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Rethinking Everything

The American Dream was more than a house and car

The very phrase “American Dream” comes from [the Great Depression], and was coined in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America. An early selection of the Book of the Month club, it was a runaway best seller. What made the country unique, Adams argued, was opportunity. America, he proclaimed, was not like the Old World of Europe, where vast sums of wealth passed from kings, queens and lords as a result of their noble birth.

The American dream,” he wrote, is a “dream of being able to grow to the fullest development as a man or woman, unhampered by barriers which had slowly been erected in older civilizations, by social orders that had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

That might seem like a call for unfettered capitalism, but Adams believed the government should intervene to make sure everyone had the chance to live the American Dream. “The project is discouraging today, but not hopeless,” he wrote, as leaders “begin to realize that because a man is born with a knack for gathering vast aggregates of money and power for himself, he may not on that account be the wisest leader to follow…” nor the best to propound a way of life.

This vision of the American Dream wasn’t against money making per se, but it was against amassing money simply for money’s sake. It was in favor of a certain type of moral capitalism where people worked hard not only to make money but also to help their families and their communities. For Adams, the stakes in curtailing the power of gluttonous billionaires were high. Allowing them to effectively own the country would be “the failure of self–government, the failure of the common man to rise to full stature, the failure of all that the American Dream has held of hope and promise for mankind.”

Quoted from Aaron Glantz, writing in Homewreckers
where he tells the story of the looting of American homes
by vulture capitalists like Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

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