Did America Ever Really Work?
umair haque

Life, Liberty and Happiness are not economic criteria. Economically of course America has at stages worked in terms of delivering rising living standards even broadly.

In the study of American Culture we call the gap between the promise of American Ideals and the reality, the Ivy Gap. It’s always been there. But it’s a recognized academic concept. Many academics make the case that that gap is smaller now than ever before.

America does still offer class mobility up to a point, although it could be argued that other countries have gotten much better at it.

The historical division you made doesn’t hold water. You are mixing the idea of culturally or morally working with economically working and then projecting that onto the idea of broadly rising living standards. That’s pretty specious in terms of what value it has analytically either to an economist or a historian.

The Gupta Empires or the regime of William the Conqueror were also not working modern societies.

It is absolutely true that pre-modern America was not a working society in the modern sense. It was a working pre-modern society. Also, water is wet, fire is hot, and the stars at night are bright, etc.

By your rationale here any society with injustice isn’t a working society, therefore every society which has existed was not working and never worked. Even growing societies which have not reached their Niveau. This is tautologically wide enough a net to make a true statement, or at least not be an outright lie, but it’s not useful. Except as propaganda…

So, I would certainly object. Any student of American history worth their salt would. The whole thing is an oversimplified strawman. It’s not sound in terms of the economic history of the US, or the political history. It doesn’t need holes poked in it. It’s a colander, dressed up as an argument. Your link between segregation and stagnation is imaginary.

Your oversimplification on economic stagnation ignores a few important details. Starting with the industrial revolution, the closing of the frontier, the agrarian collapse of the 20th century couple with the rise of factory farming, overseas competition recovering from 2 world wars, global trade recovering from 2 world wars, the investment class’ drive to outsource to take advantage of the world’s recovery, increased production efficiency and production automation. And especially the American Neo-liberal experiment with more and more free trade which also began just prior to the stagnation of the American median wage.

American stagnation didn’t arise because of the end of segregation as segregation was not in itself an actual economic good. Slavery created wealth. It was certainly filthier than normal capitalist wealth. It was still agricultural wealth. But Segregation? It had no economic benefit to the United States as a global industrial competitor. Daingerfield Steel was exploiting and oppressing their white and black workers throughout the 1950’s and beyond.

There are some of your holes.

The American Dream never was at all? That’s as much a piece of propaganda as someone who says that the Dream was absolutely for everyone. The American Dream was and is complicated. It’s a lottery ticket. “There are no failed Americans, just Americans who haven’t made it yet.” 
Of course there are people who never make it. You talk as if no one did. The historically accurate story is complicated as life can be and as complicated as American History can be even though it’s short. And you do not even approach it here.

In your theorizing, you not only ignored actual reasons why American productivity advantage relative to other nations is less than it was but that in terms of absolute productivity, it’s still sky high. What’s the implication there? It’s not an American slide, it’s that other nations are on the up. That’s also not good or moral. It’s simply an economic statement. Did that not fit in your over-simplification to make a specious point? Obviously not.

You imply that America’s colonialization didn’t chew up labour regardless of the group identity, or especially that the industrial revolution in America wasn’t exploitative of some groups of workers, over others, when it destroyed the lives of so many in the transition. Then you ignore places like Detroit where the relative difference in living standards between an auto worker and a sharecropper made their lives universes apart, regardless of their race.

All capitalist economies rely on some form of unequal balance. The owners pay the workers, and the less they pay them, the more they make themselves. All such systems are exploitative to one degree or another. Are you expecting a nobel prize in economics for discovering this? Don’t hold your breath.

And why didn’t America receive a universal health care plan in the 1970’s from arch villain President Nixon? Who were the main antagonists to the idea? The AMA and the Unions of which you speak so highly. They killed that dream, our Doctors and our Workers and our Democratic Party. Did you skip that? Or didn’t you know it?

If you are going to do a historical analysis, then do one. You’ll actually have to learn the history first.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.