"American Dream?"

On 25 April in his eulogy in Beckley, West Virginia, for the 29 miners who died in an apparent methane explosion underground some three weeks ago, President Obama suggested that the miners were pursuing the American Dream, defined in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition as: “an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also the prosperity or life that is the realization of this ideal.”

The definition of egalitarianism: “a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privileges; a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people.” It’s fair to say that the American Dream, then, is the realization of material abundance with no citizen having more social, political and economic rights than any other, i.e., the consequence of the removal of all inequalities among the people.

The constant use of the term American Dream to describe something everyone wants is both tiresome and devoid of actual practical definition. The American Dream is what anyone says it is. For some, it involves just enough for survival; for others, the drive to get as much as possible of whatever is desired, the implication being that the loot is gained at the expense of others, since there’s just so much to go around.

Actually, there’s no such thing as equality among the masses. The truth is that all men are not created equal in any other sense than in the sight of God. They will realize their ultimate equality when they all inherit the same 144 cubic feet or so of earth at their demise. Between birth and death, they are anything but equal. Some are smarter than others; prettier than others; luckier than others; stronger than others, etc., ad infinitum. This being the case, some will plod through life while others will fly.

The truth is that the masses do not want the American Dream, notwithstanding its utopian but impossible sheen, i.e., unless they want what Obama perhaps wants – egalitarianism to the nth degree, the reduction or elevation of every soul to the lowest common denominator. To effect this circumstance, the ruling class would take charge of everything in order to spread all assets equally, with the provision, of course, that the head honchos are more equal than others.

The practical application of such egalitarianism results in a socialist community in which individual ability and incentive are secondary to “leveling the playing field,” a euphemism for “doing no more than necessary.” This runs counter to the human condition, which screams “difference” and drives people unequally toward acquiring whatever constitutes their “dream.” It kills incentive and glorifies equality in mediocrity.

The president, as exemplified in his decision to run government through the use of “czars” accountable only to him and his inner circle, has shown that he does not trust the masses to make their own decisions; therefore, he sees the taking over of banks, industries, lending institutions, and the entire financial nomenclature as the business of government, which will set salaries, the kind and amount of services, the amount of savings, the kind and amount of health-care, etc. This is his American Dream, with him and his circle clearly in the driver’s seat, defining the proper egalitarianism for every citizen or citizen-group. And it stinks, a virtual American nightmare.

Craving the American Dream, whatever its definition, means putting oneself at the center, an exercise in selfishness. In the Declaration, Jefferson mentioned the right to life and liberty but only the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of the American Dream, as the president would have it. Attaining and maintaining the right to life and liberty by definition means cooperating with others, as the founding fathers knew and proved by their sacrifices. Thus, perhaps the greater part of pursuing happiness is that element of cooperation, since individual satisfaction with life is possible only if the society enjoys freedom, possible only as people work together.

This country is in watershed territory now, susceptible to continuing freedom and the right to pursue happiness only if the population’s general tenor changes from selfishness to caring about what happens to others. Punishing the movers and shakers by dragging them down from their accomplishments is the surest way to deaden incentive, another way of affirming that those who rise to the top deserve to be there and keep what they have since they make everything possible for everyone else. A level playing-field is good only when it occurs spontaneously, not by fiat. This is the antithesis of socialism. It’s the American way.