When he exited the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a citizen what form of government the delegates had given the young country. “A republic, if you can keep it.” How faithfully have we adhered to Franklin’s admonition? Have we kept it? Does this exceptional experiment in individual liberty and limited government remain exceptional?
“If you can keep it.” Inherent in this proviso is an acknowledgement that human frailty could undermine the grand experiment; that the gift given could become an opportunity for license instead of for responsibility, restraint and self-governance. The choice between exceptionalism and mediocrity lay entirely with the people.
So, how are we doing with American Exceptionalism and how do we measure it? Is the happiness of the individual a determinant, and how do we measure that? US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that, for the framers of the Declaration of Independence “happiness meant that feeling of self-worth and dignity you acquire by contributing to your community and to its civic life.”
Using Kennedy’s definition as a starting point, a… Read More