Friday, July 3, 2009

100 reasons to be Proud of the USA

It's getting close to July 4th, and time to think about US Patriotism. Now I have a lotta complaints about the US. A lot of complaints. But I do really love my country, and its people. So here is a reprise of an old piece on things to be proud about the US for. These are specifically for contributions to modern life, which one could easily be ambivalent about more wholly ... This list certainly shows many of my biases and agendas, but think about what you would add, subtract or move up or down in the rough subjective rankings.

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On Oct 30, 2006 I was asked by an anonymous Italian, “Can you tell me which are the fundamental contributions of the United States of America to the modern world life?” Whew! That’s a tall order! The United States of America has made a HUGE number of contributions to the modern life of the world.

100 Important contributions to modern life for Americans to be proud of!
(I’m only listing here items that I think are mostly positive, still important today, and clearly developed or led by America or Americans)

1. Rock And Roll
2. Motion Pictures
3. The Marshall Plan for helping to rebuild the world economy after WWII.
4. US innovations in electronics (circuit breakers, integrated circuits, AC transformers, transistors, semi-conductors, microchips, etc)
5. US innovations in consumer electronics (washing machines, dish washers, dryers, electric lights, personal sewing machines, electric razors, electric toasters, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, etc.) [ok maybe I’m getting ambivalent on this one]
6. The development of the modern public school system.
7. US innovations in electronic computing (ENIAC, IBM, the ABC calculator, Apple, etc.)
8. Proportional Representation (used only limitedly in the US, but key to many other world governments, and developed by US politicians in the late 1700s and early 1800s as strategies for allocating seats in congress to the states).
9. Airplanes
10. American private donations to international charities
11. Hand-held cameras (both Kodak and Polaroid)
12. America’s university system, especially for graduate education
13. America’s financial, military, and civilian support of the UN (including both public and private donors)
14. American contributions to medical technology, research and the FDA
15. Oral contraceptives
16. America’s military participation in WWII
17. Jazz
18. Polio vaccination
19. The development of commercial telephones and cell phones
20. Video games
21. The US Space Program
22. Electric trains, trolleys and mass transit (we don’t use ‘em enough ourselves anymore but we pioneered them for other nations)
23. Giving Europeans fleeing WWII a home
24. Decimal coinage
25. American contributions to modern written literature (Pynchon, Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf, Carl Sandberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc.)
26. American contributions to materials technology (nylon, vulcanized rubber, stryofoam, celluloid, bakelite, teflon, tupperware, etc.)
27. American contributions to sound recording technology (Phonographs, records and tape recordings, microphones, etc)
28. Merck’s work to eradicate river blindness
29. American contributions to television technology
30. The Panama Canal
31. American contributions to other genres of music (pop, country& western, classical, etc)
32. American television programming
33. America’s role in the creation and evolution of the internet and web
34. The US constitution, and other legal and political documents
35. The Academy Awards system
36. Arcwelders
37. Artificial sweeteners
38. Contact lenses
39. Modern elevators
40. Scotch tape
41. Photocopiers
42. Fiberglass
43. Submarines
44. Frozen food
45. Helicopters
46. Broadway, and the Broadway musical genre
47. Comic books
48. The Smithsonian
49. Modern vaccination (for less extreme problems than polio)
50. The Kinsey report
51. Westerns as a genre
52. American contributions to dance
53. Magnetic Resonance Imaging
54. Ball point pens
55. Walt Disney
56. American contributions to children’s literature
57. Cash registers and other business machines
58. Wikipedia,,, and American cyberculture
59. Bifocals
60. American contributions to gay culture and gay liberation
61. Role-playing games
62. Bubble gum
63. the Global Positioning System
64. The 5 and dime, and now Dollar Stores
65. The Richter Scale
66. Denim jeans
67. America as a tourist destination for international tourists (#3 in the world)
68. American contributions to science fiction
69. Consumer Reports
70. Safety pins
71. Hip-Hop
72. Synthesizers
73. Peanut Butter
74. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
75. Aldo Leopold and other American contributions to Environmentalism
76. Margaret Sanger’s work with birth-control
77. Other US Museums
78. Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Pop Art
79. Rollerblades
80. Chomsky’s Structural Grammar
81. John Kenneth Galbraith and Veblen
82. Einstein’s theories of relativity
83. Feynmann’s Quantum Electrodynamic (QED) theory
84. Deming’s work on Statistical Quality Control
85. Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter
86. John Cage
87. Strauss and Howe’s theory of history
88. W. V. O. Quine
89. Joseph Campbell
90. Van Neumann, Conway, and Game Theory
91. Weiner’s theory of Cybernetics
92. American contributions to psychology (Moreno, Erikson, Mead, etc)
93. Cook’s Illustrated
94. Jackson Pollock
95. John Rawl’s theory of justice
96. American contributions to anthropology
97. Nozick’s theories of the minimal state
98. The theology of Neibuhr and Tillich
99. Cesar Chavez
100. Starhawk and the Reclaiming tradition

