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The American Dream becomes a Nightmare: Exchanging Liberty, for Cars and Houses

February 26, 2009

You want to talk about the slide into materialism?

I hear statements like this all the time from people of all political positions:

“I want to get a nice house, and a couple good cars…you know, live the American Dream.”

Or perhaps:

“Suddenly, hard times hit and people just felt their American Dream slipping away.”

The American Dream has nothing to do with material wealth whatsoever. In fact, the American Dream cannot be material things. Sure – owning a house may be the dream that provides happiness for any given person, but the American Dream is something so much greater.

The Dream of America is that we the people should live in Liberty and peace, free from the bondage of tyrannical powers – whether governmental or otherwise. In fact, this is the very reason for our Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Why is this an important distinction?

I believe that this distinction (Liberty, rather than material possessions) is crucial for all American’s to differentiate. As American’s today, we have had the extreme luxury of not living under the burden of oppression. Unfortunately – as a result, many people tend t0 take for granted ideas like Freedom, and Unalienable Rights as somewhat trite concepts. Even worse – many have traded these foundational American principals in exchange for materialist entitlement. In my view, this is extremely dangerous. Consider this quote:

Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.

-Thomas Jefferson

Liberty is the bedrock of America and must be fought for and preserved whatever the cost, for it is the requirement of all lessor things.

What you choose to do with your freedom, is your business. In America, you can choose to pursue whatever it is that you believe will make you happy. If you believe that material wealth will make you happy – in America, you are free to pursue it. If you believe that true happiness can only be found walking through the wilderness, John Denver style – in America, you are free to pursue it.

Liberty is the essence of the American Dream.

As Tiananmen Square witness, CLAUDIA ROSETT puts it:

The answer of free societies, the old American dream, is that you may choose for yourself. Freedom, in the framework of a true democracy, allows individuals to weigh their own talents, skills and ambitions, choose their own trade-offs, and chart their own dreams. That gives rise to innovation, exuberance and prosperity of a kind that no government can plan or centrally command into existence.

Now, I happen to believe that private property is an essential aspect of freedom, but I do not believe the acquisition of property and material wealth is the drive of America. Consequently, this happens to be one of the fundamental flaws of Socialism. In an effort to promote economic equality, you must deprive some of Liberty. (I elaborate on this idea in part 2 of my series on Socialism –Sacrificing Economic Freedom for Economic Equality) After all, what value is all the wealth in the world, if you don’t have Freedom?

If we wish to keep the American Dream alive, we should be arguing over ways to protect and increase personal Liberty. Not acquiring houses, cars, and other material junk. If we choose to trade the promises of ‘stuff,’ over our Unalienable Rights and Liberty, then America will gradually erode into despotism.

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