Are America’s best days behind her?
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, seems to think so. “The American dream is a myth,” he writes in a recent column. In a new USA Today/Gallup poll, nearly six in 10 disagreed with the idea that the next generation will live better than their parents do.
Negative thoughts like this are nothing new. It stands to reason that tough economic times will breed pessimism. Sometimes, though, we need to remind ourselves of the principles this country was founded on, and reconnect with the genius that created the United States of America, the only country founded not on identity, but on ideas.
That’s what prompted my friend Brian Tracy to join me in writing a book called The American Spirit. As Brian explains in the introduction: “Today, millions of Americans are not clear about why the United States is the greatest country on earth and in all human history.” And that’s a shame.
Consider the phrase “the American Dream.” The words themselves reveal something extraordinary. In all the history of man, there has been only one country with the word “dream” attached to it. There is no French Dream or Russian Dream or Chinese Dream. There is only the American Dream, to which people worldwide aspire and have aspired since our founding. From 194 countries, people have come to America to pursue this dream.
In America, people care very much who you are. They care little about your background. In America, you can start from anywhere, with or without benefits and advantages from your family, and make your own way and your own life. At any time, you can decide to change and do something completely different. Your life is yours to chart.
In my opinion, this freedom to define your own destiny ultimately derives from the Judeo-Christian tradition. God created us in His own image, and just as God is free, so we are meant for freedom.
Government’s purpose is not to impose some elite-inspired vision of the good society on the rest of us, but to empower men and women to use their God-given freedom as they choose.
This opportunity has its roots in our extraordinary founding in 1776. Having such freedom is more the exception than the rule throughout much of human history. The republican form of government had mostly been consigned to the history books since the fall of Rome. Monarchies had ruled the leading powers of the world for centuries.