The Amer­i­can Dream, alive and well

Op­por­tu­nity still awaits those un­afraid of risk

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Ed Feul­ner Ed Feul­ner is pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion (her­itage. org).

Al­most any time you see the phrase “the Amer­i­can Dream” these days, it seems to be in a neg­a­tive con­text. The speaker is ei­ther as­sur­ing us that it’s dead or that it can be sal­vaged only by a rad­i­cal re­def­i­ni­tion — one that often con­tra­dicts the ba­sic prin­ci­ples this coun­try was founded on.

So it was heart­en­ing to come across two pos­i­tive ref­er­ences to it re­cently.

One was an op-ed by Sal San­toro, a mem­ber of the Ken­tucky House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Its ti­tle: “My Dad’s Jour­ney to the Amer­i­can Dream.”

In it, Rep. San­toro used the oc­ca­sion of Fa­ther’s Day to re­late how his fa­ther, an im­mi­grant from Italy, came to Amer­ica at age 15 to build a bet­ter life for him­self. He couldn’t speak English, but in time he be­came a cit­i­zen, got mar­ried, and worked hard as a tai­lor to sup­port his grow­ing fam­ily. He even served his adopted coun­try in World War II.

The other pos­i­tive ref­er­ence I saw was an ar­ti­cle in Forbes. “As the world be­comes in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal and other na­tions of­fer op­por­tu­nity ri­val­ing ours, many won­der if the Amer­i­can Dream is dy­ing,” con­trib­u­tor Brian Rashid writes. “How­ever, Joel Con­tartese, an Amer­i­can im­mi­grant en­tre­pre­neur, can attest that Amer­i­can Dream is still alive and well.”

Mr. Rashid out­lined sev­eral lessons that Mr. Con­tartese has de­vel­oped. The bot­tom line: “His ex­pe­ri­ence of com­ing to the United States and work­ing dili­gently to bet­ter him­self and his fam­ily is an­other in­spi­ra­tional tale of the Amer­i­can Dream of­fer­ing suc­cess to those who work for it.”

There’s no ques­tion that the dream is at least a bit more chal­leng­ing to achieve to­day than it once was. Im­mi­grants have long been drawn to our free­doms, whether that meant build­ing a bet­ter life for them­selves or a bet­ter in­ven­tion for oth­ers. Amer­ica’s busi­ness his­tory is full of en­trepreneurs who, fi­nally able to pur­sue their pas­sions, con­trib­uted hand­somely to the eco­nomic en­gine that is the United States.

But things have changed. For decades, our gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing the wrong kind of pros­per­ity, usu­ally for the wrong mo­tives and the wrong peo­ple. Spe­cial in­ter­ests have got­ten the ben­e­fits that we pay for through higher prices, tax dol­lars and lost jobs.

Hob­bled by out­moded pro­grams and ac­cu­mu­lated lay­ers of reg­u­la­tion, our econ­omy has be­come less free. Gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion of busi­ness should al­ways be ef­fec­tive yet min­i­mal, and it should al­ways err on the side of pro­mot­ing pros­per­ity for the whole econ­omy and all of our cit­i­zens, not just a priv­i­leged elite.

When gov­ern­ment tries to help peo­ple in need, it often crowds out en­ti­ties that could pro­vide them with bet­ter-qual­ity as­sis­tance. And in its zeal to pre­vent in­jury and rem­edy in­jus­tice, our gov­ern­ment swims ever deeper in the rip­tides of over­reg­u­la­tion.

We have partly our­selves to blame. For too long, Amer­i­cans have ex­pected gov­ern­ment to heal even mi­nor hurts. “There ought to be a law,” we cry, and politi­cians quickly en­act yet an­other curb on our lives. How does this af­fect pros­per­ity? All too heav­ily.

The jet en­gine of pros­per­ity is eco­nomic free­dom, es­pe­cially the free­dom to take risks. To most of the coun­try’s chat­ter­ing classes — guardians of the news but typ­i­cally de­tached from com­merce — the role of risk in busi­ness is dull stuff, hardly worth re­port­ing. But they miss one grip­ping drama af­ter an­other: Be­hind every great busi­ness coup is a huge risk boldly taken.

The high-wire dar­ing of nervy en­trepreneurs will­ing to out­per­form their com­peti­tors is es­sen­tial to pros­per­ity. “Amer­ica pro­vides plenty of tools to help you achieve your dreams, you just have to fight for it,” ac­cord­ing to Joel Con­tartese.

He’s right. The ques­tion is, do enough peo­ple un­der­stand that? Our fu­ture pros­per­ity hinges on it.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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