Every year leading up to July 4th, the American Independence Day, I get pensive and meditative.

As a naturalized American citizen, who has sworn the oath to protect the US constitution three times so far -- once during my naturalization ceremony, once to work at the Commerce Department, once to work at the White House – I take the concept of “America” seriously.

While meditating on this year’s Independence Day, America's 246th, I keep on coming back to this line uttered by the famed investor Stan Druckenmiller at the 2022 Sohn Conference:

"There's a story about American Exceptionalism. I'm not sure we are so exceptional anymore, and if we are, I'm not sure I'm excited about what we are exceptional in."

Exceptionalism Cuts Both Ways

The word “exceptional” often has a positive connotation. It is generally good to be considered “exceptional” at something. If we peel this word back a layer, “exceptional” is the adjective form of the word “exception”, which means “a person or thing that is excluded from a general statement or does not follow a rule” – a word that has a rather neutral connotation.

In essence, the root of being “exceptional” just means you are the exception to rule or norm, which can be good or bad – a pendulum wing that can cut both ways.

The “exceptionalism” that Druckenmiller was not excited about is the US currency, still the world’s reserve currency and arguably the most “exceptional” and powerful weapon the US has at its disposal. Having this exceptional power has been a source of financial stability and was generally good for the world, in the aftermath of the chaos and destruction of WWII. But this power has been used and abused by the Federal Reserve, followed by other central banks, so much so that investors like Druckenmiller are openly contemplating shorting the US dollar.

It seems clear that the pendulum on one of the most exceptional parts of American Exceptionalism is swinging the other way. Unfortunately, it is not the only one.

When I wrote a similar post before last year’s July 4th, titled “So What Is The American Dream?”, I called out the “rule of law” as one of the two fundamental elements that makes America truly exceptional (in a good way).

However, with the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, the pendulum on the “rule of law exceptionalism” is swinging the other way as well. Overturning Roe is the culmination of a multi decade long political activism by certain sects of the conservative movement. The success of this activism has reduced the Supreme Court to simply a political tool, not the incorrigible institution of judicial review and independence that are still taught in US history textbooks.

If the highest court of the land is nothing more than a means to achieve a political end, then there is nothing “exceptional” about the US legal system anymore. Plenty of less exceptional countries have show trials and puppet judges (or puppies).

Courtesy of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show

Both the printing of trillions of dollars out of thin air and the legal contortion to invalidate abortion rights out of thin air are rather “exceptional” behaviors. Exceptionalism cuts both ways.

Exceptionalism Attracts Exceptionalism

So is American Exceptionalism, the good version, dead?

No, but it is in danger of losing its appeal, because it is, after all, as Druckenmiller correctly labeled, a “story”. The “exceptionalism” story is often a self-fulfilling one, because the belief in exceptionalism attracts other forms of exceptionalism – exceptional talent, unrivaled resources, and respect and benefit of doubt from other countries. When the promise of exceptionalism is believable enough to successfully attract other forms of exceptionalism, those promises become that much closer to becoming true.

So what can save the American Exceptionalism story, as other competing versions from China, India, and elsewhere gain steam and traction?


America’s open immigration policy, despite its many (many) implementation flaws, is the one element that no competing country is even trying to emulate; it is truly exceptional! If America can just get its immigration policies right – not just why certain people should be let in, but how they should be treated when they are in – then America will remain exceptional, in a good way.

As Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs (himself an offspring of a Syrian immigrant named Abdulfattah Jandali) was fond of saying, “A players attract A players. B players attract C players”.

So as America celebrates its 246th birthday, whether it is or is not “exceptional” is perhaps not the right question to ask. Every country thinks of itself as “exceptional” to some extent – a prerequisite to nationalism.

What America must wrestle with is whether its story of exceptionalism is open enough, tolerant enough, and believable enough to keep attracting other forms of exceptionalism to swear its oath of allegiance.

