American Dream vs. God Research Proposal

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American & God's Dream

The American Dream and God's Dream: Are they Compatible?

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Americans love to talk about the American dream. In fact, the belief that anyone in America can become a success is at the very heart of what it means to be American and feel patriotic, even if different Americans have different ways of defining that success. However, there is a central belief that hard work and perseverance can lead to success, because America is a land of limitless opportunities. Traditionally, the American dream was tied to economic gains: early immigrants fled their countries of origin to get to America, so that they could provide their families with new levels of economic security. In fact, many new immigrants to the United States consider economic prosperity to be part of their American dreams. However, the American dream encompasses more than monetary opportunity; it also reflects values that Americans believe are unique to America. These values include a commitment to democracy, freedom of speech, religious freedom, and freedom from governmental interference. Many Americans believe that these freedoms are an invaluable part of the American dream, and believe that there is no other country in the world where people can be as free as America. In fact, when one looks at many of today's modern immigrants, one can see that some people are seeking more than economic opportunities when they come to America. In addition, many native-born Americans are unaware that their economic opportunities are much greater than those experienced by people elsewhere in the world. When they discuss what makes America unique, they are unlikely to discuss its relative prosperity, but to emphasize personal liberties. The combination of those two factors: economic opportunity and personal liberties make up the two main components of the American dream.

Research Proposal on American Dream vs. God's Dream Assignment

While the American dream continues to be the topic of much discussion, few people discuss God's dream. After all, in a country that prides itself on freedom of religion, it would be presumptuous for any one person or religion to attempt to define God's dream for people. However, the reality is that all religious traditions discuss the same central themes, when discussing what God wants for his followers. God values individual freedoms, like liberty; in holy writings, slavery of any sort is described in a negative manner. God also values charity; all religious traditions have a history of honoring those who are charitable. God cares for the downtrodden; religious works are full of stories where God lifts up the underdog to defeat the oppressor.

On the surface, it would seem that the American dream and God's dream are compatible. God's dream seems to be that all of His children will live in prosperity, while the American dream offers prosperity to all who work hard enough. God's dream is for people to live free from slavery and oppression, which is part of the American dream. Moreover, while friendliness and neighborliness are not formally incorporated into the American dream, the reality is that Americans pride themselves on being friendlier and more likely to help others than people from other countries. Therefore, it would seem that the American dream and God's dream are completely compatible. However, if that were the case, then why would the wealthiest country in the world still have millions of people living in abject poverty? To understand that, one must first investigate whether average Americans can still achieve the American dream.

The American Nightmare

While America may be the land of limitless opportunity, it is also a land with a deep and shameful history of racial, sexual, and economic oppression. For every oil baron or robber tycoon that made a historic fortune after immigrating to America, there are hundreds of untold stories of people who came here only to toil in the same type of misery and horror that they faced in their native lands. Of course, the most obvious example of this exploitation is slavery. While slavery no longer still exists in the United States, it is fallacious to assume that the vestiges of slavery have disappeared. The reality is that America has not recovered from the history of slavery. African-Americans continue to live in greater poverty than non-African-Americans and even the most generous observers have to acknowledge that certain institutions have perpetuated this disparity. Traditionally African-American communities continue to have poorer educational and social resources than non-African-American communities, which has perpetuated a cycle of poverty. Though some African-Americans are able to access the American dream, as demonstrated by the recent election of a truly African-American male as the president, the reality is that many of them continue to be ill-prepared to compete in today's highly competitive market environment. Moreover, with the recent huge influx of Hispanics and Latin Americans into the United States, there has come a creation of another racially-indicated group of service people into the United States. Because many Latin Americans seeking to immigrant to the United States are unable to do so legally, they do so illegally. Their illegal status makes them unable to seek regular jobs, which means that they are relegated to service jobs, where their undocumented status makes them vulnerable to low wages, no benefits, and other forms of labor exploitation. Furthermore, the availability of such cheap labor has actually helped make the prosperity of the American dream, with its trappings of lawn workers and domestic help, a reality for other Americans.

Racial exploitation is only one way in which society perpetuates economic disadvantage. There is also a history of social exploitation. For example, the American way of life is dependent upon truckers and other blue collar laborers. However, "even though most of our consumer goods are brought to us by truck and the prices would skyrocket if subject to other forms of transportation, the occupation does not enjoy high social status." (Mills, p.77). There is a distinct social stigma against truckers, which is reflected in popular culture references that exploit the seamier aspects of the profession. (Mills, p.77). While truckers can make a lot of money, they are still saddled with social stigma, and this problem permeates many of the higher-paying service industries. This stigma also provides a cap on earning potential. While blue collar workers can earn middle-class salaries, those salaries are firmly rooted in the middle class range, with no economic or social opportunities to transcend the middle class.

In addition, America exploitation does not end in America. Americans use a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and this takes a toll on people elsewhere in the world. Advocates of the free market suggest that its benefits will trickle down in a form of distributive justice. The distributive justice theory begs two questions: "(1) who shall receive society's benefits and burdens? And (2) what is the ground or principle for the distribution of those benefits and burdens?" (Van Til, p.34-35). All too often, the people who receive society's benefits are not the same who receive society's burdens. Increasing the free market will not necessarily remedy that situation. Van Til gives six reasons suggesting that increasing the free market is not good for the poor:

First, the assumption that an extension of the market will lead to conditions of constantly increasing welfare is not necessarily true. Second, the strategy of rational satisfaction of an individual's ordered preferences may not result in the greatest good for all. Third, mainstream economic theory does not change initial endowments; it takes them as given. Fourth, the definition of economic good as articulated in Pareto optimally (the situation in which all desired trades have been made) does not require or imply that we will satisfy the claim of basic sustenance. Fifth, the economic concept of value, especially as seen in money measurement, does not in itself respond to claims based on the need for basic sustenance. Finally, mainstream economic theory sees the needs and preferences of different individuals as "incomparable," and therefore it is impossible to prioritize among wants and needs. (Van Til, p. 40).

These arguments are even more salient when one considers them from a global point-of-view, because the exploitation of America's poor leads to social problems in America, like high crime rates, while the exploitation of workers in other parts of the world does not create social problems that impact the daily lives of most Americans. On the contrary, these problems remain relatively invisible, but can impact America in a major way. While unwilling to suggest that America deserved the terrorist attacks of 9-11, anyone who looks at how American capitalism has perpetuated a sense that Americans have an arrogant sense of entitlement among non-Americans, has to understand that this exploitation is helping to create a very negative attitude towards Americans. This negative attitude can lead to an increased reluctance to engage in business with the United States, which could eventually impact the ability of middle-class Americans to achieve the American dream.

The Economic Aspect of the American Dream

While financial prosperity has always been a part of the American dream, American's have become increasingly… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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