. There would be plenty of wealthy people, a vibrant, hard-working middle class and, yes, we'd have a lower income class -- but it would not be nearly as large and disadvantaged as that of today.
The distribution of wealth between the classes would be balanced, it wouldn't be a situation such as we find today in which most analyses show that the top 1% own about 35% of total wealth, the next 19% own 50% and the bottom 80% own only 15%. No, it would be much more fair and balanced than that because of a system of taxation that our government had created to make certain that every person in America, regardless of their income, paid their fair share; tax breaks, unnecessary incentives and loopholes, together with offshore tax evasion accounts, by corporations and the wealthy would have been eliminated.
There would be a thriving manufacturing sector because the Congress would have set up a system of tax incentives and penalties, plus appropriate tariffs that created millions of new jobs in America, and minimized overseas outsourcing. Corporations and workers would have reasonably good relationships, not perfect, but civil. Workers would earn good wages and CEO's would be very well paid but nothing like their salaries today which often are 700 times greater those of their workers.
Our government and the business community would have recognized that petroleum would certainly become much more scarce and expensive in the future and they would have worked together to create and develop new sources of alternate energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels. The new industries and their energy saving products would fuel the consumer-driven economy, increase the nation's exports dramatically and, once again, make American manufacturing a force in the world.