Is America the greatest country on Earth, and why?

There is a clip from Aaron Sorkin’s new series The Newsroom that is going viral. Here’s a link, but please know that not safe for work due to language.

Not having seen the show I don’t know who the character’s are, but in the set up a college aged girl asks a panel of three people what makes America the greatest country on Earth. One panelist answers “diversity and opportunity”, a second answers “freedom, freedom, and freedom”, and a third, played by Jeff Daniels, goes into a mini-rant that begins with “we’re not”. He backs his statement by saying that most First World (and many non First World) countries have as much freedom, that America trails other nations educationally and financially, that we lead the world in the percent/number of incarcerated people, etc…

I can’t say I’m proud to be an American since I had very little to do with it, but I can definitely say I’m glad to be one, that I was born here instead of in Mexico or the Soviet Union (I know, but it was still alive and kicking when I was born) or any of many places that are a lot more violent and a lot less fed. That said, America is simply not what it once was even in my lifetime; the sense of entitlement is nauseating, and I’m not talking about welfare/food stamps entitlement but the “we can have it all and as much as we want and it’s our right!” sense that led us to a fourteen-figure national debt, the Internet seems to have given steroids to ignorance rather than fixed it, and any politician who says “We have got to cut spending and raise taxes to fix this” is not going to get re/elected because fiscal responsibility simply does not exist in either party. And while there has always been a ridiculous degree of chauvinism in the American DNA (I can’t say how it compares to most other nations because I don’t know and haven’t researched the matter) it is now out of control: the words treason and UnAmerican are now just openers to “debate” that is really just masturbatory namecalling, and while this has always existed the Internet and cable have taken it from the occasional argument at the dinner table or the hardware store to a 24/7 and 360 degree screaming match that is not only unavoidable but completely unproductive.
More than anything I think that our belief in our own automatic supremacy, which leads to a belief that the U.S.A. cannot fail and cannot do any wrong that it cannot fix, along with the belief that there are easy and painless answers to complex problems, really is destroying the nation, and while I doubt we’ll be Pakistan any time soon I think that a new reality where nobody remotely reasonable can deny America is no longer the greatest nation is absolutely possible.

But I am neither an economist nor a political scientist and know just enought about both to make my ignorance apparent, and I have never lived overseas, so I would like to hear what others think. Is the U.S.A. the greatest nation in the world, and why or why not?

If you are rich, possibly, if you are poor definitely not. No health care and no adequate welfare system for them.

It’s pretty big.
PS I just can’t watch movie/TV scenes that have ~100 cutaway shots per minute.

Why not formulate a list of criteria, put them in a priority order, and then compare the USA to, say, Belgium? Here’s a starter for you:

Personal safety
Personal freedom
Health care
Quality of housing
Financial security
Workplace rights
Quality of food and drink
Access to education
Quality of entertainment
Access to technology
Cultural life
Freedom from crime

Your question is not actually that difficult to answer.

There is no “greatest” country. There’s no metric to measure that utterly subjective description. So it’s a question that just begs other questions, like, greatest for what, compared to what, for whom?

However, I certainly would not be alive if it was not for this country. As a small child, my grandmother was sent here from Odessa to live with cousins, because her parents could only afford to send one person. They and everyone else related to them who remained were subsequently murdered in the pogroms.

On the other side of my family, my great-grandparents emigrated from German-speaking Switzerland because peasants had a miserable hopeless existence there. Here, they could aspire to own their own farms, an impossibility in their native land.

So, as the descendant of the impoverished and desperate of Europe, I am glad the US exists.

Actually I can’t think of a single criteria on there that somebody wouldn’t fight you tooth and nail on, and probably with some justification. Quality of entertainment and Cultural life are extremely subjective in and of themselves, for instance. Health care splits into major subcategories, such as quality of healthcare and access to healthcare, which would be two very different grades, and then do you choose to count access as it’s determined for the average American or access for the poorest (which in some ways is superior to access for people who aren’t indigent but are self employed).

I like it here. Nobody has ever given me any convincing reason why some other country would be better that does not involve introducing counterfactual hypotheticals e.g. “if you were poor and needed surgery.” Getting into the US legally isn’t easy. Luckily for those who aspire to live where they think the pastures are greener, getting out is.

What do you mean by “greatest”?

Is this like saying which is the greatest song ever written or the greatest movie ever made? Does the question have to have a definitive answer?

Suffice it say that if we’re not, we’re up there. Which other country is going to vie for the title?

Then the answer to your question is no, America is not the greatest country on earth. If it were, there wouldn’t be any doubt about it.

Your link to another nation is far more recent than most but nowhere near as recent as millions of others, but whether your distant ancestors came to St. Augustine in the 16th century or became a citizen this month every single American citizen is here because of immigration from another country.

