April 13, 2024

Remembering the Real American Dream

What is the American Dream? Is it dead? Some seem to think so. And they may well be right, according to the modern definition of that Dream. In computing the term Moore’s Law (no relation, sadly) means that “number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years”.

Similarly, the modern (ne liberal) definition of the American Dream, per Reuters, is that “each generation will live a better life than the one before”. Both of these expectations, while sustainable in the short term, are unrealistic given the realities of the physical world.

Just as there is a limit to the density at which electronics can function there is a limit to how much financial success a country can sustain when many of its potentially most productive members have forgotten the work ethic that created our past successes. In the absence of a general willingness to work, it’s inconceivable that American success can last.

Polimom noticed this failed thought process:

What America promised was opportunity regardless of one’s social class or historical antecedents. There was never a guarantee of success, nor was there a guarantee that children will — or even should – expect a higher standard of living than that of the prior generation. Yet we’re measuring the success of our society these days on this flawed assumption.

American has never been the land of guaranteed success and it never should be, the pathos of modern Democratic liberalism notwithstanding. This country was founded not on certainty of reward but on the possibility of it.

Hard work and clear thinking have always been the primary ingredients in the recipe for the American Dream and a dash of good fortune never hurt either. The Dream itself has been redefined, to paraphrase Polimom, and not in a good way.

Opportunity has given way to promises in the modern definition of the dream and this new Dream, like Moore’s Law of computing power, cannot sustain itself indefinitely. Nor should it, for the companion of universal success is the death of individual incentive and with it achievement.

Here is what James Truslow Adams, coiner of the phrase American Dream, had to say:

It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are

Guaranteed success is no success at all. If every runner were guaranteed a gold medal, which of them would train as hard? Only success earned through hard labor, creative thinking, and even doubt and fear, is worthy of the name.

Such success is the true American Dream.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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