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By Mason Carteri

The American Way – individual freedom, capitalism, democracy, constitutionally restrained government, and equality before the law – has built the strongest, most prosperous, and most advanced country in history. It provides the individual a unique and extremely broad array of freedoms and rights found almost nowhere else in history. It combines thousands of years of philosophy, from the Greeks to Montesquieu, into a government, limited by law and designed to serve the people. This system doesn’t just ensure a degree of personal freedom unparalleled throughout most of history, it also produces remarkable economic and social growth. In just a few hundred years, the United States grew from a small collection of backwater colonies to an economic powerhouse and the undisputed cultural center of the modern world.

Of course, it makes sense how such a free and just society could incubate such cultural and economic development. Artists thrive without an oppressive government censor breathing down their necks and watching their every move. Individuals free to start their own enterprises and assured of the stability of the system are more likely to produce new technologies and innovative business practices. Businesses unbridled by excessive state regulation and control produce more, creating wealth, jobs, and in-demand goods. Of course, our system has had its troubles over the years, but none so far have proved to be anything we can’t handle, nor anything that could place a shadow over its towering success.

It’s not a new idea that this exceptional tradition ought to be spread to the rest of the world; our leaders have been trying to do so since the 19th century, and perhaps even before. In some ways they have succeeded. Various countries have emulated or attempted to emulate the American tradition in the last century, including most of Europe and a variety of other nations worldwide. In some, the American tradition was brought by force of arms, while in others, merely its shining exemplary nature served as enough to induce a change towards the American Way. The vast majority of the world however, remains locked in either objective tyranny or corrupt and unstable attempts at a constitutional republic. Even among the most successful emulators, none appear to be operating completely within the purviews of the American Way. Canada has their oppressive speech laws, and the UK lacks a written constitution altogether. It would seem that a lot of work remains to be done to bring our tradition to the rest of the world; but before we can act to further our Way, we must first understand how to properly do so.

When the US shifted from the quiet isolationism of our nascent years to our current position as a global superpower, it didn’t take long for intervention through military force to become a dominant tool in attempts to spread the American Way. By the current century, it was almost formulaic – invade a despotic third world country, depose its tyrannical regime, and found a democratic republic in its place. It seemed simple enough and we had everything we needed, from a moral calling to the awe-inspiring power of our military. The only problem was, it didn’t work. Most recently, both Iraq and Afghanistan became failed states taken over by savage infighting, political corruption, more despotism, and radical bands of anti-western and anti-democracy terrorists just moments after the new democracies were meant to start up.

Our ideas may be among the most enlightened mankind can design, but all that means very little when forced upon a people by the point of a gun, especially when our way clashes so strongly with the established religious and political traditions of the individuals at gunpoint. Invasion and the threat of violence do very little to convince a people of the virtues of your message. Furthermore, existing traditions do not erode easily, and people don’t like change. The sudden cultural “shock therapy” administered by the US did not consider either of these factors in our latest bout of regime change, and thus was doomed to fail.

These failures, do not however, suggest that the United States should give up on spreading our wonderful American tradition throughout the world. Rather, they indicate that a change in strategy is necessary.

American influences abroad must be peaceful, and carefully tailored to avoid making the rest of mankind feel as though our ideas are being forced upon them, to the detriment of their own cultures and ways of doing things. There are many more functional approaches to spreading freedom and democratic republicanism, some of which require no government action at all. By increasing trade and peaceful relations between the US and other nations, we can provide further avenues for the diffusion of our principles into their societies, and speed up the process of their adoption by increasing foreign opinions of the US. Additionally, through our cultural output, especially film and literature, we can provide windows into the virtues of the American Way. However, these processes are all already underway, and have been for decades, hamstrung by our many foreign interventions that place the United States in a bad light in the very locations we are trying to bring into our fold. Really, the most important action we can take to further the spread of our way is simply to avoid unnecessary military actions and overbearing intrusions into the matters of sovereign states.

The American Way is effective, fair, and morally sound. We need only give the rest of the world ample opportunity to discover that for themselves.

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