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So here’s Peggy Noonan today, telling us again that the American Dream seems to be dead. I really like Peggy Noonan; she’s a wonderful writer. But I’m not sure about this column. She seems to be suggesting that politicians need to take care of this American-Dreamlessness problem:
In Washington they don’t seem to be looking around and thinking, Hmmm, this nation is in trouble, it needs help. They’re thinking something else. I’m not sure they understand the American Dream itself needs a boost, needs encouragement and protection.
I’m sure our politicians leave much to be desired when it comes to optimism-pumping, but journalists need to be doing their part, too. The constant repetition of this theme in the press–It’s dead! The Dream is over! We’re so pessimistic! Our childrens’ lives will be materially impoverished, spiritually empty, nasty, brutish and short!–is getting on my nerves, and at its worst contains a self-fulfilling prophecy. A large part of recovery from an economic crisis–or a spiritual one–is psychological, after all, hence such phrases as “the animal spirits of the market,” and “nothing to fear but fear itself.”
I don’t see that there’s much strong support for the thesis that the American dream is an ex-parrot. America has endured graver economic crises, faced far more serious emergencies abroad and at home, and it’s always come out just fine, chiefly because the system is brilliantly designed for self-correction. I’m not suggesting the problems we face are trivial, far from it, but let’s have a bit of perspective.
The debate about immigration is an ancient one. It makes no sense to argue in the same column that the handful of Americans who are trading in their passports are an omen of American decline and to worry about the effect on American society of uncontrolled mass immigration. The latter is significant real evidence that this decline is overstated and the American Dream still very much alive: Why else would so many people want to move to America? They’re not stupid. Trust me, if the United States declared tomorrow “Free Green Card to Everyone” day, the lines outside US Embassies around the world would stretch halfway to the moon.
So buck up and stop whining, everyone.
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