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The American Dream, an illusion

:: RT: #AmericanDream = "The American Dream, an illusion", the name of an academic essay included in my final exams. If it were an informal paper, I'd call it just: "The American Dream, My Ass" #Politics #USA

According to Joseph Eugene Stiglitz, an American economist and a professor at Columbia University, also a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) Winner, there is little income mobility in the US—the notion of America as a land of opportunity is a myth. And the USA has more inequality than any other advanced industrialized country, it does less to correct these inequities, and inequality is growing more than in many other countries. (Joseph Eugene Stiglitz, 2013, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future", W. W. Norton & Company) - OECD = Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.



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  1. "The Myth of the American Dream"

    Striving for success nobody thinks that he follows somebody’s well planned way. A single person or a small group does not create the notion of success, but it is created by our whole society. The myth of instant wealth is one of the most popular myths society uses. In fact, society uses the hope of instant wealth to make people work harder. The fact that they do not have a real chance of obtaining that wealth by competing in the economic system stays invisible to the most of people.

    When we imagine a successful person, we see a person, who is working on some company and is busy working all the time. This person has a nice car and beautiful apartment or house, where he does not spend much time because he is so busy. We get this impression since we were born. Movies, magazines, and news – everything supports this notion of a successful person.

    Interesting thing is that notion of success did not change very much since the beginning of last century. There happened some variations but the idea stayed the same: working hard will bring you to the top of the society circle. This idea became very popular in the end of eighteen hundreds thanks to the stories, written by Horatio Alger. In spite of similarity of all his books, his works had an edition of hundred thousand copies. Simple idea of getting into upper class circles starting from the very down, was accepted by society as a model of success achievement. People have believed that if they will work hard than they can achieve success.

    Richard Hunter, main character of the book “Ragged Dick” has been a typical example of American notion of success. According to this book everybody can became well recognized and financially prosperous if they would work hard and show their merit. Dick, “a young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune,” as his friend Fosdick from the story “Ragged Dick” describes him in the end of the story, climbs on the social ladder, starting from the very bottom. Being absolutely illiterate and having no money in the beginning, Dick gets into business circle of people, by working hard and showing his merit.

    Why did this story become so popular in the end of eighteenth century? People always need hope and this story gave hope to everyone. If person from the lowest class of society could get into the high class then everyone else was able to do the same. The myth fits to everyone.

    Looking back in history it becomes clear that the economic situation in the end of nineteenth century in all big countries was unstable. The new industrial economy had just started the developing, so more and more enterprises required a lot of cheap workforce. The only way to make work force cheap was to create a huge “boom” in job market. Stories, like “Ragged Dick” were the trigger that pushed people to work and created this “boom”.

    As all myths, this one served only one purpose – to drive the masses of people in the desired direction. The hope to succeed was as imperceptible as a swallow in the sky. Myth does not say how many people actually achieved what they were striving for. The overwhelming majority has never got neither fame nor wealth that they were striving for. In reality, working hard is not enough to obtain wealth and fame – the components of success. There are also a lot of other people who are striving for success too. This creates the rivalry thanks to which the majority of people would fail.

    People are driven to work hard by the notion of success without having almost any chance to succeed. But is it bad? Without competition the success would not be so impressive. The US economy is based on competition between people. The myth does not give any real chance to succeed but it is necessary for their present economy and society to exist.



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