There’s been a bit of confusion as to the American Dream lately. And by lately, I mean “over the last several decades.”
Through the years, both parties have drifted towards the idea of a democracy, and with that shift they have increasingly catered to the majority. After all, if you want a democracy to succeed, that’s how you do business: via majority.
There’s a problem with this mindset, though. Amidst all the talk of the Constitution and the vision of the founding fathers is the idea of a constitutional republic, something foreign to the minds of every American because we left off teaching that in the public schools years ago.
The governing process is very simple, really: we have a constitution, a rule of law, that sets the boundaries for government and sets forth the rights of a society. There are multiple laws and amendments restricting the Congress from being unnecessarily invasive in the lives of private citizens – and for good reason, too. Historically, as countries grow and become powerful (economically and militarily), governments have become corrupt and start to intervene in the lives of its citizens. The founders knew this tendency, and sought to prevent this via the Constitution. Thus they gave us a Constitutional Republic – the head of state and elected officials are representative of the people. They are elected to govern according to the rule of law and to represent the ideas of their constituents. In essence, the structure is bottom-up, not top-down.
We’ve gotten away from this idea over the last few decades. Admittedly, even President Reagan promoted the idea of democracy, as if democratic “rule by the majority” was the ideal form of government.
We don’t have to look far to see if this system fails. We could talk about how Athens fell over 2000 years ago, but we could also look internally and see the steady regression of our country due to internal failures, which are ultimately due to our democratic tendencies.
If we wish to save the American Dream, we must remember what this dream was. The dream was founded upon the idea of freedom – “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Would that Lincoln had qualified that statement, as those famous words are now often thought to define Democracy. Lincoln was right, of course, but there was more that could be added: Government of the people, yes. Government by the people, yes. Government for the people, yes…. BUT, Government also regulated by the Constitution – restricting the power of the people.
Today the American Dream is to have the proceeds and benefits of hard work handed down to us because we are entitled to them, not because we worked for them. The American Dream is to have not just a chicken in every pot, but an HDTV complete with Cable and Playstation in every living room, paid for by the Government Welfare Program. The American Dream is free healthcare, and free food if the government will give it to us.
But fellow Americans, this was not the dream of your forefathers. This was not the dream of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, nor of Abraham Lincoln for that matter. Their dream was of a country unbridled by government oppression. Their dream was of a nation full of hard-working individuals who have the freedom to make their own choices and reap the rewards of their labors. Their dream was for any and every American to choose their own destiny and to be able to climb the economic ladder of opportunity as high as they so desired. Their dream was for you and I to be able to make those choices and learn and grow from the consequences, whether they be good or bad.
Their American Dream started with the idea of a limited government, the definition of a Constitutional Republic. The American Dream can still be achieved, but it begins with redefining our system of government. We must realize that we are severely off-track, and know that if we don’t make this transition soon, the American Dream will belong to the ash heap of history. And if that happens – if we fail to institute true hope and change and restore government back to the people and away from Washington D.C. … if we fail to limit the rule and role of government, then we must hope that from the ashes, a phoenix will rise again.