The Evil of American Exceptionalism

“According to Anne Applebaum, those who deny American “exceptionalism,” that is to say, global crusading for ‘democracy,’ are dangerous extremists.

Anne Applebaum is a renowned historian of the Soviet Union, but her recent book The Twilight of Democracy illustrates a common confusion. She says that she and her husband, the Polish diplomat Radek Sikorski, continue to support “the pro-European, pro-rule-of-law, pro-market center right,” though former friends of hers who held the same views have veered toward nationalist extremism. In doing so, she thinks the intellectuals among them have betrayed their calling as servants of truth.

In speaking of the rule of law, Applebaum has confused two very different things. As Mises points out, a free market requires a secure structure of property rights. Given this structure, people can engage in mutually beneficial trade. As he says in Human Action, ‘private ownership of the means of production is the fundamental institution of the market economy. It is the institution the presence of which characterizes the market economy as such. Where it is absent, there is no question of a market economy. Ownership means full control of the services that can be derived from a good.’”