America: The Greatest Country in the World?

While rewatching some episodes of The Newsroom, a HBO drama about – you guessed it – the operations of a newsroom, I thought back to the first series. In one of the episodes, Jeff Daniels, who portrays news anchor Will McAvoy, delivered a incredible, hard-hitting, accurate, and intelligent monologue. It’s something that everyone should read, or indeed watch, if they  consider that the USA is the world’s leading country. After all, it’s not all about economic might. In the scene, McAvoy, is asked “What makes America the greatest country in the world.” At first, McAvoy avoids answering the question, not wanting to take political sides, but is pressured by the moderator to answer. The clip can be watched here, or here’s the monologue:

“It’s not the greatest country in the world professor, that’s my answer.

Sharon, the NEA is a loser, yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes, it costs air time, it costs column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so god damn always? 

*Turns to conservative pundit*

And with a straight face you’re going to tell students that America is so star spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world that have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, BELGIUM has freedom. 

So, 207 sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom. 

And you, sorority girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day there’s somethings you should know. One of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, Number 4 in labor force and Number 4 in exports, we lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. 

Now none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student, but you none the less are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite?

It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chests. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men, we aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. 

We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed, by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. Enough?”

This fits in with many comments over the past few years that America is indeed on the decline and isn’t the best country in the world. It’s true that a lot of countries in the world have freedom and the country has many problems. It’s losing the “War on Drugs”; it’s 3rd in “liking” the United Sates; it’s 11th in “happiness”; it’s 4th in global competitiveness and it’s also 22nd in freedom from corruption. On the face of it, it doesn’t look like the country is a “leader” at anything at all. Yet, it’s not just the leader in one thing that’s important.

Obama is moving in the right direction, trying to ensure that diplomacy is used and not just trying to fight every war. The country is moving forward again, with Joseph Nye claiming that Obama is the “right” type of President. “Transactional” leaders, such as George HW Bush and Obama, have the biggest impact historically, rather than the so called “Transformational” leaders, such as FDR – especially in terms of foreign policy.  Of course, the constant spats in Washington are causing constant problems and need to be fixed. However, the new Shale boom will once again change world politics and provides the future boost that the USA needs to stay ahead.

In addition, it’s also starting to explore the universe once again. Private companies, such as SpaceX, are now able to transport astronauts to the Space Station, while others like Virgin Galactic, are pushing to take private citizens into space. NASA, on the other hand, is pushing to visit an astroid, while also exploring Mars in more detail. Economically, the country is also on the up, with Silicon Valley once again proving that it is incredibly inventive and the shale revolution leading another reinvention of the economy and resource security.

Truth is, it’s incredibly hard to pick “the” best country in the world as everyone’s criteria is likely to be different. Of course on some statistics the US doesn’t appear to be the best, but it’s not just statistics that count. Every country in the world has many issues, and one as big as the US will always have an infinite number of problems. Yet, economically; culturally; financially; educationally and militarily, it’s a tough country to beat (of course it’s geographical size has its benefits). Other countries beat it in certain areas, but it has proved it can do almost anything. And there’s one thing that it’s easy to ignore, and that’s the fact that the United States has one thing that many countries don’t seem to have the ability to do: reinvent itself and come back stronger than ever, even when many are predicting the worst.