What Is The American Dream?

The American Dream is the vision that anyone, regardless of their birth or social class, can achieve their own version of success. James Adams described the American Dream in his book ‘Epic of America’ as ‘the dream of a land in which life should be better, and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.’

The American Dream is responsible for bringing millions of people from across the globe to the United States of America in search of a better life. Seemingly large differences including as cultural or traditional belief systems are set aside in the pursuit of happiness that the Dream represents.

American Dream and the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence laid the foundations of the American Dream in the following words, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’

Anyone willing to achieve their goals through hard work, taking risks and making necessary sacrifices can achieve the Dream. Below are some vital aspects of the American Dream.

Free market economy vs Mixed market economy

The American Dream largely depends on a free market economy. This model works by letting market forces determine supply, demand, price and other aspects of the economy. The Free market economy model has little to no government oversight. During America’s early years, this model was crucial to the rapid growth and development of the country.

However, the free market economy has increased the divide between the rich and the poor. In such a model, there are few privileges for those who are poor. This has led the United States to evolve the free market economy into a mixed market economy. In this kind of economy, the government exercises some central control merely to regulate the economy in broader terms. Measures such as social security help the government provide incentives to the poor without exercising too much control over the market which may jeopardize economic growth.

Free trade agreements (FTA)

Free trade agreements (FTA) are multinational agreements between different countries forming a trade bloc. The goal of FTAs is to reduce or eliminate trade barriers, easing the path to business and allow an easier flow of international trade. United States has FTAs in place with nearly 20 countries around the globe. This creates a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment, making it cheaper for US-based companies to export their products and services to partner markets.

Foreign direct investments

The U.S.A is the largest recipient of foreign direct investments in the world. In 2018 alone, the country had an influx of FDIs worth $319 billion. Such investments result in market diversification, tax incentives and subsidies. These developments create increased employment, development of human capital and grow the economy, propelling the country forward.

Freedom of information

Free Flow of Information refers to the idea that all citizens have the right to know (and share) any and all public-related information. This means that they are allowed to criticize even the politicians that run the government, if they feel they have reasonable grounds for doing so. This acceptance and promotion of the free flow of information has given room for journalists and media houses to share information with the public without the risk of putting themselves in danger or government censure. It has also made the American Dream possible.

Freedom of culture and religion (or lack thereof)

The diversity of the people that make up the United States of America come from diverse backgrounds. The American Dream is a celebration and protection of this diversity. Whether a person belongs solely to a particular community or comes from a mixed background, the beauty of America is that all people and their cultures are accepted and celebrated. This freedom of cultural traditions and religious beliefs – including the freedom to not follow any religion at all – is at the core of the American Dream. No matter where a person comes from, if they work hard, they can create their version of success for themselves and their loved ones.

Governmental protection of private enterprise

The U.S. government regulates private enterprise in numerous ways to protect small businesses and ensure a fair economic system. Economic regulation controls pricing in the market (both directly and indirectly). Control over private companies ensures that social goals that benefit the general public (such as health and safety or maintaining a healthy environment) are consistently met.

Freedom of Speech

The First Amendment, which guarantees ‘freedom concerning speech, religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition’ is a major pillar of American society. Unlike other countries across the world, freedom of speech is highly respected in the U.S.A – with laws in place to protect such individual rights. This is part of the central value system that encourages American society to always be on the lookout for any action (be it on an individual or organizational level) that may desecrate the rights of another. As such, freedom of speech is also the key ingredient of the American Dream.

Innovation and Hard Work

Today, the world’s top performing companies are mostly all headquartered in the United States of America. This is because the corporate culture encourages innovation and risk taking, pushing the individual to be the best of their ability. It is no wonder that as a society, the United States embodies very progressive values. Anyone with the ability to visualize and work hard for a dream can achieve it in United States.

Evolution of the American Dream

The American Dream, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, has also gradually undergone a change over the past two centuries. According to the Center for a New American Dream, the dream as understood and lived by most Americans now also includes ‘a focus on what really matters.’ This addition to the original American Dream constitutes a meaningful life, a part of which is spent contributing to society.