New US citizens swearing the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Ohio

"美国优越主义" 的优越之处



在沉思今年的独立日,即美国的第246个独立日时,我不断回想起著名投资人Stan Druckenmiller在2022年索恩(Sohn)会议上说的这句话:



对 "优越" 也就是英文里的“exceptional” 的通常理解便正面。一般来说,被认为在某些方面 "优越" 是个好事。如果我们把这个词剥开一层,那"优越" 其实是 "例外" (“exception”)一词的形容词,含义是 "被排除在一般声明之外或不遵循规则的人或事" – 这个词的内涵更中性些。

从本质上讲,"优越" 的根源只是意味着你是某条规则或规范的例外,这也许是好事,也许是坏事,总之是一个可以双向切割的钟摆翼。

Druckenmiller 对美国“优越”不兴奋的点是美国的货币,它仍然是世界上的储备货币,可以说是美国拥有的最 "优越" 也最强大的武器。在二战战乱之后,拥有这种特殊的力量来维持一定的国际金融稳定,当时总体上对全世界是有利的。但是,这种权力已经被美联储使用和滥用,其次是其他中央银行,以至于像Druckenmiller这样的投资人正在公开考虑做空美元。


当我在去年美国独立日之前写的一篇类似的文章中,题为《美国梦到底是什么?》时,我指出 "法治" 是使美国真正“优越”的两个基本要素之一(一种好的“优越”)。

然而,随着 Roe vs Wade 法案被推翻,"法治优越论" 的钟摆也在向另一个方向摇摆。推翻 Roe 是保守派运动中某些派别长达几十年的政治活动所取得的最高成就。这种政治活动的成功也把最高法院贬低并沦为成一个简单的政治工具,而不是美国历史教科书中仍在形容的那志高崇尚,不可玷污,有完全司法审查力和独立洞察的法院了。

如果美国的最高法院已只不过是实现政治目的的一种手段,那么美国的法律制度也就不再那么 "特殊" 和 “优越” 了。很多不那么特殊的国家都有表演性的审判和傀儡法官(或小狗)。

Courtesy of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show

凭空印制数万亿美元和凭空扭曲法律使堕胎权失效都是相当 "优越" 的行为。优越主义是双向的。



那倒没有,但它濒临在失去吸引力的危险中,因为它毕竟,正如Druckenmiller正确标注的,只是一个 "故事"。任何 “优越主义"的故事往往是一个自我实现的故事,因为对某种 “优越主义”的信念而吸引其他形式的“优越”,比如优越的人才、无可匹敌的资源和来自其他国家的信任和尊敬。当一款优越主义的承诺足够可信时,它成功吸引了其他形式的优越,从而能使这些承诺更接近于成为现实。

那么,随着来自中国、印度和其他国家各自的 “优越主义” 获得更多的吸引力时,什么可以拯救美国优越主义的故事呢?


美国开放的移民政策,尽管有许多(许多)落实方面上的缺陷,但却是没有任何竞争对手国家试图模仿的一个要素;它是真正的“优越”和例外!如果美国能把它的移民政策搞好,它就会成为一个真正的,长久的“优越”点。一套好的移民政策,不仅仅是关于为什么要让某些人移民,而是在他们移民进来后应该如何对待他们。这才能让美国继续保持好的 “优越主义”。

正如苹果已故的联合创始人史蒂夫-乔布斯(他本人也是一位名叫Abdulfattah Jandali的叙利亚移民的后代)生前常常喜欢说的一句话,"A级别的人吸引其他A级别的人。B级别的人则吸引C级别的人。"

因此,在美国庆祝其246岁生日此时,它是否还 "优越" 也许不是我们该问的问题。每个国家在某种程度上都认为自己是 "优越"的 – 这是民族主义的前提条件。

美国必须纠结的是,它的 “优越主义” 故事是否足够开放、足够宽容、足够可信,以不断吸引其他形式的 “优越” 来为它宣誓效忠。