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What makes a nation great? What makes it the greatest? To me, a great nation is one that improves the lives of its citizens. But a greater nation improves the lives of its citizens and the lives of many who live outside the country.
Using this criteria, my metric is simple: The greatest nation is one that has improved the lives of the largest number of people the longest.
And on this basis, no one comes close to the United States of America.
It isn't an exaggeration to say Americans have saved the lives of over a billion people in the past century alone and has helped billions more have better lives--by:
Americans saved Europe from starvation and provided the funding to get them back on its feet after WWII (up to 1/6 of the USA's food production was given as food aid). Americans help mitigate starvation and finance vaccination, sanitation, and literacy programs all over the world.
Americans shouldered the defense burdens of Western Europe and East Asia, allowing countries like Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea to devote more of their economy to economic growth instead of spending it on defense.
For decades, Americans allowed China and others to impose asymmetric tariffs and duties on imported goods and services, which built up their economies at the expense of the US.
When one takes the time to look at the details, it becomes apparent that the USA has helped improve the economies of over 150 countries - without extracting tribute or seizing valuable assets!
The poorest Americans have housing, utilities, health care, education, food, appliances, vehicles, and entertainment systems - a way of living that places them in the middle class everywhere else.
If the USA is not the greatest country in history; who has helped more people longer?
Movies, music, television shows, publishing, brands, inventions, trademarks, military, space exploration, trade, finance - the United States of America dominates the world in a manner no other nation or empire has.
In fact, it is comical at how so far ahead the US is compared to everyone else.
Unlike every other empire in history, it does not need to impose its will by force. Countries like Canada, Mexico, and all of Latin America would capitulate within a month if the US ever decides to invade. And yet it does not, despite it easily can.
Everyone else looks down on the US while secretly dying of envy at what Americans take for granted.
The United States is the most successful nation in history because it gave the greatest respect to our Natural Rights while allowing each state to compete against the others.
NATURAL (INALIENABLE) RIGHTS
The respect for one's Natural Rights provided the motivation for Americans to take chances and pursue their goals and happiness, knowing that they will keep most of what they make as long as they stay within the rules (the Social Contract).
Each state can craft laws and regulations - but those who place too heavy of a burden on companies or individuals will rapidly find these businesses and people leaving the state, with a resulting loss in revenue to the state.
The low taxes and regulations help make the US an attractive place to do business - but the inexpensive energy, robust infrastructure and transportation network, highly literate and creative workforce, and enormous market make the USA the best place in the world to do business.
The USA is a Janus-faced country - it has two very different and opposing worldviews that it presents to the world: the Conservative and the Liberal. Both groups dominate certain industries and national characteristics but they are by no means monolithic. Someone can be conservative concerning the national budget, borders, and public safety while being liberal on human sexuality, social services, and racial equality.
The USA is a conservative country (the most religious of any Western nation; the greatest respecter of one's Natural Rights; the largest exporter of food and high quality materials) and the USA is a liberal country (largest producer of movies, television shows, video games, music, magazines, and pornography; the greatest promoter of resource-dependent rights such as government health care, public education, and welfare benefits; and the greatest promoter of agenda-driven rights such as transgender rights).
Both the Republicans and Democrats had members who were conservative and both had members who were liberal. But this has started to change in the past couple of decades with the Republican Party becoming more aligned with the conservatives while the Democratic Party started becoming the sole home of the liberals.
This segregation has accelerated since the election of President Trump. While the tension between the two groups has always existed; the recent demonization of the other as evil who must be destroyed is something that should be stopped before it gets worse. Liberals need to cling to the traditional values of liberalism without sliding into the anarchy and violence of the leftists (who have nothing beneficial to offer).
The USA succeeded because the government and most of those in positions of power respected the inalienable Natural Rights of most Americans. This hands-off approached allowed these two sides to excel at what each does - which continued to propel the USA at the forefront of nations.
Conservatives need Liberals - they make the lives of Conservatives better.
Liberals need Conservatives - they keep Liberals alive.
Conservatives take things slow. Conservatives don't abandon something with centuries of experience showing it works, just because social norms have changed. Conservatives believes one needs to follow the rules, especially rules with centuries of precedence. Conservatives take things in context and do not impose their values on those from centuries ago with different values and worldviews. Conservatives value tradition, religion, and family.
The conservative mindset is visible everywhere. Every bridge you drive on was designed and built according to very strict standards and specifications. The safety of your food and medicines. The functionality of your car and computer. The purity of your drinking water and worthiness of the plane you fly in are all due to the application of conservative engineering and design principles. An engineer can be a liberal in his sexual life, but will need to strictly follow conservative principles when designing things that can affect people's lives if they fail.
Eliminating conservatives means eliminating the very things that keep us alive and safe. The result isn't liberalism but chaos, terror, suffering, and death on a massive scale.
Imagine living without the internet, cell phones, entertainment such as movies, video games, music, and art. Imagine living without having a social and medical safety net.
All of these were created by liberals.
Liberals are never content. They must always push against the status quo and break the rules. The actual motivation is besides the point - what is important is to keep moving forward towards an ideal.
Liberals think many rules are irrelevant and those they dislike can be broken.
Liberals actually believe people are inherently good and it is permissible to use the state to force people to become moral - that is, force people to conform to the specific beliefs of the liberal.
Liberals excel in fields that require creativity, but liberals always fail in governing nations, states, and cities because human nature never aligns with their political and social ideals.
Removing police from minority neighborhoods or not cooperating with the immigration authorities when illegal aliens commit crimes sound good in theory, but vacuums are always filled and victimizers will continue to victimize the helpless when law enforcement is absent.
Taking from the "rich" and giving to the poor sounds good in theory, but the rich always preserve their wealth by moving to places where they can keep more of their wealth. The result is always lower tax revenue and the poor end up worse than before because government bureaucrats will never give up their income and pension so that the state has more to give to the poor.
Punishing people for hate speech or for various thought crimes sounds good in theory; but people retaliate and lash out when pushed into a corner. And during times of strife, memories are long and revenge for perceived wrongs always occurs.
Eliminating liberals means innovation dies. Our lives will be harsher, shorter, and much, much uglier.