Bronze-level article

United States

From RationalWiki
(Redirected from USA)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Location in North America.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal'. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, 'My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring', and if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
Martin Luther King, Jr.[1]

The United States of America is also known as 'Murica! or Merica! by jingoists, the U.S., the U.S.A., the Union, Unitum Civitas, or simply "America"[note 1], at times derogatorily refered to as Amerikkka to highlight social injustice within the nation. According to Christian fundamentalists America is a Christian nation, and "a republic, not a democracy".[2] According to rational people, however, America is a secular federalist democratic republic,[3] consisting of federal states, located between friendly neighbors Canada and Mexico (both of whom had to be beaten into submission first: War of 1812 and Mexican-American War). As of 2024, there are officially 50 states in the Union, the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) and unincorporated territories (which are as of yet neither set free nor taken into the Union because of domestic political disputes, mostly because of Republicans).[note 2]

As the first country to ever successfully win independence against a European colonial power,[note 3] the United States is currently the world's only superpower, though China is catching up economically. As of 2020, the US ranked 17th on the human-development index.[4] When adjusted for (wealth) inequality, however, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave plummets to 27th place.[5]

Alongside the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, the U.S. is an official nuclear power.[note 4][note 5] Unlike any of them, however, it so far remains the only one to have used nuclear weapons in war, to compel the Empire of Japan to surrender at the end of World War II in 1945.[6] In accordance with the Quebec AgreementWikipedia of 1943, however, the U.S. consulted the United Kingdom before using those wonder weapons.

Believe it or not, America is actually a country in its own right and not a confederation of 50 smaller countries, though it feels like that from time to time.

The incumbent (and 46th) President of the United States is Joe Biden.


The District of Columbia (DC) and the states of the Unites States.
MA Flag of Massachusetts.svg
NH Flag of New Hampshire.svg
RI Flag of Rhode Island.svg
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of
Bering Sea

Residents of the six non-states have no direct representation in the Federal government, though they each have a non-voting member in the House of Representatives.[7] There is birthright citizenship for five of the non-states. People born in American Samoa are U.S. 'nationals', and are not US citizens.[8] Additionally, there are the United States Minor Outlying Islands, which don't have a permanent population but are controlled by the U.S. government.[note 6]

Like many countries, the United States of America is made up of smaller states. Unlike many different countries, the states tend to have much more power than usual. However, each state must be based on republican principles according to the U.S. Constitution.


Conquest and colonization[edit]

Following Columbus's successful voyage to what was thought to be India (or thereabouts), across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Europeans began migrating to North America. The continent was named for the mapmakerWikipedia who pointed out that he was not quite right, though similar care was not taken when naming the indigenous inhabitants.

The first permanent English settlement was founded at Jamestown on the coast of present-day Virginia, in 1607. In a stroke of irony, the Puritans who fled Europe in the name of freedom of religion ended up persecuting other people for their religious beliefs. The Jamestown colony also became the first enslavers of Africans in British North America in 1619.[12]

The French and Spanish also founded many colonies in what was to become the United States (and Mexico) in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of which were later sold (by France) or lost in wars (by Spain and its successors) to the U.S. (American) English became the de facto official language of the United States, despite its multilingual origins.

Founding and expansion[edit]

See the main article on this topic: American Indian Wars
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
The Star-Spangled Banner, second verse (with no irony intended)[13]

A century and a half later the richest East Coast colonists disliked having to pay stamp taxes, while drinking inexpensive East India Company tea. So they started a revolution, and refused to pay for it. With valuable assistance from France, Spain and the Netherlands, the revolutionaries won a war against one of the greatest empires the world had ever seen then disbanded their army, giving them no pensions or social assistance. Imposing taxes three to four times higher than they had been before the war, and issuing more currency to pay off the loans that they had given to the states' governments, they effectively forced many veterans to sell their land and slave bounties to survive.

After taking the Indian lands immediately to their west — into which London had forbidden them to expand during the colonial period — and a failed attempt to establish a confederation, the Americans succeeded in 1789 on their second attempt. A few years later the U.S. bought "Louisiana" — at that time stretching from the current state of that name to Minnesota and Montana — from Napoleon, who needed money to fight Britain, thereby doubling the size of new republic. After beating Mexico in the Mexican-American War over the U.S. annexation of the Republic of Texas, a breakaway territory still claimed by Mexico, the U.S. extended its territory through what had been New Spain to the Pacific. Thus, with acquisitions and purchases, the Americans fulfilled their "manifest destiny" of Westward expansion.

