'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal' Watch

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Snake
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#61
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#61
(Original post by Bismarck)
The only Americans who are poor are either lazy, stupid, or a combination of the two (I'll make an exception for the seriously ill).
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Bismarck
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It was a brilliant, hot day on the Seattle waterfront, with unspoilt views across the sound to outlying islands.

Just beyond a stretch of grass where people lay with books and lovers, came the melody of live unaccompanied singing from deep within the bustle of the nearby Pike Market.

It turned out to be four men outside a cafe singing a love song about Cupid, each with different voice ranges, and a deep, swaying crowd, clapping along.

The Starbucks logo of the cafe struck me as a little old-fashioned until someone mentioned that this was the first Starbucks ever opened anywhere in the world.

I had come to Seattle because of a recent survey by the Centre for Economic Performance in London, on how easy or difficult it was to get rich in different parts of the world - or if not rich, at least move out of poverty.

"If you are born into poverty in the US," said one of its authors, "you are actually more likely to remain in poverty than in other countries in Europe, the Nordic countries, even Canada, which you would think would not be that different."

Possibilities

The study, together with general anti-American sentiment which has become more prevalent since the Iraq war, raised for me a question about the American dream - the idea that the United States is a place where anything is possible.

I had chosen Seattle not only because Starbucks was created there, but also because Microsoft and Amazon Books and Boeing airliners all come from this small city. Dreams, if you want, which began small but are now global brands.

"Great day, isn't it?" I turned to see the lined, and drawn face of a man I will call Dave.

"Are you getting what you want?"

We had met a couple of days earlier when he was having breakfast at a charity for the broke and homeless, and I had asked him if he believed in the American dream.

"The American dream," Dave said, eating a muffin and wiping his lips with a paper napkin.

"Well, it comes and goes. It will come again."

Winners and losers

In a low-ceilinged eating hall, maybe 100 men sat side by side along trestle tables.

They had queued up since five, registered in case there was any work, then ate while security guards watched over them in case there was trouble.
In Europe or just across the border in Canada, they would get social security, but this was America, where society is starkly divided into winners and losers.

Strangely, though, there seemed to be little resentment or blame of government. American culture is about self-reliance and the individual fighting a way through.

"The American dream," said one of the men, his eyes dartingly alive, his nose so skewed it must have been broken many times in different fights.

"I guess you are talking about a home, wife, children and all that."

"Do you have it?" I said.

"No. No. I don't. I had my opportunities, but I lost."

Control

Just up the road in a small print shop, a fit, thoughtful former air force officer, Bobby Ray Forbes, was slotting calendars into envelopes.

His life collapsed when his marriage went wrong. He had ended up on the street, but recently had managed to get a job and keep it.
"Oh sure, I have had the house, picket fence, two cars," he said.

"But I put myself in a position where the government could take control. Right now I am happy just being back in control. You see, what a lot of people do not know is that the key is not getting the American dream. It is holding onto it."

In Europe, the government is entwined with a lot of what we do, yet in America, I felt a sentiment that the more say the government has over you, the more you carry a sense of failure.

Yet millions still yearn to come and take up the challenge.

A million a year settle to start the process of becoming American citizens. Half a million actually take the oath.

Flag waving

At the landscaped Seattle centre, using cards and newspapers to shield themselves from the sun, rows and rows of immigrants at a naturalisation ceremony listened to local officials speak about various aspects of the American dream.

They came from everywhere: Britain, France, Iran, Iraq - the name of every country read out, to cheers, as if we were at the Oscars and, of course, the waving of American flags.

"Why do you want to live here and not in Europe?" I asked a young woman from Ethiopia, who tipped back her Seattle Mariners baseball cap and looked at me as if I were completely mad.

"Europe," she said disdainfully.

"What do they ever hope for in Europe? Here they have a law that you can dream to be happy."
Source

