June 22, 2008

The American Dream: Alive and Well

On June 17th 2008 CNN ran an informal poll in which they asked if the ‘American Dream’ was dead. A surprising number of people stated, and elaborated upon an opinion that it was. A number of them cited the strife of the economy and the difficulty obtaining a job. It seems as though many people believe that our society has become so economically demanding that people are no longer free to choose their own career path based on their own interests. This is a misguided position and must be reconsidered in the light of a reasonable definition of freedom and a realistic examination of the economy as it is today.

Freedom is among the most nuanced words in the English language. Countless sons and daughters have died and suffered for the idea, and the United States is axiomatically referred to as the ‘Land of the Free.’ However, few people actually have the capacity to fully experience true freedom. Freedom requires the ability to see the world as it is, and make conscious choices while fully aware of their consequences. A free person must acknowledge that, for the most part, his situation is entirely of his own making. In essence, freedom is a state of absolute responsibility.

Today, too many people assert that they are, in fact, enslaved by an economic hegemony. While these people are in fact enslaved, it is because they have mortgaged that freedom for the petty pleasure of economic security. These people will normally complain that they should be free to choose a career based on their own talents and interests. This complaint, of course, ignores a fundamental reality of talent and interests. Talent must be developed into skills; and interests are fairly worthless without talent. For Example: If it is a man’s life ambition to play the violin in the streets, he must accept that he will likely not be wealthy. He must accept the economic reality of that ambition. On the other hand, if he aspires to play in the London Philharmonic Orchestra he must also accept the reality of the dedication and practice that such a goal requires. The truth is that while many people have talents and interests, few have the discipline it takes to make a desirable living with them.

Discipline, another nuanced word, has many varied meanings. Every one of those meanings, however, orbits around a single concept: effort. Both noun and verb form of ‘discipline’ require enormous amounts of personal effort. Those people who are willing to exert the required effort will be those who succeed. Finally, we come to the motivation of the complaint: It is far easier to blame an archetypical entity such as ‘The System” than it is to accept one’s station in life as an effect of ones own actions.

Finally we must examine the issue of the current economy. It is true that media is forecasting ‘doom and gloom’ but in reality, the country has seldom seen a more diverse marketplace. The miracle of the Internet has made a market for nearly every niche talent and craft imaginable to man. In the age of Google’s “AdSense” and EBay’s near-zero overhead business plans, there are more options available to the hard working American than ever before. The vastness of the Internet has qualitatively changed the depth of freedom available to mankind, and it is irresponsible to gainsay the true freedoms we enjoy.

Looking over it all, it is somewhat disrespectful to our forefathers to complain that we are not free enough to choose our own place in our economy. Those who crafted our world, from The Constitution to the Internet, dedicated their lives to the future. As a result a hard working man or woman is more free and empowered today, than ever before in human history. With hard work a person can craft his own future, and therefore the ‘American Dream’ is alive and well.