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Harris Sherline: A World Without America

We're not perfect, but those who hate us should consider what life would be like without us

It seems as if the entire world hates America. There are those, of course, who would like to destroy us, ranging from Islamofascist religious fanatics to socialist and communist believers, to the Americans-who-hate-America crowd, all blaming us for the ills of the world. To what end? Their reasons may vary, but it’s certainly not to better the lot of mankind, unless you’re a Muslim who happens to believe the world would be better off without us and with them in charge. But, who would really be better off if we didn’t exist?

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

Without a doubt, if America did not exist, the world would be a very different place. I just don’t know if those who hate America so much and would like to destroy us have thought much beyond the ends of their noses.

In a sort of reprise of the famous Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey is given the opportunity to see what the world would be like if he had not been born, a brief look at what the world might look like without America may be instructive.

Without America, there would be no United Nations. The United States was instrumental in forming the United Nations and finances about 22 percent of its budget. So, without our financial support, the United Nations and its many subsidiary organizations would be a far smaller institution — if it could exist at all. Some people would undoubtedly say that would be a good thing.

Without America, France, England and the rest of Europe would be part of Germany today, or under German control, enslaved and cruelly oppressed. Or, without America, Europe and much of the rest of the world might be living under the repressive thumb of Communism.

Without America, the Japanese would rule Asia and democracy would not have been established in Japan, which was historically ruled by its emperor and the military.

Without America, 25 million people would still be living under the cruelly repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and another 25 million Iraqis would continue to exist under the vicious dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Without America, scientific advances and inventions, ranging from the cotton gin to the computer and the Internet, would not have happened. A very short list includes, in no particular order: tractors, nylon, the light bulb, the steamboat, vulcanized rubber, the desktop computer, the supercomputer (Cray), the cash register, Coca-Cola, polio vaccine, helicopters, the scientific method of manufacturing assembly, open-heart surgery, the electron microscope, the radio, the steam generator, purified insulin, the transistor, the pH meter, magnetic recording, the telephone, the Bessemer process, respirators/ventilators, frozen foods, LASIK eye surgery, vaccine for Hepatitis B, genetic engineering, the calculator, catalytic cracking, instant copying (Xerox), synthetic rubber, superglue, plows, the internal-combustion engine, the screw propeller, HIV isolation and diagnosis, global positioning systems, solid fuel rockets, and on and on.

I leave it to you to evaluate the impacts of any of the foregoing inventions or the many thousands of other technological, scientific and medical advances made by Americans. Without them, the world would be a very different place indeed: Untold numbers of people would have died or been crippled by disease, afflictions such as polio and smallpox would still be rampant throughout the world, and technological advances such as computers and the Internet probably wouldn’t exist. Just think how these inventions alone have changed the world in just a few short years. The list of America’s achievements in its short history that have improved mankind’s lot from almost any perspective is literally endless.

Without America, the people in many of the nations that have benefited from our foreign aid would be living in far worse circumstances. We haven’t solved all the problems, to be sure, and according to some critics, we don’t give nearly enough, but we have and continue to help alleviate many of the worst problems in various parts of the world.

Without America, the education of tens of thousands of foreign students who have come to America to study engineering, the sciences and medicine would not have happened. We are responsible for having produced more highly trained foreign students than any nation in the world, and where would the world be without them?

Without America, the economies of most nations around the world would be much poorer. In 2009, the U.S. trade imbalance with China alone amounted to more than $256 billion. Where would the Chinese, who are now challenging the United States as the world’s biggest economy, sell their goods and services, or the Japanese sell their cars, were it not for our markets? Where would India, which has another of the world’s most rapidly expanding economies, be if it sold its goods and services without the availability of the U.S. market? The list of trading partners who rely on our markets to sustain their own economies is very long. Two notable examples in our own hemisphere, of course, are Mexico and Canada, notwithstanding our current problems with illegal immigrants from Mexico.

There are scads of other American accomplishments that have dramatically changed the world, such as the atomic bomb, the example of a society based on diversity and tolerance for others, the rule of law, as exemplified by the peaceful transfer of government following elections, to name just a few.

We may be many of the things people around the world accuse us of being — arrogant, ill-mannered, spoiled, self-centered and too rich for our own good — but we are also the most generous and selfless nation on Earth, and the world would be a much worse place without us. Those who hate us so much might want to give their disdain of us more thought and decide if they really don’t want us around. My question is, what would they do without us?

Remember the admonition, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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