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Wealth & Economics > American dream: Dead or Alive & kicking?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 14966 comments We had this thread, which got locked because it got a little overheated. Now, after the chill out, we may ask again -:)

Once it was almost an axiom: if you wanna become rich, go to America the country of boundless opportunities. But since maybe some things changed a bit. Or maybe they didn't. In any case this thread is not specifically about America, as it's assumed that everyone in the capitalist world has an equal (?)/fair chance to make it big time or at least advance considerably in income and status. Just work hard, be proactive and so on.

Anyone can offer a handful of examples: Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Koum. These are good ones. On the other hand, those who were born in poor neighborhood and remained there their entire lives are uninteresting, below the radar. No one's interviewing them, writing their biographies, showing on TV. There are lots of statistics dealing with odds to become a millionaire and most show the dependence between your starting point and the height you can climb.
Here are some appearing on google search:
http://www.cheatsheet.com/money-caree...
http://www.investopedia.com/financial...
http://www.bloomberg.com/features/201...
I've no idea how accurate this data is.
If I look at kids, described in films, be it '8 mile' in US or 'Trainspotting' in UK and compare them with kids born to wealthy families, one may assume that the chances the former end up by 50 with a few mils at their accounts aren't that high.
According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America... In a 2013 poll by a YouGov, 41% of responders said it is impossible for most to achieve the American Dream, while 38% said it is still possible. Pretty close, I would say.
But polls aside, what do you think? And what in your understanding is American dream?


message 2: by Iridescent (new)

Iridescent (im_depressed) | 36 comments People who were born from wealthy families have a higher chance of making it compared to those who were born in poor neighborhoods. The American dream is real, but I don't think it's for everyone. It's only for those who can work hard, those who have a strong determination.


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 10760 comments Every now and again there is a weird oportunity, and if you are smart enough to take it, AND if you are lucky, AND if you get help from the right places, AND if you are ruthless enough, you can still get to immense wealth. Gates is an example - he got the most amazing concession from IBM imaginable, and there was no stopping him. Prior to that, he had all sorts of help, and as I recall at the time, his software was far from being the best available. He prevailed because of one sweet deal that should never have happened, so he had immense luck.

Now, go to the tents on Skid Row and tell me how these people could ever start from there and get rich?


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 213 comments Iridescent wrote: "It's only for those who can work hard, those who have a strong determination. "

Although I think this is a reasonable claim - success requires hard work and determination - it's a very dangerous statement because many people instantly flip to the converse, i.e. that if you don't succeed it's because you lack those qualities, i.e. it's your own fault.

Hard work and determination are necessary, but not sufficient, IMO. There are vast number of other factors that play in, and many people - maybe even the majority? - work their butts off and have huge determination but never realize their dream for one reason or another outside their span of control.

I think that intangible "being in the right place at the right time" has a lot to do with it. Successful people don't simply apply brute work and determination, they also have the ability to see where they need to be in order to maximize their chances of an opportunity opening up, and they work towards that. Even then, it's still a percentages game with no guarantees.


message 5: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) I would be inclined to say it's dead, but the existence of the Dream has always been subject to dispute. As early as F. Scott Fitzgerald's time, writers and scholars have voiced their criticism of the idea based on how persistent poverty is in the US, how the wealthy have an extremely disproportionate amount of power, and how social mobility seems to be exception, and not the rule.

Of course, that was back in 1920s, before the Great Depression and the Post War Boom. The reform seen in those decades and the single-greatest expansion of the working and middle class made the Dream seem like it was really happening. And now that we are facing similar conditions to those of the 1920s, it once again seems like the Dream is a mere advertisement designed to hide the terrible truth.


message 6: by Michel (last edited Dec 23, 2017 03:57PM) (new)