Around 1800, as the lands further to the west were opened up to the fledgling United States, the young state saw the land as a way to appease its population and strengthen its power in the world.[14]

Mohawk leader Thayendanegea had formed an alliance of the indigenous nations in the Ohio River valley in the 1780s and received weapons from the British. Secretary of War Henry Knox organized an army of settlers from Kentucky to invade the territory of the Miami and Shawnee nations. Little Turtle and Blue Jacket ambushed the settler army, who destroyed 300 buildings and looted the two largest Miami towns. Anthony Wayne, who led the settlers from 1792 to 1794, destroyed food supplies and murdered native civilians. After Blue Jacket refused an ultimatum at Fort Defiance, settler forces began an extermination campaign against civilians. They defeated the Shawnee at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. The USA annexed southern Ohio in 1795 with the Treaty of Greenville.[15]

In 1807, the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa began a movement for indigenous peoples to return to their pre-colonial culture. Tecumseh united the nations of the northwest and presented a program to prevent settlers from buying native land. The governor of Indiana, William Henry Harrison, bribed some Delaware, Miami, and Potawatomi to give up their land in 1809. In 1810, he moved south to bring the Muscogees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws into the alliance. In November 1811, Statesian troops attacked Tenskwatawa at Prophetstown and killed 200 natives. After the attack, Kickapoos, Winnebagos, Potawatomis, and Creeks obtained British weapons from Canada to fight the settlers.[16]

The United States declared war on Britain in 1812 because of its connections to Tecumseh's anticolonial movement. Indigenous forces liberated Michigan and forced thousands of settlers out of Illinois and Indiana. The USA killed Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames in 1813, destroying the resistance.[17]

In the decades after the US Revolution, the United States began a genocidal policy of "Indian Removal" to clear the land between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians for settlers. In 1790, most of the settler population lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. From 1800 to 1830, the number of white settlers west of the Appalachians grew from 700,000 to 4.5 million. Between 1820 and 1844, the number of Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River dropped from 120,000 to under 30,000. President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, doubling the size of the United States and extending the frontier to the Rocky Mountains.[18]

Through a series of treaties from 1814 to 1824, settlers took control of most of Alabama and Florida as well as parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Future president Andrew Jackson relied on bribery and threats to make native leaders sign these treaties. In 1818, he began raids into Spanish Florida and destroyed Seminole villages until Spain surrendered the territory to the United States in 1819.[19]

Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren forced 70,000 Native Americans to move west across the Mississippi River. Secretary of War Lewis Cass promised in 1825 that the United States would never try to take indigenous land west of the Mississippi.[20]

In 1838, as part of the Trail of Tears, the United States forced the Cherokee Nation to march to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Half of the 16,000 Cherokees died during the march. The Muscogees and Seminoles suffered similar death rates and about 15% of the Choctaws and Chickasaws died on the way to Oklahoma.[21]

After the Mexican government banned slavery in 1829, US-backed settlers in Texas rebelled to form the Republic of Texas in 1836, which the United States annexed in 1845. The United States invaded Mexico in 1846, beginning in Veracruz. They occupied Mexico City in 1848 and did not leave until Mexico surrendered its northern territories to the USA. After the annexation, U.S. cavalry troops attacked the Apaches led by Mangas Coloradas, destroying crops and villages and murdering civilians.[22]

Alaska was purchased at a rather low price from Russia when no one knew it was rich in oil and gold. Hawaii was annexed after a group of American planters led by Sanford Dole (yes, that DoleWikipedia) overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in a coup.

Civil War[edit]

See the main article on this topic: American Civil War

While some U.S. states wanted to maintain the institution of slavery, others opposed it. For both moral and economic reasons, the tension between these two factions continued to grow worse. When a large portion of the Southern states attempted to secede from the Union, they discovered that while they might have had a better army, the North had all the factories and railroads and most of the population. President Abraham Lincoln managed to preserve the Union, albeit with heavy loss of life on both sides. It is worth noting that there was an international element to the American Civil War. Both Great Britain and Canada (as British North America) sympathized with the Confederacy,[23] as did France, which was invading Mexico at the time. Meanwhile, Russia was a supporter of the Union, and they even sent ships to American waters in case the British or French got involved.[24]

But the fight against systemic racism was not yet over. In the aftermath of the Civil War, laws were introduced in order to prevent Blacks from voting and many Southern states were racially segregated. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost a century after the end of the bloodiest conflict in American history, while black people theoretically enjoy all the same liberties as whites, they continue to form a socioeconomic underclass in many areas. State-mandated efforts to ameliorate this, affirmative action, are despised by some conservatives and libertarians, who call such measures "reverse discrimination."


Historian Heather Cox Richardson has argued that The American paradox has existed since its founding as a conflict between the Declaration of Independence, which focused on human equality and civil rights but carries no legal weight, whereas the Constitution which focuses on property rights (including slavery) but has overriding legal status. In a sense though the paradox existed before the founding, since the revolution only exchanged one group of oligarchs in Britain with another one in the United States. The paradox has been the overriding story of the United States, pitting oligarchs versus democracy supporters. Oligarchy was written into the original form of the Constitution in the form of giving voting rights only to white male property owners and in the form of unequal representation of the US Senate. The paradox in the form of battling forces at various points in history:

  • with the Civil War when wealthy Southern property owners demanded the continued right to own slaves
  • when emancipated enslaved men were given the vote during Reconstruction
  • when the Republican-controlled Union government thought they could outmaneuver the South by giving statehood to Western states, they misperceived the political realities that the Western territories were already controlled by wealthy landowners who showed more affinity to wealthy Southern landowners
    • The mythology of the yeoman farmer in the antebellum South was replaced by the mythology of the rugged individualism of Western cowboys, neither of which had significant political capital
  • when Southern whites clawed back control of government with the KKK and Jim Crow laws
  • when women demanded and received the vote in the early 20th century
  • with the end of official segregation and the passing of the Civil Rights Act that returned voting rights to African Americans

Still, oligarchic forces have much power in the US with extreme GOP gerrymandering giving unequal representation, the continued unequal representation of the Senate, and high levels of income inequality.[25][26]


Panoramic view of the Chicago skyline at dawn.

