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, the hurdles are the very things that make achieving those things valuable and removing or lowering them also reduces the value in achieving them.

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 use that moxie to contribute to their organization.

Making it easier to get a college degree changed its meaning and value. College degrees no longer signal intelligent self-starters with moxie. Now degrees are signals of risk averse people without much moxie.

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 afford to 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 were more likely to pay your mortgage each month than someone without that financial discipline. It also gave you a vested interest in maintaining your property.

Removing this barrier (or hurdle) 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 the meaning of it 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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