The American Dream

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The American Dream & Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”

While the American Dream is different for everyone, it is most associated with the hope and belief that one can achieve success and freedom in the United States, which leads to happiness. America would provide the opportunity for people to grow and have a prosperous life with a lot of money, a good job, and expensive possessions. However, there is much debate whether or not such a “dream” of a life is possible. While many in today’s society all hope and strive for this dream, the likelihood of achieving it is very slim. Therefore, by studying American society today, evidence seems to indicate that the dream is merely a myth. With the large degree of inequality and poverty in the United States, the American Dream is deemed a falsehood.

My opinion about the American Dream being a myth or truth has somewhat changed during the course of this semester. At the beginning, I had believed that the American Dream was less likely in today’s society because of my awareness of the current economic recession and ongoing debate about racial and gender inequality, which is predominately evident in positions of power such as presidency. However, throughout the semester, I was exposed to a plethora of detailed information about the true, hard reality many Americans face today. The inequality is far larger than I had ever imagined. Studying the current poverty circumstances and statistics in education also helped me realize that the country was certainly not in good shape, and the American Dream was beyond the reach of almost the entire country. Therefore, the course helped support my prior opinion that the American Dream is simply a myth.

American ecologist Garrett Hardin claimed “the good of the many outweigh the good of the individual” in his article “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In his quote, Hardin was referencing a current challenge and conflict society faces today. The “commons,” which are the shared lands and resources, are available to many people, however they are limited and exploited. This is because each person is only concerned for his or her own interests and benefits, and believe the mentality “every man for himself.” Hardin claims we must push through our natural tendency in order to improve society and believe in the Utilitarianism, maximizing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. By sociologically studying society today, in most cases Hardin is correct in assuming that public benefit should outweigh individual advantages, but this is hardly ever reality. In this sense, if Hardin’s propositions were considered, the American Dream would be significantly more achievable. Most situations must be looked at from Hardin’s point of view, or else America will continue in a downward spiral. The current condition in the United States does not follow this mentality, and instead grave inequality and poverty sweeps the nation, which suppresses the country’s ability to move forward and grow stronger.

In America, according to C. Wright Mills in ‘The Power Elite,’ the three sectors of the “Power Elite” are who dominate. He argued that the “Power Elite,” a small group of men within the political, military and corporate spheres, were the ones who made the decisions that reverberated into all areas of American life (Ferguson 399). With such centralized, large, and expensive sectors existing, it makes it difficult for a strong democracy to coexist with the corporate elites. Leaders who make decisions that do not always take into consideration the good of the many, dominate each sector. Instead, these leaders and owners are placed on a pedestal of wealth and power while most everyone else suffers. According to Karl Marx, the American capitalistic system breeds great inequality in power and wealth (Ferguson 472). Because there are a limited amount of resources, as Hardin pointed out, capitalism is inherently unstable. While there are people at the top, they will...
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