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America The Unusual By John W Kingdon

1431 words - 6 pages

America The Unusual by John W Kingdon

The government of the United States of America is very unique. While many Americans complain about high taxes and Big Brother keeping too close an eye, the truth is that American government, compared to most foreign democracies, is very limited in power and scope. One area American government differs greatly from others is its scope of public policy. Americans desire limited public policy, a result of several components of American ideology, the most important being our desire for individuality and equal opportunity for all citizens. There are many possible explanations for the reason Americans think this way, including the ...view middle of the document...

By taking the focus away from equality of results, America has become the victim of large income disparities as compared to other countries. In 1990, American households in the top decile of the income distribution had disposable incomes that were nearly six times greater than households in the bottom decile. Most other large industrialized countries showed upper incomes only between two and four times greater than the lower (Kingdon: 35). The U.S. also has one of the largest poverty rates of any industrialized country. The main reason behind this is that other countries offer very generous government programs affecting poverty, such as longer-lasting unemployment benefits, children's allowances and subsidized child care facilities, higher old-age and disability benefits, and guaranteed health insurance for the entire population (Kingdon: 35). While citizens of other countries may question the morality of such huge inequalities of result, American citizens do not. "It's part of American ideology to believe not that the rich should be whittled down to size, but rather that we can all aspire to be rich one day, or at least our children can" (Kingdon: 36). Thus Americans don't believe government should even out financial or other resources, but merely ensure that everyone has the same chance to succeed if they wish to do so. Americans generally don't want lavish government aid programs, as can be seen by their extreme displeasure of taxes. While citizens of other countries tolerate taxes as a way to fund government aid programs, Americans do not. Proposing plans that increase taxes have traditionally been disastorous for election candidates, almost always resulting in defeat (Kingdon: 44). This goes back to the American ideology of individualism. We believe we alone are entitled to our wealth, and that taxes are an invasion of our right to own and keep property (Kingdon: 44). We believe we were given the opportunity to succeed, we used these opportunities, and what we earned in doing so should not be given back to the collective community so that the lazy, who didn't use their opportunities, can prosper. Congressmen, constantly seeking re-election from tax-hating constituents, are thus rewarded for keeping government public policy to a minimum. The American ideologies of individualism and equality of opportunity, producing an overall desire for limited government, keep the scope of government public policy very small.

There are many theories as to the origins of the American ideology of limited government, but a few key factors such as migration and diversity, which essentially set America down its initial path of government suspicion, seem to have had the greatest effect (Kingdon: 80). Other, possibly less influencial, factors include social structure, opportunity, and isolation from other countries (Kingdon: 57). To better understand the present state of American idealogy, we need to understand why America started down the...

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