Book Review: The American Dream Is Not Dead (But Populism Could Kill It)

Populists on both sides of the political aisle routinely announce that the American dream is dead. According to them, the game has been rigged by elites, workers cannot get ahead, wages have been stagnant for decades, the middle class is dying, and life was generally better in the past.

Michael R. Strain disputes this rhetoric as both wrong and dangerous. In this succinctly argued volume, he shows that, on measures of economic opportunity and quality of life, there has never been a better time to be alive in America. He backs his argument with overwhelming — and underreported — data to show how the facts favor realistic optimism.

He warns, however, that the false prophets of populism pose a serious danger to our current and future prosperity. Their erroneous claim that the American dream is dead could discourage people from taking advantage of real opportunities to better their lives. And if enough people start to believe the dream is dead, they could, in effect, kill it. To prevent this self-fulfilling prophecy, Strain’s book is urgent reading for anyone feeling the pull of the populists.

Essays from Henry Olsen and E. J. Dionne provide spirited responses to Strain’s argument, setting the stage for an open and ongoing conversation about this critically important topic.

Preorder the book.

Available February 28, 2020

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