Exceptionalism, Cont'd

In a post on President Obama and American exceptionalism, Victor Davis Hanson explains why he thinks our nation is different from all the others:

Perhaps it would be better, when speaking of an early rural society, to talk of an absence of peasantry: We had no concept of a large underclass of only quasi-free people attached to barons as serfs; instead, yeomen agrarians were the Jeffersonian ideal, a nation of independent farmers rather than peasants.

Odd that a historian should forget about American slavery!

In the same post, he writes:

A gun-owning society, unlike Europe — On the theory that an armed citizenry would fight any federal effort to overturn individual liberties: That tradition later made our citizenry more comfortable with firearms, with obvious advantages for our military.

As a military historian, Professor Hanson would benefit from familiarizing himself with Switzerland. Its citizenry is armed, with obvious advantages of its military:

The country has a population of six million, but there are estimated to be at least two million publicly-owned firearms, including about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols.

This is in a very large part due to Switzerland’s unique system of national defence, developed over the centuries.

Instead of a standing, full-time army, the country requires every man to undergo some form of military training for a few days or weeks a year throughout most of their lives.

John McPhee’s book on this subject is exceptional.


3 Responses to “Exceptionalism, Cont'd”

  1. davidlosangeles Says:

    Mr. Friedersdorf,

    In regards to the benefits of an “armed citizenry” as a bulwark against tyranny, I would point out that under Saddam Hussein, nearly every Iraqi family had a fire. Those who could afford it, had AK-47s, some had several. The wide spread possession of assault weapons among the citizens of Iraq did not the prevent Iraqi tyranny.

  2. ccmann Says:

    Odder still that a historian doesn’t know that somewhere between a third and a half of all the English migrants to North America in the 17th century were indentured servants. In Virginia, which would soon be home to Thomas Jefferson, the figure may have been as high as three-quarters.

    The classic source for this is David Galenson’s “White Servitude in Colonial America” (1984). Galenson was until this year a University of Chicago economist, so presumably Hanson would accept his credentials.

  3. keithobh Says:

    He doesn’t only forget about American slavery. He’s from a San Joaquin Valley farming background. Putting aside current arrangements there, during his childhood, that region depended on a large, disenfranchised, racially subordinated Latino stoop-labor caste. (The same was true in South Texas.) The people who worked in his family’s fields, & their descendants, will have no idea what this Jeffersonian ideal is that he speaks of. It bears no relation to what they, & he, experienced in their own lives. To say he’s “forgotten” is too generous.

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