Fighting the Real Threats to the American Dream

George Bernard Shaw supposedly said that England and America were “two nations divided by a common language.” A similar problem applies to progressives and conservatives today.

Both the left and the right talk about rebuilding, saving, restoring, defending, or rescuing an American Dream that is said to be slipping, fading, eroding, or vanishing. But then the sides diverge.

Liberals redefined the American Dream along egalitarian and statist lines. The exhortation to work hard and persevere if you fail has given way to calls for greater government involvement to ensure that everyone rises in the first place. The left’s new American Dream is first and foremost about all that the federal government must do to create opportunity and ensure that incomes are distributed more equitably. Individual effort takes a back seat to government spending and cradle-to-grave entitlements.

In a new paper from Heritage, David Azerrad and Rea Hederman demolish those arguments. The left, they write, gets both the problem and its solution all wrong. Free-market economics is not about dividing up a dwindling pie but providing a recipe for an ever-expanding pie that can feed everyone year in and year out.

The recipe for the American Dream can be summed up by a simple equation: economic freedom + culture of work = prosperity and opportunity.

Azerrad and Hederman provide an easy way to think about the differences between left and right. On the left, the American Dream resembles an escalator. The federal government sets it up, everyone hops on and moves up without effort. But conservatives, they write, see the American Dream as more like a ladder. Anyone can climb up, but doing so requires effort. And if one falls down, he can always start again.

Since liberals and conservatives disagree about what the American Dream entails, it follows that they also disagree about what threatens it. For the left, it largely boils down to income inequality—or, to be more precise, the rise in income inequality in recent decades.

For the right, the problem encompasses a host of factors that restrict upward mobility:

  • The suffocating web of regulation and laws that flow from the limitless state and restrict opportunity;
  • The collapse of the family and the devastating, long-lasting consequences that it has on children;
  • The dependence fostered by the welfare state;
  • The erosion of our culture of work and the rise of a slacker culture that disparages hard work and celebrates indolence;
  • The failures of the public education system that deny countless children the rudimentary skills they need to move ahead in life; and
  • The looming fiscal crisis that has already saddled the next generation with an unconscionable level of debt.

For the left’s new American Dream to deliver on its promise, America would have to be completely overhauled and the character of its citizens altered. The spirited, entrepreneurial and determinedly self-reliant citizens envisioned by the Founders of our constitutional republic would give way to timid and envious clients who increasingly turn to an omnipotent state for their well-being. That’s a future we can’t afford.

Words, and dreams, matter. It’s imperative that the American Dream be rescued from those who would so radically redefine it.


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4 Comments Fighting the Real Threats to the American Dream

  1. andrei_p

    Din nou, aceeasi atitudine de partizani fara frontiere care este orice, dar nu solutie. Marea problema a politicii americane si, probabil, nu numai, este ca in spatele ideilor mentionate in articol se gasesc defapt haite de oportunisti, de dreapta si de stanga, care in cea mai mare parte nu cred in ceea ce profereaza, ci se folosesc de cuvinte ca de arme necesare lor pentru a-si conserva (sau mai mult) sursele de castig. Oprirea degradarii calitatii reprezentantilor clasei politice este o mare incercare a societatii americane. S-a incercat si se incearca in continuarea prin aducerea unui suflu nou, like the tea party, momentran cu succes limitat. Dar multi considera ca, cata vreme si aceasta timida incercare de revitalizare este mediata prin persoane ca Glen Beck si Sarah Palin (sa ma scuze admiratorii), este sortita sa genereze cel mult o adiere si nu furtuna de care are nevoie peisajul politic de azi.
    Off topic: altfel, cei care isi doresc disparitia democratilor, de exemplu, fara a avea un interes direct ci din dorinta lor suprema de a se identifica cu dreapta, nu inteleg democratia si nu ajuta nicio cauza, de fapt. Una e sa crezi in dreapta si alta e sa iti inchipui cu sinceritate ca dreapta poate exista in absenta stangii.

    1. DanCanada

       @andrei_p Sorry, da’ „haite de oportunisti, de dreapta si de stanga, care in cea mai mare parte nu cred in ceea ce profereaza” e o gogomanie. Cunosc binisor ce se intimpla in US, Canada si Romania, dar nu vad asemenea „oportunisti”. Te referi la Ann Coulter? Nu cred. Glen Beck? OK, he’s kind of crazy, recunosc, da’ nu oportunist. Sarah Palin? Sa fim seriosi, e probabil una dintre cele mai de „true Right” persons din US. Daca vorbesti despre Romania, trebuie definite intai Dreapta si Stinga. Lupta pe Dimbovita e in legatura cu Ciolanul, prea putin cu Stinga/Dreapta.

  2. DanCanada

    Da! Pericolul in US e realegerea lu’ big zero. S-a discutat mult despre procentul de 47% asistati de care a adus aminte Romney intr-un „secret tape” dezvaluit (chipurile) de MSM in dulcele stil al Antenei 3.
    Ann Coulter aminteste ca US e foarte aproape de „tipping point”:
    „There’s going to come a time, in the not-distant future, when it’s 51 percent paying no income tax. And when that happens, the party of big government will never lose another election. America will become indistinguishable from Western European nanny states – except there will be no America to protect us.”
    Probabil Romania e exact invers: incearca de ani de zile sa coboare de la vreo 90% asistati/angajati de stat.


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