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American dream takes resolve to accomplish

Credit: Josh Smith/jjs1 Credit: Josh Smith/jjs1
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The American Dream is an elusive concept with many different definitions. According to James Truslow Adams, writer of The Epic of America and coiner of the term “the American Dream,” it’s the notion that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

The foundation of the American Dream is our economic freedom. Economic freedom is your right to own property, keep what you make, enter into a private contract and not have it violated, have a stable currency, and have a stable social structure that leaves you free to easily pursue any legal economic venture you wish.

In Matt Mastricova’s article, “Classes Don’t Need to Stand Divided,” he argues that “social justice” is the American way, and cites welfare programs as a method of social justice. Social justice is another elusive term, defined by Wikipedia as “the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.” It is because Mastricova and I have different definitions of social justice that we disagree on most fundamental issues of the government.

I believe that equality is equality of opportunity, not outcome. I believe that all men and women are created equal, but they don’t all end up that way. I believe that social justice is best served when people keep what they make and are economically free to pursue their own endeavors.

In this society, if you earn money fairly, then you do so by improving the quality of life for those around you. If you do that, I think you should keep what you earn except to pay (the same amount everyone else does) for essential services such as defense, both foreign and domestic, public education, and limited social welfare programs. That, to me, sounds like justice.

Mastricova regarded my idea of getting wealthy by working hard as “horribly misguided and unpatriotic,” and used examples of extreme circumstances where ill family members and college loans prevent people from obtaining the American Dream. This is true in some cases, and this is where limited social welfare programs can serve their purpose. I believe that society should be willing to help those who help themselves, but that welfare programs should not subsidize laziness.

Another alarming idea that Mastricova articulated is that wealth accumulation requires wealth to begin with. I strongly disagree. In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, the father of success theory, stated that single-mindedness of purpose is the only thing necessary for wealth accumulation. If you set a goal for yourself and are dedicated to that goal until it is the guiding force behind all action you take, I strongly believe that you will achieve your goal. Mastricova discounted the self-made men that made this country prosperous, among them Andrew Carnegie. The fact that this is possible is social justice.

It is Mastricova’s warped concept of the American Dream that bothered me the most. He articulated a kind of dream where you’re entitled to a certain lifestyle just by showing up to the game. I believe that the American Dream should be achieved and earned, not just by putting in a full nine innings, but by actually scoring runs. No one gets an A for effort at Carnegie Mellon, and that’s how it should be in the real world. Working eight hours doesn’t grant you a certain lifestyle, but it’s what you do in those eight hours that grants wealth. In this society, you earn money by improving the quality of life of those around you and our economic freedom is what ensures that your contributions get adequately rewarded.

We grew to be a land of prosperity because we left our people free to do what they wanted and keep what they earned. In a way, the U.S. mirrors the ultimate self-made man, rising to affluence on hard work, not handouts. That’s social justice. That’s the American Dream.