Despite the bias of the British reporter, I think the responses of the people he talked to show that the American dream is alive and well. For every negative thing the reporter says about the US or its people, he's shown to be wrong by by the very people he interviewed and the things he observed. He might think that reliance on the government is the humane thing, or that everybody must be a winner, but the American dream, which he dismisses, is the exact opposite. Everybody can be a winner, and reliance on the government is a clear example of someone who gives up. As the Ethiopian lady points out, in the US you always have hope that you can succeed, not resign yourself to the fact that if you fail you have the government to control your life.
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Howard
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#63
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(Original post by Beekeeper)
"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal..."
Well, clearly not all men since the blacks remained slaves for 80 odd years after this was written.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by Howard)
Well, clearly not all men since the blacks remained slaves for 80 odd years after this was written.
And men without property couldn't vote for 40 years, while women couldn't vote for 130.
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SolInvictus
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The US is probably the most open place in the world. This is the only country where a poor boy can wind up in Wall Street. In the US it is very difficult to place people in to a class, unlike the UK where Lord & Lady Quadruple-Barrelled-Last-Name get positions of power and priviledge easily, while Tom Thatcher has to pass up a university offer because he can't secure funding. Please, let us stop trying to make it out that the US is a country with little social mobility.
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Howard
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(Original post by Bismarck)
And men without property couldn't vote for 40 years, while women couldn't vote for 130.
Nothing wrong with that.
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Trier
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
The US is probably the most open place in the world. This is the only country where a poor boy can wind up in Wall Street. In the US it is very difficult to place people in to a class, unlike the UK where Lord & Lady Quadruple-Barrelled-Last-Name get positions of power and priviledge easily, while Tom Thatcher has to pass up a university offer because he can't secure funding. Please, let us stop trying to make it out that the US is a country with little social mobility.
Yes, but Beekeeper has shown that the facts do not show such mobility.

At worst, the opposite is true and at best- both countries are similar.

The nobility of Britain was crushed a long time ago- even minor royals have problems funding themselves nowadays.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by Trier)
Yes, but Beekeeper has shown that the facts do not show such mobility.

At worst, the opposite is true and at best- both countries are similar.

The nobility of Britain was crushed a long time ago- even minor royals have problems funding themselves nowadays.
The articles also show that mobility is possible for those who are willing to put in the effort. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a country where everyone is guaranteed a perfect life merely because they exist.
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SolInvictus
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(Original post by Trier)
Yes, but Beekeeper has shown that the facts do not show such mobility.

At worst, the opposite is true and at best- both countries are similar.

The nobility of Britain was crushed a long time ago- even minor royals have problems funding themselves nowadays.
That still doesn't prevent the best positions from going to those of high birth. My mother, who has worked in the financial world for some thiry years now told me that a collegue who returned from Britain said that all the top financial jobs go to "boys with titles or double-barelled names." Social mobility is easy here. All one has to do is apply to the local public university, and one can attend and get the funding that is needed.

Look at the Strand. I don't think you will find many executives who aren't related to the Duke of what-notington.

Edit: The study by Univ. of Mich. that was cited by beekeeper is a bit inaccurate. It attempts to compare changes in social level inaccurately. It does not account for the fact that the lower classes in Britain and Europe have been moveing up because of the dole/welfare system. I doubt that people in Europe are actually "earning" more than their parents, only that they get a bigger benefit payment.
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Trier
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(Original post by Bismarck)
The articles also show that mobility is possible for those who are willing to put in the effort. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a country where everyone is guaranteed a perfect life merely because they exist.
Clearly, then, you are suggesting that the average US citizen at the lower spectrum of society is lazier than the average British subject in a similar position?
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SolInvictus
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(Original post by Trier)
Clearly, then, you are suggesting that the average US citizen at the lower spectrum of society is lazier than the average British subject in a similar position?
The fact is that in the US, you are what you make yourself to be. If you have a bad job, its because you slacked of in school. Plain and simple. The poor and unemployed are lazy and make themselves stupid. The difference between Ralph Lauren and John Bumb, is one thing. Ralph Lauren worked hard to study and learn as much about clothing and fashion as he could. He made himself smarter in his field and expanded his knowledge. John Bumb watched Football all day, and couldn't care about learning anything relevant to the world or his success.
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Trier
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
That still doesn't prevent the best positions from going to those of high birth. My mother, who has worked in the financial world for some thiry years now told me that a collegue who returned from Britain said that all the top financial jobs go to "boys with titles or double-barelled names." Social mobility is easy here. All one has to do is apply to the local public university, and one can attend and get the funding that is needed.

Look at the Strand. I don't think you will find many executives who aren't related to the Duke of what-notington.
University is also easily attended in the UK.

I am not trying to pretend that there aren't problems with social mobility in the UK- but to say that it is much easier in the US seems delusional.

Just because the US does not have titles does not mean that family connections are very important in all aspects of life.

Even if you just glance at US politics- it is ludicrous that only a few families can dominate.

