Monday, May 7, 2018

The American Dream

At the height of the immigration debate early in 2017, an op-ed published in the Hunterdon County Democrat opined that The promise of the American Dream is in jeopardy. Kira T. Lawrence opens with;

President Donald Trump administration's xenophobic attacks on refugees and immigrants are antithetical to the bedrock values of our nation. They erode our moral standing. They encourage and embolden our enemies and thereby threaten our national security. This is not who we are as a people.

Though a little vague, I agree with the basic sentiment. Trump’s hostility toward immigration is fundamentally opposed to America’s bedrock values. Lawrence goes on;

I grew up learning about an America history defined by the principles of hope, freedom, respect, and opportunity.

This needs clarification. Yes. A hope for a better life based on freedom and respect for the unalienable rights of the individual to his life, liberty, and pursuit of personal happiness is the essence of the American Dream. I have a problem with the last part . . . the “and opportunity.” There is no and opportunity: The freedom is the opportunity. Critically—and though it is implicit in the right to life—one must explicitly add the right to property. Earned property—the material product of one’s own mental and physical labor.

Adam Mossoff puts it succinctly in a Townhall piece, Patents Are Property Rights, Not A “Bizarre Regulatory Lobby”;

On the basis of this classic moral justification for all property rights — that people should have the fruits of their productive labors secured to them as their property — early American legislators and judges secured stable and effective property rights to innovators and creators.

This was part-and-parcel of American exceptionalism.

Mossoff’s piece was focussed on intellectual property rights. But as he understood, the basic principle of rights extends to all earned property.

Back to lawrence, she cites specific personal experiences of people coming to America to escape political and religious oppression or crippling economic destitution—all for the opportunity that freedom and a protective government offered in the way of hope. But;

All of us Americans, save our fellow citizens who are Native Americans, have similar stories. The dates, names, and countries of origin may differ, but the reasons for seeking our shores -- to escape the nightmares of war, violence, famine, and religious persecution and to chase the American Dream -- have not changed.

Why exclude Native Americans, aka American Indians? True, they didn’t literally “come to our shores.” They were already here. And true, the treatment of the Indians by European immigrants was often brutally inhumane. But the Indians didn’t enjoy individual freedom, either. They lived in a tribal “society” that also included “the nightmares of war, violence, famine, and religious persecution.” Yes, it took until the 1920s before American Indians received their full rightful American citizenship. History is messy. But can anyone truly say that life for everyone, including American Indians, is not superior in individual rights-guaranteed America than in any oppressive tribal existence, wherever and however it is manifested?

Lawrence concludes;

If we fail to honor our history, we betray the legacy of our ancestors. If we fail to defend and uphold our core values of freedom, respect, and opportunity, which have made our country a beacon of hope and prosperity around the world, we fundamentally jeopardize the enduring promise of the American Dream.

And we must remember that the American Dream is not some guarantee of prosperity or happiness. It is not the promise of the proverbial house with the white picket fence in the suburbs. It is simply the freedom of all individuals, working and trading, freely expressing themselves, living by their own conscientious beliefs, to pursue prosperity and happiness guaranteed by the unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of one’s own chosen values and goals--the unimpeded pursuit of happiness. It is the guarantee of political equality--that is, equality for all, rich and poor, young and old, of whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.--that is only possible through equality before the law. It is intellectual, economic, and political freedom all wrapped up into one social system.

That, and only that--the hope and opportunity afforded by freedom based on individual rights--is the American Dream.

Related Reading:

The Declaration of Independence

1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

Conscientious beliefs which fall outside individual rights have no place in law and government. People can have and voice such beliefs, but those beliefs have no place in law and government.

When people with such beliefs are elected or appointed to governmental office, then act by those beliefs, they're acting outside law and government. They infest, infect and displace law and government with crime under the trappings, or appearance, of law and government. They have no right to do that, even if they do have the right to have and voice such beliefs. They have no place in law and government.

They can't be eliminated any more than any other criminals can be, but they must be the most severely controlled of all criminals. We lack that severe control in our system. Immigration policy must be part of that control. Vetting for citizenship, if not for immigration itself, must be severe.