Will the real American Dream please stand up?

Though the recent midterms proved historic, both in terms of dollars spent and electoral outcome, there are certain things that are common to all major elections in the United States. In each cycle, candidates hope to be perceived as the most American, the most patriotic. One of the oft-invoked issues in campaigns, regardless of the political inclination of the candidate, is the “American Dream.” Though the two major parties hold radically different ideologies and policies, both claim to be the guardians of this glorious vision. Yet, upon listening, it does not take long to realize that said dream is defined very differently, depending on who is paying it lip service.

One popularly held view is that the American Dream represents the right of every American to an education, a decent living, healthcare, and retirement. This certainly seems to be a tempting prospect. Who would not want the worry and stress of these concerns to be eradicated, safe in the knowledge that failure is not even a possibility? Indeed, it is a wonder that there are those who could pass up such an offer, and opt instead for the seemingly harsh alternative of attempting to achieve these same goals independent of the safety net proposed by self-described progressives. Yet, this is precisely what many Americans choose, and thus, the battles over the ACA, Social Security, minimum wage, and other progressive initiatives continue to rage on.

The cost of building a system in which all are provided for regardless of their individual efforts is staggering. Reason alone suggests that such provisions create two classes of people in society: the beneficiaries and the contributors. A single article could not begin to address the full implication of this division. However, the effects can be observed in other nations which have adopted these policies.

Simply put, America cannot afford the maintenance of a welfare state, the cost of which would fall on a disproportionately small percentage of the populace. No individual has a right to what they cannot afford, and to condition a populace to expect such is to set the entire nation on a path to ruin. It would be a folly to expect such benefits to continue indefinitely, yet no thought is given to such an outcome, only immediate political gains. When citizens are deprived of what they believe to be their rights, violence and upheaval follow, and those who still have means are deprived of their wealth to satiate the disgruntled masses. Were such a calamity averted and If the system proved somehow sustainable, the result would create a path towards mediocrity, removing the incentive to excel that has so long defined America.

Americans need to come to terms with this and determine once and for all what their dream entails. Is it the promise of a life of ease that prompted the early Americans to leave what they knew in order to come carve out a living in the New World? Did American pioneers settle the West, assured in the knowledge that failure would be precluded by government assistance? The answer to these questions is obvious. America’s history is one of risk and reward, of self-sufficiency, and thus individual liberty.

What is not so obvious is whether these principles will be judged as archaic and obsolete as a new generation of Americans confront the challenges faced by our nation and define their own American Dream.