Like companies, many countries have recognizable brands. Just as one might know Apple for their dedication to innovation or Oregon University football for their willingness to try out-of-the-box uniforms, countries can be known for various values. The United States is no different, and over the last two centuries or more, it has cultivated and developed its own specific brand. The United States has a brand that says that the freedom to better one’s self is more important than the communal responsibility to take care of one another. While this brand has some advantages, it could use serious improvement if the United States is going to live up to the example set by some of its contemporaries.
The American brand is based largely on the country’s founding documents, which help to set the country apart from many others. Dating back to the Declaration of Independence, the focus in the United States has been on the freedom and ability of individuals to seek out personal betterment. “The pursuit of happiness,” for instance, does not refer to a collective directive, but rather, an individual calling toward some immutable goal.
The brand is also based upon the current political reality, where individuals champion their freedom to do various things. The highest societal ethic that defines the United States is based largely upon economic freedom, with individuals being able to pile up large amounts of wealth as a memorial to their “success.” To be sure, even the prevailing political discussions note the importance of this freedom, as capital gains taxes are low and the tax code generally allows the very wealthy to get by without paying too much.
The flip side of this American brand is a lack of communal responsibility. It is often the case that individuals cannot balance individual and communal goals. These things do not have to be anti-thetical, but in the American arrangement, they all too often are. While seeking out their own wealth, people advocate political positions that punish the poor. In arguing for the stamping out of food stamp funding and public education funding, many exalt their own needs over the needs of the collective, complaining loudly about the fact that they should not have to give their hard-earned money to support other people.
This brand could certainly use some improvement if the country is going to compete on the global stage with many of the European nations that the United States likes to compare itself to. There is nothing wrong with having a society in which personal ambition and success is both encouraged and rewarded. There must, however, be a balance, wherein people do not neglect their responsibilities toward others as they are chasing their own success. When living within a society, people are not on an island, and the success of each individual person is tied, at least in part, to the success of society as a whole. America should do a better job of emphasizing the responsibility of individuals to society and other people in society.
Overall, the American brand is as old as apple pie. It says that people should be free to pursue their own interests and their own economic prosperity, even if this comes at the expense of someone around them. While this has long been the distinguishing factor in the American ethical system, it is not necessarily anything to be proud of. There is a chance that in the country’s desire to establish this kind of free and open economic reality, it has neglected its duty to care for those who have ability to care for themselves.