National Self-Esteem in Decline

The American belief that the United States is better than other countries has declined and is now on a par with countries in Western Europe. Less than 50 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, ‘Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others,’ a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project found.

The survey found that 49 percent of Americans agreed with the statement and 46 percent disagreed, figures close to those found in Germany where 47 percent agreed with the statement and Spain where 44 percent agreed. In Britain, the number was 32 percent and France was at 27 percent.

The interesting follow-up question would be: Do you believe there’s such a thing as a superior culture? If so, why or why not?

Or, even more basic: Is some behavior right, while other behavior is wrong? Is some behavior superior to other behavior?

Answering for myself, I’d assuredly say YES. American culture has, historically, been superior to any other culture. This is not because of anything racial or biological, of course. It has been because America has been the place with the most freedom, including economic freedom, and the most rationality and self-responsibility. It’s not that rationality and self-responsibility exist nowhere else, but it was in America that they were allowed to flourish.

Rationality and self-responsibility are related to freedom. Neither can survive for long, without the other. As one dwindles, the other flounders. Freedom cannot create rationality, but it can allow it, reward it and encourage it. The freer the society, the more likely you are to find at least some people — usually key people, in science or industry — exercising their rational faculties in what turns out to be for the benefit of all.

As rationality goes down in respect, you’ll tend to see less freedom. You’ll also tend to see the kind of thing revealed in this poll. Nearly all of our intellectual leaders, and literally all of our public schools, now teach that there’s no such thing as good or bad, right or wrong. Everything I just wrote would get an “F” for political incorrectness, something far more likely to be condemned than … oh, I don’t know, ignorance or stupidity.

As more and more people become brainwashed that there’s no such thing as “superior,” it stands to reason that the society these people inhabit will become less valued. In other words, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our leaders and teachers have been telling us that one way of living is no better than another. As a result, our regard for the system and culture we have goes down.

The United States, in terms of cultural and educational literacy, has become the equivalent of a public park. Have you noticed how public parks are not nearly as clean or well-kept up as private property? I know golfers who prefer private courses over public ones. And we all prefer the freedom, technology and efficiency of the private sector Internet over the publicly funded post office. Yet education has remained almost exclusively in the monopoly of government hands. Children, including the grown adults who were once children, are educated in the intellectual equivalent of public parks. The result? Well, some are smarter than others, no different than the outcome of a private sector in education would be. But most of them hold the ideas of private property, individual rights, freedom, capitalism and — above all — rationality in low or minimal regard.

It’s ironic. Public schools have promoted what they call “self-esteem” above all things, including above education itself. Yet they have graduated a population that increasingly holds the very requirements of self-esteem — self-responsibility, self-respect — in lower regard than before.

The reason for this is that public schools and the intellectual elites of our society have promoted the wrong things. When you promote the idea that nothing is better or worse than another, you’re punishing that which is better. If we’re all the same, then it’s no longer possible to recognize or appreciate what’s good.

In the process, we lose it.