Social trends and issues[edit]

About two score years after abolishing slavery, women were granted suffrage. Also around this time, alcoholic beverages were banned, and then re-legalized.

A historic 1973 decision by the United States Supreme Court known as Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), abortions in the United States plummeted 26% from 2006 to 2015. Teens aged 15 to 19 had the single biggest drop of any age group, 54%. While the CDC did not suggest any reasons, abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion groups argue whether this trend is due to greater access to contraception and new laws restricting access to this medical procedure.[27] Another reason for this is that young Americans are not having sexual intercourse as frequently as their predecessors, despite more liberal attitudes towards sex, the ability to obtain the birth control pill for free (in most cases) and to purchase the "morning-after" pill without a prescription.[28][note 7]

In a 2016 poll 25% of Americans identified as having no religion. 58% of those, (14%-15% of Americans) actively reject religion. Young Americans under thirty are much more inclined to be non-religious than older Americans. The proportion of Americans who are not religious is increasing steadily and likely to increase further in future,[29] as is expected of a developed country. Indeed, statistical projection suggests that by 2030, as many as one in three Americans will become religiously unaffiliated.[30]

There is a widespread myth on the Internet that only 10% of Americans have passports. This has been false for years now. Before 2007, when new rules kicked in, thanks to the 9/11 terrorist attack, Americans did not need a passport to travel various countries in the region, such as Canada and Mexico. A U.S. citizen without a passport can therefore travel further than, say, a British subject without one. Since then, an increasing number have acquired passports as they get bitten by the travel bug.[31] Another reason why the percentage of U.S. citizens holding a passport seem abnormally low is the truly staggering size of the United States and its diverse geography. U.S. citizens (plus permanent residents and legal alien residents) get to enjoy all this without the hassle of international travel.

The 2017 report to the U.N. on poverty within the USA notes that it ranks unusually high for a developed country in infant mortality, healthcare costs, obesity, lack of access to water and electricity, poverty, incarceration, and inequality of income as measured by income tax alone (the Gini coefficient).[32] However, it has not yet taken first place in self-reported income inequality, only taking third place (35th of 37) within the OECD. It is interesting to note that author of this report visited a variety of places in the U.S. at the invitation of the federal government "to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens".[note 8] American domestic policy clearly has plenty of room for improvement.[32]


Much U.S. infrastructure in use today was built all the way back in the 1950s according to what were high standards for the time. In 2018, a report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the U.S. a grade of D+ on the overall quality of its infrastructure. The nation's international ranking per an analysis by the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently jumped from 25th to 12th place out of 138 countries. Although U.S. infrastructure is generally quite resilient, it has become out-of-date, with many assets in service beyond their average lifespan. Infrastructure spending in both public and private sectors needs to increase by two billion USD within the next ten years in order to improve the overall health of the economy make it stop sucking.[33][note 9]

Public transportation[edit]

Amtrak's Acela Express.

The fastest train in the United States today (2018) is Amtrak's Acela Express, serving the Northeast Corridor[note 10] with a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h). Since passenger trains today are electrically powered, their increased use can be utilized to reduce carbon emissions, as long as most if not all of the power they consume originates from renewable sources. This has been done before; since January 2017, all trains in the Netherlands have been powered by wind turbines, making that country a world leader in environmentally friendly mass transit.[34] As of 2018, new high-speed railways are either already in service (Florida Bright LineWikipedia, under construction (California High-speed RailWikipedia, Texas Central RailwayWikipedia), or have been proposed (Chicago Hub NetworkWikipedia and XpressWestWikipedia).

While mass transit in the United States was world-class a century ago,[35] it is today severely underfunded with a repair backlog of 90 billion dollars and receives from the American Society of Civil Engineers a grade of D-. A 2013 analysis by the Department of Transportation reveals that some 13% of U.S. public transportation assets are past their useful life. Having poor mass transit can not only delay much needed service expansions but will also inflict serious economic damage due to lost productivity, an estimated 340 billion dollars by 2026. Addressing this problem requires substantial and persistent government investment.[36] The key idea to remember here is that service drives demand. When automobiles became widespread and affordable in the postwar era, more and more Americans chose to drive and live in the sprawling suburbs. In response, transit authorities cut service spending in a vain effort to stay financially healthy. But this led to a vicious cycle of deteriorating services causing falling ridership till eventually, everyone who could drive a car got their own. Suburbs became car-oriented as a result. In order to reverse this trend, improved services have to be provided up front. This increases ridership, which, in turns, justifies expansions and improvements, a virtuous cycle. Good service can make public transportation successful even in low-density suburbs. At present, one can already see urban revival in several major American cities thanks to mass transit booms.[35]

Energy policy[edit]

Status of U.S. nuclear power plants, September, 2013. What about Alaska and Hawaii

