Even before our inception, Americans were innovative. As a student of military history, I will use military examples although many more exist in the civilian sector. During the French and Indian war, after the English army under General Braddock was defeated, Americans under George Washington covered the retreat of what remained of his army.
Our entire culture has been based upon freedom of capital and ideas. We did not want government of any type holding us back. We based our government and economy upon idea that people will allocate the resources better, more effectively and better direct those resources to meet the peoples needs.
The 19th century proved how correct these ideas were. Americans developed many innovations and ideas that had worldwide impact and moved us from a backward country to a world power. Not counting civilian achievements, we fought the first war with ironclad warships, introduced the rotating turret, and fought the first of the modern wars. This included the use of railroads to move troops and supplies, use of the telegraph for long distance communication and we invented the Gatling gun, the world’s first machine gun.
After the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American war, the United States was seen as a world power, although not the biggest kid on the block. The list goes on and on. I will use only two examples from World War II.
The Thatch weave was developed by two American individuals to effectively counter the superiority of the Japanese Zero over the American Wildcat fighter. Innovation was cultural all the way to the level of the individual. On the national level, the P-51 is probably the best example of two countries cooperation. The American built airplane combined with the British Roll-Royce Merlin engine made a war winner. This is only a very small number of examples and excludes entirely the civilian sector, which is where the United States made it’s most important advances and impact.
Our entire culture has been based upon the idea that people will take care of property that they own far better than if someone else owns it. So we built a country and culture that allowed the maximum use of this idea.
This has been changing over the past 70 years. It became most noticeable to me during the Carter administration in the late 1970’s. I remember many times how President Jimmy Carter (during the last year or two of his presidency) kept speaking about the ‘Erosion of the American Spirit". He did not see how his economic policies were contributing to this ‘malaise’. In fact, a "Malaise index" was created to measure how our innovation and drive were fading. The erosion of the American spirit was and is due to the economic changes that have been and are being implemented throughout our country by our government.
President Obama is moving far more rapidly in this direction. The takeover of the Health Care system in this country is an excellent example of how he and others who believe as he does that the government can run industries more ‘fairly’. This will contain costs, because government can run it more effectively. Yet this very same health care system was one of the few remaining areas where the United States was still leading the world in innovation and technological advances.
I expect a return to the "Malaise Index" and the stagflation of the late 1970’s. However, our overall economic strength is not as great as it was in 1978, so the result can easily be much, much worse. I am fearful of what will happen. Many wars have begun as a result of economic hardship and turmoil. We Americans are only human. To expect that we are different in this regard is to invite disaster.