Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is The American Dream A Myth? My Comment.

A comment I posted on Economist's View blog, "Is The American Dream A Myth?"
Most economists fail to understand the sociological aspects of Americans' belief in upward mobility and consequently the researchers are usually answering the wrong question. The numbers of people that move upward are not important for the question of beliefs. The upward mobility myth exists because everyone knows some disadvantaged individual, or heard the true story of some disadvantaged individual, who went on to achieved success, fame and money.

Neither the government nor our institutions prevent any person from a lower socioeconomic group from going to Harvard, starting a business that makes them rich, becoming a movie star or sports figure, etc. Yes, maybe it is harder for them than for others in a different socioeconomic grouping, but we do not have a law or a social caste system that automatically prevent their chance at success.

Furthermore, it is the difficulty and selectivity of the success story that gives the myth its endurance and longevity. If it were trivial for someone to achieve success, then the myth would cease to exist. The myth is hope. It is like a lottery ticket, only with much better odds. If everyone can easily win, it cannot become a myth, a hope and an aspiration. Additionally, the real world includes randomness and luck for success, which means the better looking, smarter or richer person does not always win and sometimes the underdog can come out ahead. Everyone has a chance at success.

During the Great depression of the 1930s, the successful movies were not those that showed wealthy people suffering hardships because they lost their wealth and were equal to the poor. Instead, the successful movies were those that showed wealthy people in their elegant homes.

All the economic researchers that find excessive inequality in the US fail to include the value of all the government programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid, child health benefits, housing subsides, etc.

The lower socioeconomic groups in the US are much better off then their counterparts in the rest of the world, and are much better off than past generations even in the same lower socio-economic grouping. Fifty years ago, the US poor had no electricity, phone, TV, indoor plumbing, no food stamps, no medical care (Medicaid), etc. Does anyone really believe that things did not get better for the lower socioeconomic groups in the US?

Economists know the poor are better off today than they were in the past. Poor people do not care about their income ranking. They care about having food on the table, clothes for their children, medical care, a roof over their head, etc. Most of the lower socioeconomic groups have these items.

Is it really an important issue for the US that some people can afford huge houses, eat in expensive restaurants and buy expensive cars, while others eat in diners, live in apartments and buy used cars? I think there are much more pressing issues in the world.

1 comment :

  1. In my opinion this so called living the american dream is beyond our wild fantasies. Considering the reality and whats happening in the USA reaching this status is way way impossible. Anyway, this is just my opinion.