The world followed the United States in the 20th century primarily because it was the world’s leading democracy, not so much because of its economic and military might. Only a return to this democratic strength will assure America’s success in the future.
At the heart of this democratic leadership was always the “American Dream:” the proverbial possibility for all citizens and immigrants to work their way up from dishwasher to millionaire. It involved basic democratic elements of an entrepreneurial and fair society: equality of opportunity with social mobility, free markets and entrepreneurial spirit, personal liberty and security.
The attractiveness of the American way of life is evident in its high level of immigration from throughout the world.
In just the quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall – which gave rise to a new wave of globalization – some 25 million persons immigrated legally into the United States. Even those who didn’t become millionaires could, with sufficient effort, lead a fulfilling, socially and economically attractive life, with each generation doing better than the one before.
But for a couple of years now, that is over. Even with last year’s vigorous rise in personal wealth, the average real income of U.S. households is still significantly less than its peak in 1999. The shrinking middle class and poorer sectors of society experienced a disproportionate decline. During the last 30 years, only families with high incomes enjoyed significant growth in real income.