Fareed Zakaria to America: You’re Not so Great

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria was on Charlie Rose recently and made the claim that America has become “antiquated” and the system our founding documents created is “dysfunctional."

Zakaria begins by adopting the epic straw man of an arrogant American who thinks America is 100% perfect. Using the pronoun “we think” repeatedly he asserts:

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Whenever we have a problem, we tend to think that our Constitution is the best ever created in the history of the world. The people who wrote the Constitution were demi-gods, it never needs to be changed. Our political system is the best in the world. The truth is we have a pretty complicated, antiquated system that’s grown pretty dysfunctional.

Wow, when you put it like that Mr. Zakaria, it’s a wonder we even made it out of the 19th century. Let’s go point by point.

First, the reason Americans revere the Constitution was that it, along with the Declaration of Independence, represented the first time people threw off the chains of a tyrannical government and truly put power in the hands of ordinary people. It was an intellectual revolution more than a physical one. From 1776 and 1789 on, numerous countries have taken our system and used it as a template for change in their countries. We have good reason to be proud.

Next, no one believes that the founding fathers were “demi-gods.” They were extremely smart men who charted a new and different course of human history. They framed the intellectual revolution. No one asserts they’re godly, but again, we have good reason to be proud and honor those men.

Third, no one says the Constitution should “never be changed.” The writers of the Constitution knew that the document would have to be changed from time to time. That’s why they had an amendment procedure, and indeed passed a slew of them themselves. Civics 101, Mr. Zakaria.

Finally, Zakaria frames America’s rise to world dominance as circumstantial: “We are a successful parochial country. We’re a large country with two vast oceans, two weak neighbors, with a history of success. Those are bad conditions from which to learn.”

Zakaria frames America as unspectacular, unexceptional whose rise was purely coincidental or by luck. However, what he fails to answer in this laundry list of what American’s “think” is the why? Why are we a nation “with a history of success”? Why are we so rich? Why are we so large? The reason we are these things is that when you unleash the human spirit in a free nation, you allow humanity to grow and progress. Read The 5000 Year Leap and you’ll see why human advancement has grown at an exponential rate in the last 200 plus years.

I, for one, am of the opinion that America is indeed that great.

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