True, the cloth was a European invention, but the pants we now call "jeans" were the creation of Levi Strauss during the California gold rush, when he created clothing using the tough "jeans" cloth. Since Levis are a brand name, the name of the cloth became the generic name for the pants. So, we can credit the US with that invention after all.
@Duane.... amen to all that. I come from a country (Zimbabwe) whose leader does not think he is capable of doing anything wrong, and I've seen the results of that. The USA is by no means perfect, but they do pretty well, all things considered.
Whenver anyone complains about the US throwing their weight around somewhere on the world stage, I reply, "The US may not be a very good world policeman, but it's a hell of a lot better than no policeman at all."
Anyway, the soul of these United States of America can be found in Section 2 of Declaration of Independence, which we celebrated just three days ago:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
And I therefore submit that as the "best, most useful, and most unusual thing that America has presented to the world?"
Max wrote: ... and if they've retired you're up the creek...
In most cases, you can import those skills in the form of immigrants, as in this old story:
An Irish construction worker who immigrated to the USA is looking for work. He stops by a construction site and asks for a job. The foreman asks what experience he has. The Irishman replies: "I worked construction for 20 years back in the Old Country".
Foreman: "Well, I don't know you so let me ask you a few questions. What's that machine over there?"
Irishman: "That's a Loader, you use it to move big piles of dirt around."
Foreman: "And that one?"
Irishman: "That's a Pile Driver, for bashing huge beams into the ground."
Foreman: "You seem to know what you're doing. One more question: what's the difference between a Joist and a Girder?"
Irishman: "Och, everybody knows that. Joist wrote Ulysses and Girder wrote Faust."
The U.S.A. is a bit of an odd duck. I've lived here my entire life, so I may have a sheltered perspective, but I do have some Independence-day opinions on what has allowed the U.S. to be as successful as we have.
First, this country was founded, in large part, on the premise that government is inherently flawed. It's necessary to have one, but you should never fully trust it and it should never be too efficient. There are a lot of people around the world that mistrust our government, but I bet we collectively trust it even less.
Second, we are a reflection of the entire world. We've done good. We've done bad. We have a history and identity that encompasses every culture and attitude, with all of the accord and discord shoved in and mixed up. That "mixed up" is probably the most important aspect. The places that are most heterogeneous tend to be the most peaceful, effective and innovative.
Third, we have a very poor long-term memory. For the most part, we don't hold grudges for very long. There's an old Peter Sellers movie called "The Mouse That Roared." It does a pretty good job of capturing that attitude.
I think this is the essence of the useful and unusual that we have created. I think this enables innovation and has created a place for people to go when there are too many roadblocks in their native land.
@David: On a serious note, it is encouraging to see manufacturing slowly returning to the US.
I agree -- the scary thing is all the skilled machinists and other trades we've lost -- the only way to learn a lot of this stuff is working alongside skilled people, and if they've retired you're uyp the creek without a paddle.
I was watching "Undercover Boss" on TV this weekend -- the first episode I've seen based in the UK -- it was about the construction industry -- one of the points an older supervisor made was that every team shoudl have a "lad" who was learning the trade, but that with the cutbacks none of the teams had younger folks coming up through the ranks...