Like all other countries, the U.S. stands to benefit significantly by liberating herself from fossil fuels not only because they are not renewable but because they are the driving engine behind anthropogenic global warming. The road to freedom from fossil fuels involves aggressive investments in not just in green energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, but also in nuclear energy. However, many government officials and members of the general public believe that nuclear energy should play no role in a future energy policy of the United States, citing concerns about the operational costs and possible hazards of nuclear power plants and the radioactive wastes they create. Investments in civilian nuclear power virtually stopped after the Three Mile Island Incident in 1979. Fears of the consequences of a nuclear meltdown were proven wrong. No deaths or illnesses have ever been linked to the incident. In fact, the staff did a fine job of preventing the worst from happening. A nuclear meltdown does not mean a nuclear explosion (of the plant), unlike some people like to think. Rather, it simply means the fuel rods are sufficiently hot to melt their way through the container, exposing themselves. (Chernobyl employed Soviet rather than American technology.) After recovering somewhat, public opinion on nuclear power took another nose dive after the Fukushima Incident in 2011. Although American technology was in use this time, once again, no deaths or illnesses due to radiation exposure have ever been directly linked to the incident.[37]

Now, of course, new reactors are more efficient and safer than their predecessors. What these people do not know is that nuclear recycling and reducing nuclear wastes are real possibilities, actively pursued by multiple countries, including the United States, at the moment. Indeed, the U.S. could power itself for the next thousands of years using just the uranium it has already mined.[38][39] Meanwhile, researchers and engineers continue to work on ever safer and more efficient designs for nuclear power plants, sometimes even testing completely new concepts. These could potentially replace the 100 nuclear power plants currently operational in the U.S., but which are scheduled for retirement in the 2030s. Completely replacing them with renewable energy instead may not be a workable strategy.[40] Unlike nuclear energy, which is stable and efficient, the most popular forms of renewable energy, wind and solar, are inherently intermittent. The missing ingredient is thus a high-capacity and durable means of storing the electrical energy generated but not used. Unfortunately, the commonly used lithium-ion battery degrades far too quickly to be economically used for such large scales. Something better is in order.[41] Until the suitable battery technologies become commercially available and possibly even after that, nuclear energy continues to have an important role to play in the shift away from fossil fuels, especially at a time when demand for energy is on the rise. In fact, due to growing awareness of the need to reduce greenhouse emissions and the promise of nuclear power, many young engineers and entrepreneurs nationwide are working on the next generation of nuclear reactors, collectively known as Generation IV reactors. Some of these might be able to run on depleted uranium, (low-level radioactive) leftovers from the uranium enrichment process.[note 11] At present, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, home to the biggest deposit of depleted uranium in the entire United States, has enough of this material to power the entire country for 750 years.[40] Nuclear power is thus practically renewable. After decades of a "nuclear winter" for the industry, a nuclear renaissance is just around the corner.[40] It is unwise to throw away this opportunity because of anti-nuclear hysteria or because of falling oil prices.

U.S. oil production and exports have been increasing while domestic energy demands have fallen somewhat. If current trends continues, the U.S. will join the ranks of Russia and Saudi Arabia as one of the world's largest oil exporters.[42] Its oil is already on the process of replacing Russia's in Europe.[43] While falling domestic energy demands in the midst of economic growth indicates greater efficiency, which is always a good thing, it does not significantly improve the American environmental protection record, and the U.S. is currently the worse polluter in the world, second only to China. It may be desirable to impose a tax on fossil fuels in order to subsidize renewable and nuclear power. Analysts at the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that in 2017, despite a massive boom in the oil and gas industry, the U.S. led the world in reducing carbon emissions, while most other countries saw an increase in emissions. This is due to a combination of considerable growth in the renewable energy sector and the replacement of coal with natural gas in power generation. The United States also a top investor in the research and development of renewable energy.[44]

As of 2018, geothermal power production is being stepped up, after being almost forgotten. This is welcome news given that there are large untapped geothermal hot spots throughout the American West. Unlike wind and solar, geothermal is a highly stable source of energy.[45] In the same year, Georgetown, Texas, becomes the largest American city to be completely powered by renewable energy. The previous record holder was Burlington, Vermont, which reached that benchmark in 2015.[46]

How it looks today[edit]

Religious fundamentalism, racism and conspiracy theories[edit]

I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time... when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

The United States as God’s chosen nation[edit]

A few Americans think they are God's own nation or God’s chosen nation, and those who hold to that most strongly are Bible Belt Protestant fundamentalists, grabbing at straws in some effort to feel special. It is very difficult to find any Biblical support for this view, being that the people who wrote the Bible, living in the Old World of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and classical antiquity, didn't know the North American continent even existed; the closest such fundamentalists have come so far is by combining the Puritan Pilgrims' mythology with British Israelism. Under President George W. Bush, all this fitted together nicely for them: a Christian fundamentalist like themselves was leading God’s chosen nation. A few religions and cults sects were founded in the US, including Eckankar, Mormonism, Satanism, and Scientology.

