Throwback: The Horatio-Alger Myth

The following is a blog I wrote on November 2nd, 2010. Oldie, but goodie. I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve pulled a good amount of troops out of the middle east almost two years since I wrote this. 🙂


The Horatio-Alger Myth emphasizes that with dedication and a little elbow grease, anyone can move up in life and achieve the American Dream. As Americans, we value our negative freedom to be left alone so that we can all do our own thing and live up to our own potential. This negative freedom coexists with “equal opportunity” or an equal playing field for all. Although Socialism is valued in many other countries, Americans see it as ‘the devil’ and believe that the government should stay out of our personal lives, because with their own hard work, any American can achieve anything they set their mind to.

I’m writing to proclaim that this myth is false. Although equal opportunity is a great idea to advocate, I think that equal outcomes are more important. What good is the right to an attorney when only a few people can afford to hire an attorney? What good is the right to a free and public education when the government keeps cutting the higher education budget, and more and more college students need to pull out loans? In these cases, only the wealthy and privileged “classes” (For lack of a better term) are truly able to enjoy these “equal opportunities” and live up to the Horatio-Alger Myth. In the words of George Orwell in his book, Animal Farm, “All animals are born equal, but some are more equal than others.”

In a country where the income gap between the rich and the poor is growing greater in disparity, it is important that we focus on these issues. Although I believe that hard work can create more opportunities for people to advance, I also see that there are some circumstances that inhibit a person from gaining equal access to a successful life.

In response to this problem, there should be more access to higher education for lower income students, whether if that be through increased funding for grants, loans, or scholarships. There are so many unbelievably gifted and intellectual people I have met in my lifetime who want to go to college, but never did because they couldn’t afford it. They shouldn’t be limited just because they don’t have the money. Although this looks like a sort of redistribution program I’m talking about, it’s not necessarily what I am advocating. I hate the welfare system, and I only feel that certain families with very strict qualifications should be entitled to assistance; but increasing funding for students to pursue a college career would definitely close the growing gap between the rich and the poor. It would be nice to know that our GDP growth is happening at all levels, and not just at the top.

This funding would not come from increasing taxes; rather I will bring up a more controversial idea that all the candidates running in our election today failed to mention.

Particularly the candidates for the Senate and the House addressed the ever-growing deficit, and how crucial it is for us to eliminate it. They address the crumbling education system, but how little funds we have for it. But they never once mention the war going on overseas. We’ve spent billions of dollars in the past 10 years fighting this war. For what reason—No one really knows anymore. I think it’s clear that we’re depleting our resources to afford this war, and it’s irrational for us to continue. A just war is one with a just cause; this war has no cause. A just war causes as much harm proportional to the amount of good that comes out of it; we’re clearly crippling our economy for this. It’s not right for us at home to live our daily lives as if thousands people are not perishing overseas. It’s not right for less than a fraction of a percent of the population to serve in the armed forces and fight this war, when polls show that a majority of them don’t even support the war. What are we trying to accomplish!? We haven’t made any progress. I think it’s time for this war to end, and for the revenues to go toward our internal affairs. I believe in just war; I don’t believe that this war is just.


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