We hear it every day. This generation of Americans will probably not achieve as their parents have before them. Raging government debt, enormous unfunded and profligate promises to previous generations, an ever expanding definition of our “rights” to the financial resources of others, the rise, again, of China, and Europe’s looming collapse under the colossal weight of its own bad decisions (those are listed immediately above) are all conspiring to suffocate the American Dream and prove, once-and-for-all, that American Exceptionalism is a myth.
Certainly, one knows the struggle we each undertake to carry our load, to work hard, to aspire, and to consider the long view. But is it really harder to achieve today, or were our progenitors simply tougher than we are? More focused? Less dependent? No doubt, it is difficult to find good-paying work. But is it really any more difficult today that it was decades before? By virtually every metric, our lives have advanced significantly – we live longer, better, and with less threat than any people ever to grace the planet. Yet in spite of incontrovertible facts, are we giving ourselves and our kids a pass?
If the children can’t win anyway, do we adults really need to make sacrifices for their long term well-being? Cable TV is a lot more fun than a college savings plan. And for youngsters, if the American Dream is a myth (or even as some argue, unethical), why should I study hard, wait to procreate, get married, save money, and take a pass on media-sponsored hedonism?
Perhaps the myth we should excoriate is that of scarcity. It argues that there is never enough – ever. Wouldn’t our children be better raised aware of their own exceptional fortune? Life is good and they are obliged to do more from this platform. And, so are we.