That Dream

04 May 2012

Joseph Stiglitz for The European:

What is happening to most citizens in a country? When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. … The economic system is not delivering.

The American Dream has been shattered.1 It is no longer conceivable to imagine ourselves, in the 21st Century, as possible of attaining even an ounce of our once immeasurable capacity, let alone fulfilling the promise of greatness that this democracy was founded upon. We live and work and survive because capitalism demands it, but this system finds no intrinsic value in the human being. It is only our capacity to produce that permits our survival.

Our wealth, our money, our debts have become the chains by which we are bound, but not to each other. “Welfare state” has become a dirty word which politicians throw at each other, instead of clinging to as a battle cry behind which to rally forces. But why should our fates be separate from each other? Why is it somehow noble to rise and fall with an economy run by exchanges of wealth and private corporations?

There is a once-simple truth that has become obfuscated by debit cards and credit limits and bank loans and stock markets. It is a notion that, very soon, may only be possible metaphorically and, thus, even easier to forget.

Money burns.

Even in a bank account, even on Wall Street, money can still be let go of.

It is not yet the time for that to happen. This crisis, although terrible, is not at that apex – not yet, anyway – but we should try to remember that money is simply numbers on paper and accounts with a bank. It only has the importance that we give it and we need to ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, whether that valuation is worthy of humanity.

(Via The Morning News)

  1. “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. … It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” -James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America