Charles Murray argues in his short monograph for the American Enterprise Institute that American exceptionalism is composed of four elements that, taken together, constitute the unique civic culture of the nation. The four traits are industriousness, egalitarianism, religiosity, and community life.
Religious belief and engagement are declining but remain relatively strong. A Harris poll found that 23 percent of Americans describe themselves as “not at all religious” in 2013, almost double the number who said that in 2007. The percentage of Americans who profess a belief in God (74) remains significantly higher than most European nations. Seventy-three percent of Frenchmen told Gallup in 2007-2008 that religion is not important in their lives, along with 63 percent of Russians, 71 percent of the British, and 59 percent of Spaniards.
Industriousness is strained by the deadening hand of the regulatory state, but remains more robust than in other countries.
Egalitarianism, by which Murray means the belief that each person is of equal worth, whatever his income or family, remains a firm conviction.
And civic engagement, though shouldered aside in a thousand ways by the vast octopus of government, continues to chug along, creating associations, committees, councils, and clubs to improve life for all. Out of curiosity, I Googled “English as a Second Language” classes in my area and discovered a vast network–including ESLIM (English as a Second Language and Immigrant Ministries), a program of the Methodist Church, the Northern Virginia Community Colleges, and many others.
Worth some fireworks, I’d say.
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