Michel Poulin One factor that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet: what I would call the 'silver spoon factor'. I mean by that all those (and there are many of them around the World) who owe their fortune/fame strictly to their family blood or inheritance/gifts from parents or relatives, instead of their personal work or merits. Examples would be: members of the British Royal Family or of any other royal families around the World; Donald Trump Junior; heirs/heiresses of big corporations/financial institutions; children of drug lords and many others. All these silver spoon people didn't have to prove themselves or seriously work (if at all) to live the big life. Mind you, that doesn't make all of them bad people, but I personally won't judge them only on their bank accounts or on how many luxury cars they own. On the other hand, I am sure that the readers could think of a few 'silver spoon people' for whom they have zero respect or admiration. All this just to say that riches doesn't necessarily equate personal success or merit.


message 7: by Matthew (last edited Dec 23, 2017 11:27PM) (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) Michel wrote: "One factor that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet: what I would call the 'silver spoon factor'. I mean by that all those (and there are many of them around the World) who owe their fortune/fa..."

What Michel said! It puts me in mind of a story Ivanka Trump related in one of her awful books, where she talked about how she and her poor brothers were not able to open a lemonade stand like "normal kids" because they lived in Trump tower. So they opened one in the tower and used their staff as customers. She offered this as an example of how she learned to make "the best out of a bad situation". What better example is there of an over-privileged person trying (and failing, laughably) to relate to "normal" people?


message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 10760 comments In fairness to Ivanka, anyone being brought up in Trump Tower would have a huge problem relating to the"average" person.

The problem with the silver spoon society is that mathematically (game theory) it is inevitable because some always succeed, and success breeds more success. Yes, some reasonably wealthy can fall by the wayside, nevertheless some will always continue to succeed and build up huge fortunes. Inheriting such a fortune is clearly the easiest way to get rich


message 9: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) I imagine it would be. The funny thing is, she attempts to do so in order to pretend that she's "just like everybody else". The only reason she is attempting to do that is so she can sell people on the idea that she somehow earned her own success, which is what wealthy people in America have always done. The myth of the "self-made man" has been used as much as the myth of the American Dream. They both hide the stark reality that those who are ahead started ahead, and that those who started behind but got ahead did so by cheating.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 10760 comments As for cheating, you only have to look at J D Rockefeller.


message 11: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Or Joe Kennedy, the patriarch of the famous Kennedy family, who got rich by buying back on the cheap shares of companies that failed following the Wall Street crash of 1929, and by selling illegal booze during the Prohibition.


message 12: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5791 comments What's the easiest way to get a great job? You have to have connections, and the rich are born with them. A rich kid graduates from college and, boom, a great job offer awaits. A kid from a poor or average background graduates from college, and there's no great job offer waiting. Luck and, as Ian said, being in the right place at the right time determine what happens next. Getting that one good break is when hard work and determination can put one on the path to success.


message 13: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) What did J D Rockefeller do? I remember hearing that the name rose to prominence during the Civil War through the manufacture and sale of guns.


message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 10760 comments What J D Rockefeller did was to start up Standard Oil. Basically, he found someone who had invented a way to refine oil, he got the rights to this process, then he more or less kicked the inventor out with nothing. at that point, Standard Oil was the only organization who knew how to refine it, and with the industrial revolution getting going, and later the invention of the internal combustion engine, a fortune was there for the taking. He was probably the richest man ever, in real terms, although, of course, it can be hard to tell. Another contender for richest man ever was Marcus Licinius Crassus.


message 15: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 14966 comments Iridescent wrote: "It's only for those who can work hard, those who have a strong determination. ..."

That's something I'll open a separate thread about


message 16: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 14966 comments Ian wrote: "lthough I think this is a reasonable claim - success requires hard work and determination - it's a very dangerous statement because many people instantly flip to the converse, i.e. that if you don't succeed it's because you lack those qualities, i.e. it's your own fault.

Hard work and determination are necessary, but not sufficient, IMO...."


Agree


message 17: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) Yeah, that's sounds like a classic "self-made man" story. Not sure who said it, but there's the claim that behind every great family in America is a great crime. I am hard pressed to think of examples that don't fit that pattern.


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