American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States and the American people hold a special place in the world,

American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States and the American people hold a special place in the world, by offering opportunity and hope for humanity, derived from a unique balance of public and private interests governed by constitutional ideals that are focused on personal and economic freedom. (Links to an external site.)


Nobel Laurate Milton Friedman laid out the case that America is exceptional. The adoption of a free market capitalist economic system which leaves all people Free to Choose to engage in mutually beneficial voluntary exchange has created extraordinary and historically unprecedented wealth and has distributed that wealth equitably among the whole population.

Inherent in free market capitalism is a maximum personal liberty ethos where the government does not coerce or use financial incentives to modify people’s behavior or belief systems. Being Free to Choose means not only being free to buy, sell and consume what you want but, also, the right to work at a profession of your choice, live where you want, marry whomever you wish, raise your kids as you desire, own a gun if you wish, practice the religion of your choice, say what you wish and vote and advocate for the people and government policies you support.

Friedman argues that economic and personal freedom are linked. One produces the other and, without one, you cannot have the other. Economic freedom (capitalism and free markets) creates and equitably distributes wealth and puts the ability to protect freedom, both political and economic, in the hands of ordinary people.

With disposable income, ordinary people can fight government predation on their economic welfare and restriction of their personal freedom. In the vast majority of cases, this is done non-violently by voting for and financially supporting amenable political candidates, but, historically, the fight has infrequently involved violence, e.g. the Civil War which was fought to end slavery and, to a lesser extent, the Civil Rights Movement which guaranteed equal rights for blacks. Without economic freedom, ordinary people would not have the resources or ability to protect their economic and personal freedom and their economic and political freedom would not survive.

Hernando DeSoto, in The Mystery of Capital, identified two aspects of being Free to Choose, the Rule of Law and Strong Personal Property Rights (including clear and transferrable title to property) which are necessary and required conditions for a capitalist free market system to work.

Stephen Moore, in Trumponomics: Inside America First Plan to Revive Our Economy, explained how a political candidate’s platform can revolve around the idea of limiting government laws and regulations which reduce personal and economic freedom and limiting and reducing confiscatory taxes.  

Richard McGregor, in The Party, The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, describes an alternative to a free market capitalist system, a socialist/communist system where there is no political or personal freedom and with limited economic freedom. Communist China is a dictatorship where personal and economic freedoms do not exist or are proscribed. The Communist Party exercises absolute control over all aspects of people’s lives including how many children a woman may have, what religion may be practiced, where you live, what job you can have, what education you can receive, what goods you can buy, sell, and consume and, of course, what views can be espoused and what leader you prefer. Any challenge to the Communist Party dictatorship is met with severe consequences including confiscation of your property, public humiliation, internment in a concentration camp or the disappearance of you and your family. Under this alternative to a free market capitalist system, Communist China has gone from abject poverty to a per capita income comparable to Mexico .

Consider 3 people and how they would fare under the United States free market capitalist system vs. the Socialist/Communist system in Communist China.

  1. Clarence Thomas, a member of a historically disadvantage racial minority who started off life poor and with no advantages (watch the movie Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words (Links to an external site.)).
  2. Fan Fan Bing Bing and Jack Ma, rich and famous but not politically powerful residents of Communist China (refer to the articles in the Homework-The Party, The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers  or do an internet search for information).
  3. Yourself, a young person with your life ahead of you.

What are advantages/disadvantages and consequences of being born in the USA vs. Communist China for each of these 3 people?

Which system is better or worse for which person?

Discuss your opinions for each of the 3 people in light of the economic principles presented in the class.

 Your paper should be about 3 pages (1500 words), be uploaded as a Word (.docx) file, and use MLA formatting.

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