This essay has provoked sufficient controversy that I'll do one of these 'Response to Reviewers' bits. I suppose I'll end up doing a 'Response to Response to Reviewers' as well, but what the hell, it's not like I've got a social life anyway.

Calvin (and by extension 'Steve Lawrence', though the guy I know by that name says it wasn't him): I don't regard your country as the root of all evil, and I'm relieved that you actually have a point of comparison when you make your claim- it wasn't your essay I was referring to, by the way. We Europeans actually find 'flag waving', as you put it, faintly comical. There's an entire essay to be written on that particular cultural contrast, but not having been to the USA I'm scarcely qualified to write it. Actually, this sounds like a job for a Harvard/Oxbridge Professor of Anthropology with a research grant of about half a million.

One point on statistics and so on, though. I can produce an equal number of facts and analyses based on EXACTLY THE SAME DATA to refute anything you can, not that there's an absolute definition of 'greatest' anyhow. 'There's lies, damn lies and statistics.' Not sure who said that, but they had a point. Data can be interpreted and presented in different ways, surveys are often rigged to give the answer the researchers want. It happens all the time; I had to do a module on the subject last year in Sociology.

Mahar... um, do you mind if I just call you Emily? You've pretty much hit the nail on the head, but the USA isn't without its good qualities. This is the nation that gave us Harley Davidson, Thin Lizzy and many other contributions to world culture. I'm not sure you aren't going too far the wrong way.

Le Creature: I'm not sure we're talking about the same person. The author (who I won't name because I don't want to start a blood feud) came across as VERY earnest. They also came across as several Campbell's soup tin labels short of a free school computer, but that's beside the point.

iNzaNiTi: Glad you're impressed. I had a look at your stuff, and thought it was rather good.

grim'alkin: This was an angle that hadn't actually occurred to me. I was mainly ranting at the 'Bow before the might of my country, puny non-American worms!' brigade (and there's at least one or two of that sort on here, I can tell you!). I don't wish to sound biased, but I've yet to read an essay that has called anywhere else BUT the USA the best country in the world, though this piece of writing applies to any nation.

Loganberry: I think you're taking Calvin too literally. For whatever historical, cultural or other reason, many US citizens Regard the State as a near-godhead figure. It's less common in Europe, but no doubt there are a few. I'm restricted to the English language, so I can't say for sure about this particular website's contents.

If a British citizen were to suggest that our education system could learn a few things from another country's -France, perhaps- this would be seen as an acceptable and not uncommon viewpoint. If a US citizen said that, people would in all seriousness call them unpatriotic. That's the kind of thing I think Calvin's on about (please let me know if I misunderstand you, Calvin).

tresparadise: You've pretty much summed up my exact point, and rather better than I did.

C-Shot: I'd hardly call two countries bordering on your own a particularly broad frame of reference. That's like me calling England the best country in the world if I've only been to Scotland and Wales. What about Europe? The Pacific Rim countries? I'm sure you can find as many crazed alcoholics in Alabama as in Canada, by the way.

The whole WWII thing is REALLY getting to me. Roosevelt's administration helped us out, no question, and the people of Europe will always owe HIM a lot of gratitude. But no WAY is anybody going to offer every US president unqualified support and admiration because of something that happened before most of us were even born. We draw a distinction between FDR the man and America the nation when it comes to gratitude. I have nothing against your patriotism (though it's a different brand to mine) but you can't expect people who only get to see the results of your country's foreign policy, a policy conducted without much reference to world opinion or anybody's interests but its own, to wax as lyrical about the place as you.

And I do hope you weren't being serious about your CPU. Even if you are, it's your own fault for not using proper antivirus software. I've no sympathy at all.

Stephen Bedwell: I beg to differ; your nation has just invaded a country, booted out the admittedly brutal and bloodthirsty government, and is setting up a new government of the sort that IT wants. If the Iraqi people wish to create an extremely liberal government that nationalises the oil industry, putting US companies out of the picture as far as building wells goes and probably making them pay more for crude or refined products, then they should be allowed to. What are the odds of THAT happening if the Republicans can help it?

I can't say for sure that this is what the Iraqi people want to happen, of course, because I don't know. What is irritating is that nobody has bothered to ask them.

I'm not entirely certain what you mean by governmental terms- the Constitution? Plenty of other countries have equal democratic rights to yours, except that they emphatically discourage their citizens from stockpiling Uzis. Civil rights? Slavery lasted three decades longer than in the rest of Europe, and how many other countries not run by a mad dictator have persisted with segregation as long as yours did, apart from South Africa? I won't even go into culture right now.