Those who are openly white-supremacist carried on much as usual, repeating Confederate or Nazi conspiracy theories for the millionth time as they stockpile more machine guns. But the well-documented latent racism of the more extreme elements in the Republican Party manifested itself in different ways; some became Birthers, for example. But it would be no surprise if they had even more trouble coming to grips with Obama than with Bill Clinton, who to their mind was equally left-wing.

Some religious fundamentalists feel the need to make documentaries on the origins of every single thing found throughout America, and its "Babylonian/Roman/Egyptian/Satanic origins", completely forgetting that meaning for symbols can change. For example they throw a fit about how the Statue of Liberty is a Roman goddess, and how cities which are laid out (6 by 6 blocks) are "sun blocks". (Some even say the pattern of city blocks adds up to 666, which it does, but it's inevitable when you're working on a 6x6 area on a city.) Some of these videos you can't even figure out what they are talking about.[47] There isn't a single thing on US soil that wasn't accused of being "idol worship" (not even George WashingtonWikipedia himself[48]) or "Satanic". Even the US flag is of "Babylonian origin".[49] America's even accused of being founded on Islam![50]

Of course even if all of it were true, and the genetic fallacy weren't a fallacy, then so what? The fact that Jesusland worships your bogeyman isn't proof that God exists. The "masonic origins" of a bunch of things in the US is to be expected as many of the founding fathers were Freemasons.[51]

American conspiracy theorists in a nutshell[edit]

Just think of them as the exhaust of a democracy or the side effects of the freedom of speech and expression.

A number of conspiracy theories in the United States did not originate from Americans. For example, rumors about the Kennedy assassination in the 1960s and the false statement that the Pentagon created HIV/AIDS in the 1980s were spread by the Soviet Union. Today, Russia continues to use various online assets to spread misinformation and division within American society.[52]

Political parties[edit]

See the main article on this topic: United States Politics

Armed forces[edit]

See the main article on this topic: United States Armed Forces

Currently the strongest in the world, the U.S. military consists of six branches, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, and Coast Guard. The best way to summarize the branches are as follows: The only "real" branches are the Army and Navy, while the Marine Corps is a warrior cult, the Air Force/Space Force is a corporation, and the Coast Guard is federal police and EMS at sea.[citation NOT needed]

Civil rights[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Civil rights
I believe that the United States as a government, if it is going to be true to its own founding documents, does have the job of working toward that time when there is no discrimination made on such inconsequential reason as race, color, or religion.
—President Dwight Eisenhower.[53]

Indigenous affairs[edit]

In 1997 the American Indian, Inuit and Aleut population was 2.3 million, or 0.9 percent of the total population.[54] However to be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must be a member of a Tribe recognized by the Federal Government, have one-half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States or must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry. In 1993 the Bureau of Indian Affairs estimated that 1.2 million of the Indian population lived on or adjacent to Federal Indian reservations and were eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services. By legislative and administrative decision, all indigenous people of Alaska are eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services and programs.[55]

The gap in life expectancy between Native Americans and whites narrowed from 11 years in men and 15 years in women in 1940 to four years and three years respectively in 1980.[56] In 1990, 9% of the Indian population were tertiary graduates compared to 20% of the total population.[57] Labor force participation rates are lower and median family incomes are on average US$14,000 per year below other American families. In 1989, 31% of Native Americans lived below the poverty line.[58] In the 1995 fiscal year US$6 billion (0.08% of GDP) was allocated to 140 programs administered by 40 federal agencies.[59]

The 1998 Fiscal Year budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was US$1.73 billion. Approximately 50 per cent of the operating budget is administered by tribes and is used for tribal courts, law enforcement, housing, social services and education. In 1924 the United States Congress extended American citizenship to all Indians born in the territorial limits of the United States. Indians are also members of their respective Tribes and these are legally regarded as 'sovereign domestic nations'. Indians thus have dual citizenship. Indians have the same right to vote as other United States citizens.[60]

Between 1778, when the first treaty was made with the Lenape, and 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the United States Senate ratified 370 Indian treaties. Since 1871 relations with Indian groups are by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements. There are 287 Indian reservations, the largest is the Navajo Reservation of 16m acres (65,000 km2) in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Many of the smaller reservations are less than 1000 acres (400 ha) with the smallest less than 100 acres (40 ha). On each reservation, the local governing authority is the tribal government, but its power in law enforcement, education, taxation and water rights varies from tribe to tribe. Approximately 22.6m ha of land are held in trust by the United States for various Indian Tribes and individuals. Both the Indian tribes in the lower 48 States and the regional corporations in Alaska hold the rights to subsurface minerals and have a veto over mining on their land.[61]

In 1993 the United States Congress, in a joint Senate and House resolution to mark the centenary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii resolved:

... it is proper and timely for the Congress on the occasion of the impending one hundredth anniversary of the event, to acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people, and to support the reconciliation efforts of the State of Hawaii and the United Church of Christ with Native Hawaiians. ... [Congress] apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination ... Nothing in this Joint Resolution is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States.[62]

Mathematics, science and technology[edit]