Important “contributions” that are not entirely positive (IMHO, most of these should be on the top 100 if you value them rather than being more ambivalent as I am).
1. Brand loyalty marketing
2. Car inventions and car culture
3. American contributions to industrial agriculture
4. The atom bomb and nuclear energy
5. American leadership in NATO, G8, OECD and other international political bodies
6. American innovations in advertising
7. Tobacco
8. Levitt and the modern suburb system
9. Chain businesses and franchising
10. Fast food
11. The Cold War
12. American contributions to sports and sports culture
13. Bottling machines and the rise of soft-drinks
14. The Windows operating system
15. American blockbuster writers and the neutering of literature (Clancy, Cook, Crieghton, Follet, Grisham, King, Koontz, Rice, Steele, Tan, etc)
16. Disposable diapers
17. American consumption of imported illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin
18. Gun technology developments (like silencers, or machine guns)
19. America’s contributions to pornography
20. Burbank and modern plant breeding
21. American developments in the department store
22. Skinner and Behaviorism
23. Other American contributions to fashion, cosmetics and perfume
24. The Great Chicago Strike and May Day
25. The International Landmine treaty of 1998 (and pulling out of it in 2002)

Important contributions that may be no longer entirely “modern.”
1. Cheap Cotton and the Cotton gin
2. Older US Literature (Burroughs, Burroughs, Capote, Chandler, Crane, Cummings, Dickenson, Ellison, Twain, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Frost, Gibran, Ginsberg, Hawthorne, Heinlein, Hemmingway, Kerouac, L’Amour, Longfellow, Melville, Poe, Plath, Puzo, Sinclair, Steinbeck, Whitman, Williams, etc)
3. typewriters
4. Pragmatism: Dewey, James, etc
5. Cowboys
6. Hubble and the Expanding Universe
7. Rogers and Astaire
8. Benjamin Franklin
9. Beatniks
10. Tap dance


  1. Good list. I would add Abstract Expressionism (of which Pollock is a part). The US was/is quite the art leader from 1945 - forward.

    Oil Refinery could fit in there somewhere - for good or ill -

    (Also - Virginia Woolf is British.)

  2. Woolf is British - DOOH - for some reason I had it in my head that she was born in Britain but moved to the US and lived there extensively as an adult, but I'm wrong. Sorry.

    There was a lot of abstract expressionism in the US after WWII, but I'm a huge fan of Wassily Kandinsky, and there was a damn lot of Abstract Expressionism not in the US, from 1919-1945, so I'm just not willing to give that one to the US.

    Oil technology is trickier. The drilling and extraction technology comes from all over the place in bits and peices, with China, Germany, the US, Britian, even South Africa making claims to important innovations. The technology of oil, has been developed quite globally, but the business of oil has certainly been heavily led by the US (Wamsutta, Rogers, Standard Oil etc.) But even there its possible to exaggerate, BP, Shell, and the Saudis are pretty important too. But yeah US influence in Oil certainly should be on there somehow.

  3. Wassily Kandinsky is credited with abstract art.

    Abstract Expressionism is different. Of course - it wouldn't have happened without Abstract to begin with - but Americans are given the credit for Abstract Expressionism.

    I saw the Kandinsky show at the Pompidou - it was great.

  4. be more specific with planes, as i believe they were pioneered by the british.

    also wasn't the machine gun invented by the british? not sure on that one though, correct me if im wrong....

  5. Actually American bicycle mechanics Orville and Wilbur Wright usually get the nod on developing airplanes, and there were plenty of other avionics developments here in the US, but as with automobiles, there were lots of developments in lots of places

    Machine guns are trickier, see Wikipedia, The Puckle Gun (British), Belton Gun (US), Mitrailleuse (French), and Agar gun (US) were all invented before the Civil war, and probably aren't really machine guns yet, but are in that direction. The Gatling Gun(US) was used a little in our civil war, and was used heavily world wide in the following decades. A purist could maybe argue that the Gatling gun wasn't a true machine gun yet, and the first was the Maxim Gun, but the Gatling gun was pretty close, and Maxim was born and raised in the US but emigrated to Britain and got British citizenship. At any rate, US inventors made plenty of innovations in gun technology, no one could rationally fight that.

  6. thank you for making the list its great