The real American dream was access to education. No longer
Pandemic or not, it’s hardly likely that Donald Trump will change his publicly stated view on America’s great burdens.
But instead of ranting at the world’s unfairness to the “greatest” nation on earth, Donald Trump should get one of his sidekicks to read up on the late Gary Becker’s work on the link between education and income.
Becker was a young American economist. Back in the 1950s he took a good long look at corporate and government investment in human knowledge and skills and the way it was changing the US.
After World War II, the GI Bill was helping millions of Americans complete high school and go to university.
Educational levels were rising, along with ability, competence and a propensity to invest individually in human capital.
This meant smaller families – rather than having lots of children, parents invested more in the child or children they had.
And it meant a societal interest in access to public education.
In short, the acquisition of knowledge became the cornerstone of American growth and prosperity.
To some extent, this was echoed in South Korea and China, as Becker noted. They educated their people, an investment that paid back handsomely.
Now, contrast that American dream – education and ability – with the ignorant victims’ spiel of Trump and his supporters. It’s a nightmare. And the nightmare is in their not knowing what they don’t know.