The skyscraper is a gleaming symbol of the American Century. But does it define America?

Denims and hot dogs, skyscrapers and supermarkets, mass production and rock music- what do they all have in common? One thing is they can be found all over the world. Another is that they were born in the US. But do they define America?

Tanks, trucks, hamburgers, guns immediately come to mind when you think of America. But do they define this country with no peer?

I believe the American values of individualism, optimism, patriotism, Christianity and love of the military define America by enabling the famous American dream.

I think the French philosopher of the 18th century, Alexis de Tocqueville, had America pegged. Democracy in America should be compulsory reading for Americans. In it, he praised America’s lack of a centralized government and he revealed that he believed religion was invaluable to democracy. More than that, he believed that unfettered capitalism rewarded the deserving better than any communistic country could. He believed that political freedom and commerce unhinged was a match made from heaven. He opposed involvement of the government in charity and education.

All of these things define America.

More than this, he predicted the modern welfare state. If a democracy went bad, Tocqueville opined, it would most likely deprive its citizens of freedom not by bullying but by cozening. A softly tyrannical government ”willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?”

Now, how’s that for telling the future?