A freed slave, Benjamin Banneker became the first American mathematician of note.
Main mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope being assembled at the Goddard Spaceflight Center, Washington, D.C.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been the largest powerhouse of mathematics, science, and technology. Although the sudden influx of gray matter from Europe certainly helped propelled the nation to the forefront of intellectual pursuits, its potential was already manifest early on in its history, limited only by an obsession with practicality. As an example, Benjamin Banneker, an autodidact, mastered geometry not in order to conduct research but to work on survey, astronomy, and almanacs. It was not until the nineteenth century that basic research took off.[63] Today, the U.S. leads the world in the total number of Nobel laureates in all fields, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany. The only field where the U.S. does not lead in the number of Nobel laureate is literature; France has this distinction.[64]

The Department of Energy's Office of Science oversees national laboratories located across the contiguous United States: the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA, the Argonne National Laboratory, IL, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY, the Idaho National Laboratory, among others. These engage in both fundamental and applied research. The ones listed, with the exception of Brookhaven, all participated in the Manhattan Project, though Los Alamos, whose first scientific director was J. Robert Oppenheimer, is the most well known, not least because it saw the very first nuclear weapon test.

Argonne, named after the a forest in France where U.S. troops fought in World War I, was then known as the Metallurgical Laboratory, or Met Lab,[note 12] located on the campus on the University of Chicago. It was here that Enrico Fermi and his team assembled the first artificial nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, in 1942.[65] It then moved to the location just outside Chicago. The Fermi Accelerator National Laboratory (Fermilab), also located just outside the Second City, is named in his honor. As the most powerful particle accelerator in the U.S., it recently found some evidence for the hypothetical fourth flavor of neutrinos, the sterile neutrino, not part of the Standard Model.[66] Argonne designed the Chicago Pile 3, the world's first nuclear power generator, and the reactor that was fitted aboard the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine. These reactors were built in Idaho.[65] Livermore started out as the Radiation Laboratory of Ernst Lawrence, who built the cyclotron, the world's first particle accelerator. Brookhaven is currently home to the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS II).[note 13][note 14] As one of the most powerful X-ray sources in operation, it enables scientists to study in detail the structure of complex molecules, such as those associated with life. Brookhaven also houses the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the one of most powerful of its kind.[note 15] Currently the only operational collider in the country, RHIC recreates conditions that existed shortly after the Big Bang, when matter manifested as a "quark-gluon plasma", before protons and neutrons came to be.[67] Alas, RHIC, like its European counterpart at CERN, receives an abundance of criticism based more on pseudoscience, fear, uncertainty, and doubt rather than rational thought. As a major example, a 2005 paper claimed that certain phenomena observed at the RHIC resembled a black hole. This naturally fueled the ill-founded controversy on whether or not the accelerator was some sort of doomsday device. Even if a black hole was really created, the time scales and energies involved were simply too small for it to cause an apocalyptic catastrophe.[68][69]

The National Institutes of Health, headquartered in Bethesda, MD,[note 16] has 27 campuses and centers conducting biomedical and healthcare research. Next stop: Universal healthcare. Please fasten your seat belts.[70] According to a 2018 poll conducted by a nonpartisan think tank, 59% of Americans support Bernie Sanders' universal healthcare proposal (Medicare for all), and 75% favor a public option or expansion of Medicare.[71] Americans are not mistaken in their support for major healthcare reforms. A recent study reveals that the American healthcare system ranks among the lowest in the developed world, while the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands are the top contenders.[72]

Americans were also the first to detect gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein using his general theory of relativity in the early twentieth century. After numerous ingenious attempts since the 1960s, they finally succeeded in 2015 and publicly announced the breakthrough in 2016. This project, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Observatory (aLIGO), has two L-shaped arms, one in Livingston, Louisiana, and another at Hanford Site, Washington State. Three physicists who were instrumental to this project earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.[73]

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), which, at the instigation of President John F. Kennedy, landed the first people on the Moon in 1969. NASA owns multiple facilities and centers throughout the country, such as the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Despite popular misconception, there is much more to NASA than space exploration. For instance, it also monitors global levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas driving anthropogenic climate change. Since NASA's mandate, which has not changed since its creation, is to "reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind,"[74] helping the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do its job is totally appropriate.

Like the City of Paris, France, the town of Princeton, New Jersey,[note 17][75] has one of the largest population of mathematicians in the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. is home to the greatest number of Fields Medalists,[note 18] followed by France and the USSR/Russia.[76][77]

The U.S. is, without a doubt, one of the most technologically advanced countries and Silicon Valley is one of the world's leading innovation hubs. Such a remarkable status brings its own challenges, however, as Russia and China have both been engaging various means of espionage to steal American intellectual properties. Spies do not always attempt to gain access to national secrets anymore. Other countries, such as France and Israel, also deploy spies to Silicon Valley, but their efforts pale in comparison to what the Russians and Chinese have been doing.[78]

