“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”
Alexis de Tocqueville
letter to Ernest de Chabrol. June 9, 1831
(Thanks to John Rogers for attracting my attention repeatedly to that quote!)
Tocqueville saw slavery. Tocqueville saw the deportation of the Cherokees. Literally, in front of his eyes, they passed, thousands of them, pushed by the US Army. He did not comment about this ethnocide in his book, but we know he saw it. No doubt it marked his mind. The fundamental reason for forcing the Cherokees, who were able farmers, more than a thousand miles out of their land, was greed.
‘How much money will it bring in?’ worked, because the biggest question, the military question, defense, was solved by the US Cavalry. It was an ugly thing, mostly, and best, sights unseen. Now honorable, “liberal” east coast cities’ governments paid for Indian scalps. “Signature Strikes” is nothing new, as a concept, to promote the American Way of Life (and Death).
In Europe, defense (or attack) was always primary, because of the high density of population. That also brought other problems which civilization had to address, such as ecological problems: thus European cities were denser, to save arable land. War is also tiring, let alone dangerous. Thus governments and polities learned to be more polite and accommodative.
Basically, the US was less civilized, from the simple mechanical reason that the reason for civilization is the polis, civitas In modern word derived from this notion: the city. One needs cities to be civilized. As the US spilled through the wastes of Americas, settlers settled in giant spaces, free of most constraints of civilization, except for a vague remembrance of the civilization they came from.
Remember, two centuries ago, and for another two centuries before that, in white North America of the English persuasion, it was possible to buy people. So money went a very long way. As it still does, today.
P/S: Dominique Deux called, in a comment, for a more discerning approach. But broad strokes, the first order approach, can be useful. Especially as we witness recent US presidential, senatorial, and congressional elections thoroughly pervaded, and perverted by money to the point it has made plutocracy so blatant it’s hidden in plain sight.