Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is the American Dream Dead?

Joseph Stiglitz says the American dream is a myth. Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel prize-winning economist. He states, “the U.S. used to think of itself as a middle-class country – but this is no longer true. Today, a child’s life chances are more dependent on the income of his or her parents than in Europe, or any other of the advanced industrial countries for which there are data.” It would seem that Stiglitz’s solution to this “problem” is to vote Democrat.

I don’t agree that the gap between the rich and the middle class constitutes a breakdown in the American dream. Put simply, the American dream is that anyone from any social class has the opportunity to achieve prosperity through hard work. At an extreme, a person born to a crack addict could, through hard work, become the wealthy owner of a company. Granted, some people have fewer difficulties to overcome and having parents who will pay for college helps, but that doesn’t mean the American dream is a myth.

There are a couple of things we should consider. First, what is prosperity? Second, what is opportunity? The fact is, most Americans are already wealthy, if we compare ourselves to the world population. Many of us have multiple cars sitting in our driveways and boats at the lake, while people in many parts of the world are doing good if they have a bicycle with patched tires. We eat at restaurants when we like, while many families are thanking God for a bowl of rice. So no matter how wealthy the richest Americans may be, or how much of a gap there is between them and the average American, the fact is that all most Americans have to do to achieve prosperity is to go find a job. That sure sounds like a dream to me.

Opportunity is another issue. The question isn’t whether people are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps to achieve wealth, but is it possible if they put in the effort? I believe that many people are not putting in the effort to have more wealth than they currently have because they like the position they are in. I believe that if I really wanted to put in the effort, I could make more money than I am making now. I believe that I could start a business and eventually expand that business to something even larger. Eventually, I could have a big fancy house. But do I want that? I live in a house that is smaller than what I can afford. I will probably live there for quite a while. It is as much house as I need. Though I have the opportunity to become more wealthy, I have no great desire to take that opportunity.

I believe the American dream is alive and well. There may be a few things we can do to help it along, but those who are willing to work can still achieve prosperity.