American exceptionalism, Part I: In a recent AEI speech, Charles Murray described what makes America unique and how it might slip away unless elites fall in love again with what makes us different. Using the World Values Survey, I wanted to see if we really do stick out in certain areas. I want to cover the cultural characteristics one at a time, and my first choice is freedom and control over one's life. People were asked how much freedom of choice and control they have over their lives. Answers ranged from "none at all" (1) to "a great deal" (10). Here are the means for the countries where the question was asked:
Mean freedom of choice score
New Zealand 7.9
South Africa 7.6
Great Britain 7.3
World mean 7.0
South Korea 6.7
Hong Kong 6.3
Burkina Faso 5.7
Murray was comparing the U.S. with Europe, and it is the case that only Sweden and New Zealand have higher numbers. But there are several European countries with estimates as high or close to the American mean. English-language countries in general feel self-efficacious.
Look how citizens of Latin American countries feel like they have a lot of autonomy. Fred Reed, who lives in Mexico, has written that the country is significantly freer than the regulation-riddled United States.
These numbers indicate that America scores well on a sense of freedom, but is not exceptional.