The term "American Exceptionalism" always evokes, for me, images of Americans, whether drunken louts at international sporting venues or neoconservative pundits, simultaneously exalting their country while denigrating others, either implying, or stating forthrightly, that other countries should emulate America. I have no taste for such rhetoric because I have no taste for the jingoistic, as I have no taste for the braggart, the bully, and the powerful lording their power over the weak. Hence, I found the Lowry/Ponnuru piece that inspired Paul's four-part response distasteful, and, apart from the specific political and philosophical points that everyone is debating, a manifestation of the political psychology of the right in America, according to which political conservatism is identified with America itself, and never fails but is only failed by fallible men. For this psychological constellation, deviation is a perpetual threat, and so the bearers of deviation must be identified, marked, and stigmatized. Harbour a different interpretation of some epoch of our national history? You might be less an authentic American than the conservative, the bearer of anti-American ideas, whether embryonic or full-blown. This happens so frequently that it is not worth reciting the litany.
I'd posit that this psychology, aside from emotive sources, is rooted in a confusion over what it means to close questions societally, a confusion over what it means to have openness in a society. Every society closes some questions. Every society also permits discussion, deliberation, and dissent within the confines of its orthodoxy. Catholics debate the application of their social doctrine, and we Orthodox would do the same if we admitted that we had one - we do, and it's pretty much like the Catholic one, though some Orthodox will chafe, understandably or not, at the philosophical foundations of the Catholic doctrine. Liberal political philosophers debate all manner of things within the confines of the Rawlsian/post-Rawlsian framework, such as the respective merits of the resources and capabilities approaches to justice. And Americans debate the meaning and applications of the Constitution and other institutions of public life.
The error of so much of the talk about American Exceptionalism, anti-Americanism, and so forth, is that it attempts to circumscribe the boundaries of the foundational orthodoxy too narrowly, thus stifling the discourse. Openness always exists within the context of closure. Both Paul and Lydia are correct, in a sense.
Enough of that, however. The difficulty I have with the disavowals, at NRO, of any affection for J.S. Mill, is that the Open Society is not merely an intellectual construct, and a set of social and political practices based thereon, abjuring and resisting the emergence of any public orthodoxy. The Open Society cannot be reduced to a matter of beliefs and the operationalization in political action. A society may also be adjudged "open" in the relevant sense if it has no set of practices, institutions, arrangements, whether social or economic or religious that is embraces and defends as given, as the preconditions and presuppositions of all social development, and thus, as immune from fundamental alteration, be it instigated from any source. To the extent that American Exceptionalism is equated with a defense of the dynamism of American capitalism, of the relentless gales of creative destruction that sweep away institutions, economic structures, social formations, and even mores, and to the extent that this construct is defended, there will be a defense of the Open Society. In other words, to the extent that social formations and institutions other than those of the economic must orient themselves in, around, and between the forces of dynamism, as they manifestly do in American society, we have an Open Society. The Open Society is not merely a matter of public orthodoxies, or the lack thereof, of our beliefs and the extent to which we debate them; it is also a matter of social organization, of the actual structures and practices of a society. As there are perhaps hidebound Millians who eschew any thoughts of a public orthodoxy, so also are there hidebound defenders of dynamism and economic openness who eschew any thoughts of, say, defending certain economic arrangements insofar as they make possible strong localistic tendencies, family stability and security, and so forth.
One cannot claim to oppose the Open Society and then defend a political economy which first traduces, and then dissolves, every fixity and stability, all in the names of dynamism and efficiency.