Money talks in the US, perhaps even more so than in the UK.
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Howard
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
The fact is that in the US, you are what you make yourself to be. If you have a bad job, its because you slacked of in school. Plain and simple. The poor and unemployed are lazy and make themselves stupid. The difference between Ralph Lauren and John Bumb, is one thing. Ralph Lauren worked hard to study and learn as much about clothing and fashion as he could. He made himself smarter in his field and expanded his knowledge. John Bumb watched Football all day, and couldn't care about learning anything relevant to the world or his success.
I don't think that the US is the Mecca for upward social mobility it once was. In fact, I've stumbled across lots of articles/reports recently that all point towards the erosion of this idea. Here's a fairly recent one:

http://www.economist.com/world/na/di...ory_id=3518560
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Trier
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
The fact is that in the US, you are what you make yourself to be. If you have a bad job, its because you slacked of in school. Plain and simple. The poor and unemployed are lazy and make themselves stupid. The difference between Ralph Lauren and John Bumb, is one thing. Ralph Lauren worked hard to study and learn as much about clothing and fashion as he could. He made himself smarter in his field and expanded his knowledge. John Bumb watched Football all day, and couldn't care about learning anything relevant to the world or his success.
Certainly.

But there are more Ralph Lauren's in the UK than the US.

Why?
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SolInvictus
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Please provide evidence that there are more Ralph Lauren's in the UK, and that social mobility is more present on your side of the atlantic.

In the South, I would definitely say that an oligarchy tends to hold power at the local and state levels. But this is not the overall trend in the US. I have yet to have found someone who has had money in their family for more than a few generations. Even the Kennedys have only had their wealth and prestige for three generations. You are far more likely to find families with long backgrounds of wealth or priviledge in the UK.
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SolInvictus
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One more note. All of the studies above use the "bottom fifth formula" (ie looking at the statistics of the lowest strata of society, and then comparing it to the statistics for the upper stratas.) But this "bottom fifth" in Europe or the UK is far more likely to be receiving more welfare and benefits than their US counterparts. As a result, the statistics are scewed somewhat.
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Trier
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
Please provide evidence that there are more Ralph Lauren's in the UK, and that social mobility is more present on your side of the atlantic.

In the South, I would definitely say that an oligarchy tends to hold power at the local and state levels. But this is not the overall trend in the US. I have yet to have found someone who has had money in their family for more than a few generations. Even the Kennedys have only had their wealth and prestige for three generations. You are far more likely to find families with long backgrounds of wealth or priviledge in the UK.
So three generations of wealth is not worrying?

This report outlines that both the US and the UK are very low on the scale of social mobility.

http://cep.lse.ac.uk/about/news/Inte...alMobility.pdf
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Trier
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(Original post by SolInvincitus)
One more note. All of the studies above use the "bottom fifth formula" (ie looking at the statistics of the lowest strata of society, and then comparing it to the statistics for the upper stratas.) But this "bottom fifth" in Europe or the UK is far more likely to be receiving more welfare and benefits than their US counterparts. As a result, the statistics are scewed somewhat.
I'm not sure what you are getting at........

The studies are showing social mobility i.e. totally moving from one strata to another.

Benefits should have little effect- unless you are suggesting they help people to move from one strata to another.
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SolInvictus
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So three generations of wealth is not worrying?
Three generations is the most it goes, and then it runs out. This is in contrast to the UK where some sixteen to thirty-two generations of a family have inherited wealth and priviledge? In addition, my point was that one of the richest and most influential families in the US only had it for three generations. Please make the same comparison as above.

Much of the lack of mobility is not that people cannot move up or down in the US, it is rather that they do not wish to. A great deal of class culture is at fault here. It is hevily driven in that people should 'stay with their kind' instead of moving up. However, there are no major class separations in the US, because it has rarely been more than two or three generations that a person has been removed from a poor farmer or a recent immigrant. The conversation amongst people of the US "upper" class and those of the "lower" class isn't different at all. They all talk about the same things, sports, celebrities, and things that happen in daily life. By contrast, in the UK, heavy preference and benefits are given to those of the upper class, and I doubt that it is easy for a dustman's son to mix and associate with the Lord and Lady of God-knows-whatshire. His Lordship would probably discuss what happened at last months hunting party at his country estate, while poor Mr. Dustman might try to discuss what happened on the last episode of Eastenders.
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SolInvictus
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(Original post by Trier)
I'm not sure what you are getting at........

The studies are showing social mobility i.e. totally moving from one strata to another.

Benefits should have little effect- unless you are suggesting they help people to move from one strata to another.
They definitley do. Welfare benefits can move a family that is in abject poverty to a more surviveable level. Lets say an American earns 550 or 600 quid a month, as did his father. He receives no benefits, and stays in his bracket, just liek dad. But the same man in the UK or Europe would get perhaps and extra 100 quid per month, making it appear that he is wealthier than his father who only got 550. You understand now how welfare benefits can change the statistics? thus, it would appear that the European/British man has made a 20% increase in wealth.
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