Five Principles That Made America Great

Assume that you are traveling abroad. You get into a discussion with a foreign national who wants to know what makes America unique. He asks you to summarize the origins of America’s success in a sentence or two. What would you say?

No matter what you say, if he asked ten other Americans the same question, he would not get the same answers. America is a complex society. Its citizens have widely varying views on what makes America tick.

Nevertheless, I have come up with two sentences in eight words. These two sentences encapsulate what makes American society great. (Note: I distinguish American society from the American state.) Here are my two sentences. They are slogans, but these slogans reflect a uniquely American outlook.

Live and let live.
Let’s make a deal.

There is more to America than this. For one thing, there is a widespread religious faith that undergirds these two slogans. If you do not understand this faith, you do not understand America.

So, I have boiled down the principles of America into five sentences. These five sentences are five slogans. These five slogans are five principles of a way of life. Taken together, they identify a unique outlook that undergirds a unique way of life: a unique social order. For over 300 years, these five principles have been dominant – uniquely dominant – in America. Here they are.

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