Having the American Dream should not be an entitlement

Rather, you should be entitled to the pursuit of the American Dream.

From Mark Perry’s blog post, Opening the Floodgates:

Government housing policies turned “good renters into bad homeowners” and created an unsustainable housing bubble.  It’s now becoming apparent that government education policies have turned “good high school graduates, many of whom should have pursued tw0-year degrees or other forms of career training, into unemployable college graduates with excessive levels of student loan debt that can’t be discharged,” and created an unsustainable higher education bubble.

That got me thinking that the underlying driver of politics — both liberal and conservative — of the past decade or two has been to try to guarantee the achievement of the American Dream, rather than guarantee its pursuit.

Politicians tried to remove “barriers” to home ownership, college education, cadillac health insurance, jobs and an overall comfortable life. By doing so, they’ve changed what these things mean. Back in the day, having a pair of Jordache jeans meant something…until everybody had a pair.

It’s a grave misconception to view all hurdles to achieving the American Dream as discretionary and unfair barriers. Most are not barriers, they are readiness measures.

Consider college education. In the old days you had to work hard to earn it. Even if you were fortunate enough to have parents who would cover your college costs, you still had to make the grades to stay in. If you had to scrounge to finance it yourself, even better. That meant you were a self-starter and could balance financial and academic responsibilities.

Getting a college degree wasn’t easy. Earning one demonstrated that you had some moxie. Employers valued that because they wanted people who could contribute to their organization.

Making it easier to get a college degree changed its meaning. College degrees no longer signal intelligent self-starters with moxie. Now degrees are signals risk averse, color-by-numbers people. Bureaucratic employers value these people for their conformity and aversion to risk.

Home ownership is another good example. In the old days you were expected to make a down payment of 20% and take out a loan that you could repay.

Having saved enough to make a 20% down payment was a test. Passing this test demonstrated to lenders that you had enough financial discipline to keep your expenses in check and save money, which means you will pay your mortgage each month. It also gave you a vested interest in maintaining your property.

Removing this barrier (or readiness test) changed the meaning of home ownership. As someone once said, a homeowner with no or negative equity in their home is a renter.

Rather than wanting politicians to give us the American Dream (and destroy it in the process), we should ask government to help ensure that we can pursue it.

That means keeping us safe from foreign invaders and keeping our fellow citizens and government from infringing on our freedoms.

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4 thoughts on “Having the American Dream should not be an entitlement

  1. Yes, somewhere along the way,
    “You have a right to take a shot at these things.”
    became …
    “You have a right to these things at other people’s expense. And feel free to be indignant and militant about it if you don’t get 100% of your way.”

  2. Pingback: Rubber stamped degrees | Our Dinner Table

  3. Pingback: Less College for All | Our Dinner Table

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