American Dream

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For the conspiracy theory promoting movie, see The American Dream (film)
A billboard promoting the American Dream during the Great Depression.
You gotta spin it to win it
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Stop the presses!
We want pictures
of Spider-Man!
Extra! Extra!
The dismal science
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Economic systems

  $  Free market
  €  Social democracy
  ☭ Socialist economy

Major concepts
The worldly philosophers
It's called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it.
George Carlin,[1] the guy who realized the American Dream for himself
Sadly, the American dream is dead.
Donald Trump,[2] the greatest orange president of America

The American Dream means the American value and common political promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". It aims to create and/or maintain a United States where any American contributing to the common good can live a satisfactory lifestyle. In particular it promises that community-contributing Americans can securely acquire basic life necessities, and further pursue their dreams through making the right choices. Part of this equal opportunity ethos includes encouragement for immigrants to find health and wealth in the USA. However as the "American Dream" is elusive to much most of the US population, immigrants often end up as short-handed suckers working in the back of a gas station for well below the cost of living, before a 2 hour commute to a crowded, multi-family home.

The stereotypical "American dream" is widespread ownership rates of suburban homes with white-picket fences, nuclear families each with a couple children and a pet dog, ice cream dates in High School, a smiling wife who casually holds a shotgun while watching her husband cook BBQ in the backyard, and a strong happy, community.


James Truslow Adams popularized the term in his 1931 book Epic of America.[3]

In the 1950s, television shows of the era, such as Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver, promoted the American Dream. These programs displayed a supposedly honest, suburban lifestyle. In this scenario, the father was the head of the household and the pinnacle of knowledge. The mother had no interest in working outside the home. Instead, she did the household chores, aided by all the fancy new gadgets that made housework a breeze. In a change from before World War II, smaller families were encouraged, with two or three children being the new norm.[4] Lifestyles and standards of living may change, but the fundamental concept of the American Dream remains the same.

While influential during the fifties, the Dream concept came under some criticism from hippies and associated radicals during the sixties for supposedly placing too much importance on the accumulation of material wealth. This is somewhat ironic, since the definition of the American Dream does not necessarily have anything to do with becoming wealthy; it is all about having a better life and realizing one's aspirational dream(s).

Works such as Arthur Miller's The Death of a Salesman (1949) point out that people may have difficulty in achieving this idealized lifestyle.

The 50s[edit]

Today, the 1950s brings up nostalgia of an golden age for extreme members in the Republican Party, replacing the Gilded Age (this being the golden age of 1950s conservatives). It is interesting to note that the man in charge at the time was responsible for the Interstate Highway System, NASA, the expansion of Social Security, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the combating racial segregation in Arkansas, the 90%* marginal income tax for top earners,[note 1] and warned against a "military-industrial complex."[note 2] These Republicans are not necessarily wrong, but not in the way they expect.

Chinese copycat[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Chinese Dream

Perhaps the most contemptible derivative the American Dream can be found in Red China, where the "Chinese Dream" has been adopted by Xi Jinping as a government slogan. It essentially boils down to "hey, here's some more money in your pockets so you can handwave the abuses of our dictatorship for a few more years." On the national level, the Chinese Dream seems dangerously expansionist, given China's territorial ambitions in Asia and quest for regional, then global hegemony, subverting democracy in the process.

Not to be confused with[edit]

  • "Americone Dream," Ben & Jerry's ice cream tribute to Stephen Colbert
  • Virgil "Dusty" Rhodes, a professional wrestler whose ring nickname was "The American Dream" ]eef you weeeel...

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. For reference, Republicans freaked out when Obama let it return to an astonishing... 39.6 percent. *Not what the rich actually paid for their full income, just the last tier.
  2. To be fair, there are a number of side benefits associated with this, including massive investments in academic research, both pure and applied, thanks to the experience of the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II, and the wonders of peace through military strength.


  1. Carlin on the American Dream
  2. Donald Trump: "The American Dream is Dead" (2015)
  3. The American Dream - "James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is '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 a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. 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.' (p.214-215)"
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Baby boomers.