Sunday, August 06, 2017

Nobel Prize Winning Economist Robert Shiller On The American Dream And Its Changing Meaning

See The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’. Excerpts:
"This drift in meaning is significant, because the American Dream . . . represents core values. In the United States, these values affect major government decisions on housing, regulation and mortgage guarantees, and millions of private choices regarding whether to start a business, buy an ostentatious home or rent an apartment."

"Conflating the American dream with expensive housing has had dangerous consequences: It may have even contributed to the last housing bubble"

"what the American Dream entailed when the writer James Truslow Adams popularized it in 1931, in his book “The Epic of America.”
Mr. Adams emphasized ideals rather than material goods, a “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” And he clarified, “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a 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 recognized by others for what they are.”"

"By 1950, shortly after World War II and the triumph against fascism, it was still about freedom and equality."

"In the 1970s and ’80s, home builders used it extensively in advertisements, perhaps to make conspicuous consumption seem patriotic. 

Thanks in part to the deluge of advertisements, many people came to associate the American Dream with homeownership, with some unfortunate results. Increasing home sales became public policy. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Act, subsidizing home purchases during a period in which a housing bubble — the one that would lead to the 2008-9 financial crisis — was already growing at a 10 percent annual rate"

"This year, Forbes Magazine started what it calls the “American Dream Index.” It is based on seven statistical measures of material prosperity: bankruptcies, building permits, entrepreneurship, goods-producing employment, labor participation rate, layoffs and unemployment claims."

"Bringing back the fevered housing dream of a decade ago would not be in the public interest."

"But the last decade has shown that with a little encouragement, many can easily become excessively lustful about homeownership and wealth, to the detriment of our economy and society.

That’s the wrong way to go."

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