Despite all these impressive achievements, a poll of 2,455 U.S. adults taken from Nov 7 to 13, 2007, found that 62 percent believed in a literal Hell. Only 42 percent, of those surveyed said that they accepted Darwin's theory of evolution,[79] which is lower than expected in a developed country. It is clear that the Department of Education has some work to do. In addition, despite educating numerous potential immigrants in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), U.S. immigration laws do not make it easy for them to stay.[80] It is worth pointing out that this is the single most desirable immigrant pool of all. Being U.S.-educated, they are familiar with American culture and in many cases are willing and able to give back to the United States the greatest country on the face of the Earth.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. There is some controversy in whether the U.S. should be called America, since many Spanish-speaking countries and several parts of Europe are taught that "America" is one continent when it could also be divided into two, North and South America. For our purposes here, "America" means the United States of America.
  2. However, Puerto Rico recently voted to become a full member of the Union in a 2017 referendum, but as of 2023, no action has been taken to formally begin the admissions process of letting PR into the Union.
  3. It is also the first independent, foreign-recognized nation in the Americas and the first European colony to break from its mother country.
  4. Kazakhstan no longer counts.
  5. Everyone knows that Israel counts, but there's no official confirmation or denial by Israel.
  6. Interestingly, the only incorporated United States territory,[9] Palmyra Atoll,[10]Wikipedia is a Minor Outlying Island.[11]
  7. Nor this is a strictly American development. Similar trends can be found in countries that track the sexual behaviors of their citizens, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Japan.
  8. Historian Eric Hobsbawm once noted that Americans are forever self-reflecting. Given that, this invitation is hardly a surprise. It is also one of the traits that gives the Americans, for better or worse, a massive footprint in the international media. If there is a country that one almost always hears about in world news, it is the U.S. But given the nature of journalism — people mostly report on things that go wrong — the United States as a whole seems to be a worse place than it actually is.

    Furthermore, (reliable) information about this country is relatively easy to find. So think about this next time you see a self-righteous and clever-sounding American-bashing soundbite on the Internet, where trolls are running amuck and especially in the toxic Age of Memes, in which overly simplistic statements, oftentimes making heavy use of stereotypes, may well be more popular than a thoughtful comment, suggestion, or criticism. But the irony of spreading ignorant nonsense using an electronic computer with internet access that is powered by billions of transistors integrated in a tiny chip is lost on too many people.
  9. Original detailed report by the ASCE.
  10. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New York City; New Haven; and Boston.
  11. In order to build a nuclear explosive device, one needs uranium enriched at 90% or more. Thus, depleted uranium cannot be used that way.
  12. Get your mind out of the gutter!
  13. It replaces the first one, also operated by Brookhaven.
  14. A synchrotron is yet another kind of particle accelerator.
  15. The most powerful is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), operated by the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) headquartered in Switzerland. However, the LHC specializes in smaller particles, such as protons, rather than "heavy ions", such as gold nuclei.
  16. Get the pun?
  17. Home to many beautiful minds.
  18. Shall we call this their "manifold destiny"? Credits goes to Sylvia Nasar for coining this phrase.


