Thursday, September 8, 2011

The American Dream is the idea that someone can come from nothing and rise to the top through perseverance, dedication, and hard work to achieve the ideal lifestyle. I think that in a lot of ways this is a respectable dream. In our society the qualities that it takes to achieve the American dream are considered to be virtues. Therefore it seems like a good thing for the dream to be encouraged because it promotes people to live virtuously. When someone who is born into unfortunate circumstances is inspired by the American dream and works diligently to make something of himself he is seen as an admirable man who deserves everything he has because he worked hard for it. It seems fair for him to have a good life because he earned a good life. The problem with the American dream is that the lifestyle that it promotes is not achievable. The American dream represents an ideal life and it sets expectations that people cannot reach. The dream is more than a man who perseveres and works his way into a spot in the upper-middle class, it is a man who works his way into the perfect life. This idealistic life of a happy marriage, 2 perfect kids, financial security, and general success is not achievable. It is true that someone can rise from a bad situation and make something of himself, but just because he has the virtue of perseverance does not mean that he will be able to achieve the picturesque life that the American dream tells us to strive for. Determination can get someone from a bad situation to a better one, but even the privileged life of an upper-middle class American is not perfect. Good hard working people can still lose their jobs, have failed marriages, and suffer losses. The American dream is a noble lie in that the lifestyle it represents is not realistically achievable but it is still noble because it inspires people to work to improve their lives through the virtues of perseverance and determination.


  1. I say Socrates would like your argument, filled as it is with counter examples and concise and precise definitions. I would agree that the noble lie part of the American Dream is that it almost seems to be guaranteed, which it's not. Nothing in life is, with the exception of death.

    On a note outside of the noble lies, I've been wondering if the American dream almost sets people up for failure. We talked in class about how quite a few things are cyclical, and I've discussed with various people that the masses will, for the most part, rise to the expectations placed upon them. If the American Dream is unachievable, then doesn't that cause various people to do a lesser action (working at McDonald's versus a law firm), which can decrease self-confidence, which leads to people fighting for their American dream less? Then the cycle would start all over again. Maybe more than the unachievability, that inevitable cycle that sets people up for failure would be the noble lie underlying the American Dream.

  2. After being abroad for part of the summer, I have a new found standard for the American Dream. We always assume the American Dream is having a mansion with a trophy wife where you can retire early. America is founded on opportunities for a better life, thus there shouldn’t be much difference in having a job at “McDonalds versus a law firm.” Obviously a law firm pays more, but these are both opportunities for work, that most of the world would love to have. The American Dream IS about perseverance. A dedicated worker at McDonalds has the opportunity to become a team leader, manager, owner, and then a franchisee. We see success stories like this every day. Humans have a great mental attribute where we can push and work harder, hoping for a better result. This is life, you decide at what point you want to give up on your ambitions and assume a life plateaued on a dead end job cutting yourself short. We can always do better and achieve more, that’s what separates the people with the American Dream and the doubters.


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