Explain what the following statement means. “America is a country built on faith in the individual and distrust of authority.”

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What this statement means is that our country has been set up in such a way as to try to give people the broadest possible freedom.  It has also been set up in such a way as to prevent the government from having too much power.  The belief that people should have freedom and government should have limited power is one that has informed our political culture throughout our history.

We believe in the Enlightenment idea that all people have natural rights and that a government cannot take these rights away.  We wrote that idea into our Constitution with, among other things, the provisions of the Bill of Rights.  Things like the Civil Rights Movement have been about making sure that the government does not take those rights away.  Things as different as the gay rights movement and the “tea party” movement are both at least partially about individual freedoms.

We believe that the government should not have too much power.  We wrote this into the Constitution with, among other things, our system of separation of powers and checks and balances.  Both liberals and conservatives today worry that the government might get too much power, though they generally worry about this in different ways. 

We do not completely trust the government because we think that individual rights are more important than governmental authority.

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