  1. I Have a Dream speech by MLK subtitled
  2. America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy by Bernard Dobski (June 19, 2020) The Heritage Foundation.
  3. ‘America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy’ Is a Dangerous—And Wrong—Argument: Enabling sustained minority rule at the national level is not a feature of our constitutional design, but a perversion of it. by George Thomas (November 2, 2020) The Atlantic.
  4. Human Development Report 2020 The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene. United Nations Development Programme. 15 December 2020. pp. 343-350. ISBN 978-92-1-126442-5. Retrieved 17 December 2020. 
  5. Human Development Reports. Composite indices — HDI and beyond. United Nations Development Programme.
  6. Just before a threatened Soviet invasion of Hokkaido: Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi (2009). Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 296. ISBN 9780674038400. Retrieved 3 November 2018. "Without Japan's surrender, it is reasonable to assume that the Soviets would have completed the occupation of Manchuria, southern Sakhalin, the entire Kurils, and possibly half of Korea by the beginning of September. Inevitably, the Soviet invasion of Hokkaido would have been raised as a pressing issue [...]. [...] Japanese leaders were well aware of the danger of allowing Soviet expansion to continue beyond Manchuria, Korea, Sakhalin, and the Kurils. [...] Japan's decision to surrender was above all a political decision, not a military one. Therefore, even without the atomic bombs, the war most likely would have ended shortly after Soviet entry into the war - before November 1. orig 2005" 
  7. "United States congressional non-voting members". Ballotpedia. 
  8. "Chapter 2: Becoming a U.S. Citizen". US Citizenship and Immigration Services. 
  9. Lloyd, Whit. "What are US Territories?". Asia Matters for America. 
  10. "Palmyra Atoll". US Department of the Interior. 
  11. "U.S. Territories and Minor Outlying Islands". American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. 
  12. The First Africans in Virginia Landed in 1619. It Was a Turning Point for Slavery in American History—But Not the Beginning by Olivia B. Waxman (August 20, 2019 12:53 PM EDT) Time.
  13. See the Wikipedia article on The Star-Spangled Banner.
  14. Isenberg, Nancy White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America p. 210
  15. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States p. 81–87
  16. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States p. 81–87
  17. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States p. 81–87
  18. Zinn, Howard A People's History of the United States p. 124–129
  19. Zinn, Howard A People's History of the United States p. 124–129
  20. Zinn, Howard A People's History of the United States p. 124–129
  21. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States p. 112–113
  22. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States p. 112–113
  24. The American Civil War – the Union told all the European countries if they recognized the Confederacy’s legitimacy, it was equal to declaring war against the Union, Holly Godbey, War History Online 11 November 2017
  25. The American Paradox by Heather Cox Richardson (2021) YouTube. "This nine-part series examines the major themes from my book, How the South Won the Civil War.
  26. How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson (2022) Oxford University Press. ISBN 019758179X.
  27. CDC says U.S. abortion rate plunged in decade ending 2015. Reuters. November 21, 2018.
  28. Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?. The Atlantic. December 2018.
  29. The Six Biggest Takeaways from a New Study Documenting the Amazing Rise of Non-Religious Americans
  30. The US Is Retreating From Religion. Scientific American Blog. October 20, 2017.
  31. Is it true only 10% of Americans have passports? BBC News. January 9, 2018.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston
  33. Measuring up U.S. infrastructure against other countries. PBS Newshour. February 18, 2018.
  34. How Wind Can Power the World's Mass Transit. BBC Future. September 29, 2017.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.) City Lab. August 31, 2018.
  36. U.S. public transit’s precarious state could cost country billions. Curbed. May 17, 2018.
  37. Three Mile Island Documentary: Nuclear Power's Promise and Peril. Retro Reports. The New York Times. April 29, 2014.
  38. Safe, Secure and Sustainable Nuclear Energy. Energy and Global Security. Argonne National Laboratory. U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
  39. Doing the Impossible: Reducing Nuclear Waste. Argonne National Laboratory. U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Demand For Clean Energy Inspires New Generation to Innovate Nuclear Power. PBS Newshour. January 4, 2017.
  41. How Building A New Battery Could Change the Game for Renewable Energy. PBS Newshour. December 15, 2015.
  42. U.S. Oil Exports Are Surging and Showing No Signs of Slowing Down. Business Insider. March, 2018.
  43. Trump's revenge: U.S. oil floods Europe, hurting OPEC and Russia. Reuters. April 23rd, 2018.
  44. 4 New Ways America Is Number 1 In Energy. Forbes. July 4th, 2018.
  45. The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up. NPR. February 4, 2018.
  46. Is A Texan Town the Future of Renewable Energy? Smithsonian Magazine. April, 2018.
  47. Something about… Land being separated on 36 blocks with D.C. on the "Devil's Block"?
  48. Quote-Mining warning: Stephen Schroeder. "Part 1 The REAL Secret America- Great Seal of Lucifer". 
  49. according to a quote-mine in this video.
  51. It doesn't stop people from quote-mining Discovery Channel to pick apart every monument in D.C.
  52. Russia Campaign ‘Just One Tree in a Growing Forest,’ Rosenstein Says. The New York Times. July 19th, 2018.
  53. Quotes Eisenhower Library.
  54. United States Census Bureau. Census facts for Native American Month. October 1997
  55. Who is an Indian? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: (March 1998).
  56. Woollard, Keith et al. op.cit., pp. 5-6.
  57. United States. Bureau of the Census. We the first Americans. Washington: Dept of Commerce, 1993, p. 4
  58. United States. Bureau of the Census. Statistical abstract of the United States 1996. Washington: Dept of Commerce, 1996, Table 52.
  59. Indians in Canada and the United States. Information Sheet published by Dept of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and available on: (March 1998).
  60. Are Indians U.S. Citizens? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: (March 1998).
  61. What is a reservation? and Do Indians have the right to own land? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: (March 1998).
  62. S.J.Resolution 19, 103rd Congress United States of America, 5 January 1993.
  63. Katz, Victor J. “Chapter 19: Algebra and Number Theory in the Eighteenth Century.” A History of Mathematics: an Introduction, 3rd ed., Addison-Wesley, 2009, pp. 680–682.
  64. Nobel Prize Winners By Country. World Atlas. November 1, 2017.
  65. 65.0 65.1 History of Argonne Argonne National Laboratory. U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Science.
  66. Has US physics lab found a new particle?. BBC News. June 6th, 2018
  67. QCD Matter. Our Science. Brookhaven National Laboratory. U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Science.
  68. Lab "Fireball" May Be Black Hole. BBC News. March 17, 2005.
  69. Photo in the News: Lab Creates "Black Hole". National Geographic. March 18, 2005.
  70. Sanders says new health-care plan shows Dems moving toward 'Medicare for all'. The Hill. March 5, 2018.
  71. A new poll found that a majority of Americans support a radical change to the US healthcare system. Business Insider. March 28, 2018.
  72. Healthcare study ranks Australia second best in developed world, while US comes in last. ABC News (Australia). July 17, 2017.
  73. Einstein's waves win Nobel Prize in physics. BBC News. October 3, 2017.
  74. About NASA
  75. What's So Sexy About Math?. TED Talk. Cedric Villani.
  76. areppim AG
  77. Fields Medal. Wolfram Math World.
  78. How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies. POLITICO Magazine. July 27, 2018.
  79. Poll Finds More Americans Believe in Devil Than Darwin. Reuters. November 29, 2007.
  80. America's brain drain dilemma: immigrant students who leave. CNN Money. February 1, 2013.