Are you literally going around the world in 80 days?
Yes.  Oh, it may end up being 79 days or 82 days, but, yes, I am literally going around the world in (approximately) 80 days, hitting six continents and 26 countries.  Every country featured in this series will be a country that I have visited for this tour.

What is the purpose of the trip?
A battle rages for the heart and soul of America.  Two very different visions vie to define not only what America will be but even what America has been.  

One group sees America’s wealth, power, and influence as an accident of history.  For them, the idea of “American Exceptionalism” is not only dead, it is offensive.  They never tire of lecturing us about how out-of-step America is with the rest of the world and how she needs to get with it.  America, they say, is bad for the world.  Moreover, where America is exceptional—a deep suspicion of socialism and environmentalism; strongly Christian in a post-Christian world; and alone patriotic among Western nations swept up in a globalist dream—is where America is at her worst and must change.  Obama typifies this group.  

Others want to preserve America’s uniqueness, her “exceptionalism,” which is found in a Judeo-Christian heritage that has given rise to her laws, art, literature, culture, and place in the world as a refuge from just the types of governments the Left idealizes.  Proponents of this vision would readily acknowledge that America’s global influence has, at times, been evil, but this is, they would argue, the result of an agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with the principles upon which America was founded. On the contrary, that agenda—championed by the Left and exemplified by America’s bullying of Third World countries to adopt permissive abortion and LGBT policies—is at odds with those principles.

The war between these competing visions is played out every day in local and national government, in our courts of law, in schools and universities, in media—even in families.  Listening to this cultural debate—not only is it inescapable, our country is being torn apart by it—it occurred to me that the vision advocated by those who would burn America to the ground Ferguson-style presupposes there are better places in the world to live.  Are there? Were Alec Baldwin to leave the country as he once promised, where would he go?

Who is right?  Which is the better vision?  Does America need to surrender her sovereignty, annihilate her borders, and be remade in the image of a secular European socialist democracy, or is it in her uniqueness that we find her historic greatness?

Such questions inspired me to do something along the lines of what French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville did in 1831—but in reverse.  Where de Tocqueville came to America to search out the source of her strength, I will go to the world, comparing America to the countries I visit to see if that strength is real or imagined.  

If at the end of those 80 days I discover that America, when measured against the rest of the world, isn’t so great after all, I will join the Left, become a globalist, and toss a log on the Great American Bonfire.  If, however, I discover that their vision is naïve and dangerous—as I suspect it is—I will urge Americans to fight for the principles that have served to make this country a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.

What countries will you visit?
While we have made no secret of some of the countries on the agenda, the rest are kept in strictest confidence. Besides, while I have established a tentative route, the ticket allows me to make changes at a moment’s notice. You’ll have to tune-in to find out where I am going to pop up next.

Will any of this be dangerous?
Yes.  Very. But with a purpose: I want to report on the persecuted church and observe, first hand, the workings of Islam.

What criteria will you use in determining the “world’s greatest country”?
A simple internet search of “best state” or “greatest country” will yield very different results.  Those results are based on the criteria used by those answering the question. What was important to them?  Access to affordable healthcare? That country’s carbon footprint? Social mobility? My criteria will differ substantially from most of the lists that I have seen.  

So, what, then, is my criteria?  

That will become clear as the trip unfolds, but this much I will say: for a country to be considered great on this list certain characteristics must be present.  Political, economic, and religious freedom rank high among the non-negotiables.  What I say about other national characteristics—e.g., cuisine, climate, landscape—is merely reflective of my preferences and is not, therefore, a determining factor in my assessment of a given country.

The question of national greatness, however, cannot be dismissed as an entirely subjective question.  No matter what Venezuelans or Iranians or North Koreans say, theirs are not great countries. One may find much that he likes in these places, but when measured against the absolute standard of human dignity and freedom these countries score low.

If you’re keeping score at home, bear in mind that there is a big difference between visiting a country on vacation and living there as most of the population lives.  Vacationing in a Jamaican resort should not be confused with life for the average Jamaican. Likewise, many of the world’s great cities are lovely places to live if you can afford to live in the high-priced city centers—but almost no one can afford it.  Indeed, any country can seem tolerable if you are a One-Percenter.  Louis XIV, surrounded as he was with mistresses and courtiers to satiate his every desire, seems to have been happy enough.  So were Genghis Khan, Mao, and Saddam Hussein. But what’s life like for the ordinary folk? And if it isn’t good, what chance have they of improving it?  This, too, must be a major criterion for national greatness.

Can you be objective?
I think so.  The worst kind of research is done when you begin with a conclusion and work backward from it, discarding all evidence that contradicts your a priori assumptions.  I am not doing that.  I am, rather, beginning with the tentative thesis that America, founded upon a creed and unique in the convictions that have served to inspire her, is something worth preserving.  That said, I am open to being persuaded otherwise. I am not so provincial as to think the world has nothing to offer America. Not only have I already been on six continents and more than 30 countries, I have also lived abroad.  Those experiences go far toward informing my opinions about America and the world.

Even so, make no mistake about it, I am not Michael Moore.  America-bashing, while very much in vogue, is often fueled by an indiscriminate multiculturalism that celebrates all things non-American as superior.  This often comes at the expense of those standards that matter most, freedom chief among them. Islam is a prime example of this phenomenon. Some on the Left are so full of loathing for America and its Judeo-Christian heritage that they are prepared to become de facto apologists for a religion with a historic and contemporary penchant for violence and totalitarianism.  I’ll quite readily bash America where she deserves it—abortion comes to mind—but not just for the hell of it.

Let the adventure begin!  Or shall I say resume?

Larry Alex Taunton is an author, cultural commentator, and freelance columnist contributing to USA TODAYFox NewsFirst ThingsThe AtlanticCNN, and The American Spectator.  In addition to being a frequent radio and television guest, he is also the author of The Grace  Effect and The Gospel Coalition Arts and Culture Book of the Year, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. You can subscribe to his blog at