However, this is not a debate over the U.S.A.'s historical significance but over its present international standing.

*Save for a tiny minority of 100% pure lineage natives, and even their distant ancestors came here from Asia.

You mean apart from Belgium?:confused:

Do I have to write another list? Okay:

New Zealand
United Kingdom

Is it time for a Monty Python joke? So, apart from the democratic accountability, healthcare, freedom, safety, crime levels, general affluence, food, religious tolerance… what other country is better than the good ole USA?

I’m still giving it to Belgium by a short head, for the beer, chips and chocolate.

By many standards, U.S.A. is still, by far, the “greatest” country. Highest technology; globally dominant in cultural and political leadership; best universities (or nearly so); a free, vibrant and entrepreneurial economy; strongest military; the best medical care (for those who can afford it); etc. When Asia or Europe has a financial crisis it is to U.S.A. that investors look as the haven of financial security.

Americans have so much to be proud of. I was criticized in another SDMB thread for saying so, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say “America saved the World in WWI and again in WWII.” John F. Kennedy was hugely inspirational to America and the World. It was the U.S. that landed men on the Moon, and brought them safely back to Earth. Like so many Americans, I was almost jingoistic in self-admiration for most of my life.

Yet when The Rise and Fall of American Dominance is written a century from now; I think 2012 will already be in Part 2: The Fall.

During the 1980’s I often chatted with foreigners and American intellectuals who criticized American arrogance and foreign policy. While I understood that American foreign policy was based on “might makes right” I felt that justice and superior values also made American Power rightful.

But during the last two decades or so, I think America and I have both changed, with America becoming less just and more arrogant, and me becoming less gullible. Bragging about “freedom,” America has in many ways the least freedom among the developed democracies. American wealth and power is based, in great part, on greed and hypocrisy. Using the single issue of CO2 emissions as an example, Americans complain that we shouldn’t reduce emissions unless China does, but it is China, not America, that has made environmentalism an important government objective, while America has more than three times the per capita CO2 emissions of China (and almost twice that of Germany or Japan).

To answer OP: Yes, America is still great and is certainly still “the greatest country” by many measures. But its trajectory greatly saddens me.

Oddly enough that has sorta been governor Jerry Brown’s platform in his current term in California. And yes many from both parties hate him for it ( “he’s not cutting enough/we don’t need more taxes” vs. “he’s cutting too much/we need even more taxes” :smiley: ) *.

  • He does appear to be getting at least some grudging respect, though.

As a brazilian i have to ask:
Why do americans worry about being the greatest?
Why do americans feel that they have to be better than the rest of the world?
I want my country to become a better one, but i don’t want it to be better than others.I want to live in a world where all countries enjoy the same level of development,freedom,etc.

I guess when you’ve been considered the leader of the free world for a long time, you don’t want to lose that position.

As for feeling we have to be better and are better, many people saw America as a chance to start over and that its position as a democracy was unique in the world. There’s also the notion that America was seen as a place given by (allowed by) God by many religious-minded folks and that we exist because of God’s charity (or something like that). That makes some of the more religious types a bit obsessive about keeping our place in the world because America is considered so special.

I understand that but , what i don’t understand is , do americans really want to live in a world where people in other countries don´t have the same quality of live that they have?the same freedoms?the same ability to decide their own future?
I feel that americans don’t understand that to america be the greatest,others have to be worse in comparision .I want the whole world to be the greatest, no just my country.

No more than an Olympic athlete who wants to win the gold medal necessarily wishes ill will or poor performance on his competition; in fact the better they are the better it makes him look if he wins the gold medal.

As far as I know, the vast majority of Americans don’t worry about it…nor, do they ever consider that we aren’t. What you have in threads like this is some Americans expending energy for their own reasons to ‘prove’ that the US ISN’T the greatest, plus some folks from other countries who want to prove that, no, the US isn’t so great and really their country is. The trouble comes in defining what ‘the greatest country on Earth’ actually means, since it’s going to vary wildly from person to person. I find these threads hilarious, generally.

I’ve been to Brazil many times. There are plenty of Brazilians who feel that Brazil is ‘the greatest country on Earth’, verdad’? :stuck_out_tongue: Why? Well, because they live there and they like it there. I like it there too, but it doesn’t meet MY definition of ‘the greatest country on Earth’. MMV, however.


But why do it have to be a competition?

So in other words you have absolutely nothing to add except a personal insult to me, a deliberate misrepresentation of the OP, a so-far completely erroneous prediction and stereotyping of who will participate, and a needily blatant self affirmation of your own keen insight with a sneering condescension chaser. Thank you for stopping by, this added much.