The Impact Of The American Frontier On United States Culture
The North American frontier contributed greatly to today's
American culture. For nearly 150 years before independence,
the Appalachian mountain range had been the American
frontier, separating civilization from wilderness. When
North America gained independence and became the United
States, people began to move more freely across the
frontiers, into the unknown. The land belonged to them now,
and they were free to explore it and claim it at will.
The American frontier was unlike any other country in that
the potential for expansion appeared to be endless. Most
other countries have developed with in a limited area of
which they knew the boundaries, or by conquering other
developing nations around them. In the case of North
America, the frontier was where wilderness and civilization
met, and nobody knew what lay beyond it. The settlers of
North America had no idea of the vastness of the continent
they had begun settling. 
One of the areas affected by the frontier experience was
politics. People on the frontier had to deal with whatever
life brought them and make the best of it. They learned how
to be very self sufficient, pushing their way through
whatever barriers nature presented. This individuality has
led Americans to develop a government that facilitates
individualism. Americans, are usually suspicious,
mistrusting, and paranoid of the government because we like
to be independent, individually solving whatever problems
arise in our path. This mentality is shown in the nation's
protests to the government's increasing intervention in our
personal lives; however, a changing, growing nation
requires changes in government. We believe in
individualism, and we apply this belief to all aspects of
our lives. In the so-called "Wild West", government does
not pay as close attention to people's actions, and this
was where the vast majority of the nation's reforms we know
today originated. For example, initiative, the right of the
citizens to initiate a new law into the legislature;
referendum, the citizens' right to directly vote a law into
action instead of passing it through the legislature;
recall, the citizens' to vote a corrupt legislator out of
office by way of petition; and term limits, were all
reforms born in the West. The reason for the government's
low involvement in Westerners' daily lives is that for
centuries, even to this day, many parts of the West have
still been developing their society, civilization, and
state governments. In the East, where we have always been
on the civilized side of the frontier, people tend more to
accept the government's rules, mentally coming to the
conclusion that there is nothing they can do about it. But
in the West, new ideas for reform are constantly being
born. Of course, there must be a compromise between a
totalitarian government and complete anarchy; too much
government restricts freedom while too little government
does not provide the convenient government services we may
take for granted, and allows society to get far too out of
The United States of America is a diverse but tolerant
social mixing pot. Unlike most other nations, America is a
safe haven for many, many races and religions. People of a
particular race or ethnic group usually live in clusters,
minimally interfering with outsiders; taking this into
mind, however, many immigrants are still amazed by the high
level of tolerance America holds. Our tolerance comes from
the fact that so many ethnic groups arrived here during the
early period of settlement. 
Education is another aspect of social life affected by the
frontier. Public schools were necessary to educate children
at the time of settlement. No sooner than the pioneers
arrived here than the first public schools were set up. Our
society today is still affected by this craze to learn.
America is constantly encouraging its children to stay in
school, and American colleges are some of the best in the
The frontier also affected modern American economy. During
settlement, people did not need or want a government to
interfere with the country's economy. Thus a laissez-faire
economic system was established. Laissez-faire is a term to
describe an economy in which the government interferes very
little in day-to-day economic activity, and such a system
is very closely related to capitalism. Economy in America
is one of speculation and risk taking; America was settled
so quickly because of the fact that everything was abundant
and easy to get. Speculation was in fact not a great risk
at all at that time, so people would take great risks
knowing that the odds were so greatly in their favor. Even
today, Americans nearly throw their money into whatever new
company they think has a chance, and often come out richer
than one could dream. Americans also have a strong
technological tendency and are a people of " tools and
gadgets". We have been such an inventive country because
we always needed to devise some way to get around an
obstacle we found in nature.
Another way, perhaps one of the most important, in which
the frontier has dramatically affected modern American
attitudes, is the way people view everyday life. Americans
in general enjoy solving problems or puzzles, and Americans
will usually at least make an attempt to solve any problems
that confront them. This problem-solving personality in
many Americans can be traced back to the days of the
pioneer, where there were innumerable tasks and problems
set before the average settler each day: How do I get
across this stream? through this forest? build something on
this forest? keep the wild animals away? get food to
eat?... It is easy to see that the settlers had no choice
but to solve these problems one way or another, or they
would die. 
One negative aspect about the psychology of our society is
that we are one of violence-more violent than many other
nations on Earth. This way of violence with us resulted
from the fact that out on the frontier when there was no
government, each man would have to settle his own problems,
and if it involved violence or killing, so be it. No one
would even notice. Everyone would always be fully armed
because they knew what people would do to solve a conflict. 
The frontier experience was very important in shaping
modern American culture. American development, moving from
the known into the unknown, has drastically affected the
way Americans live and function today.


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