Thursday, February 14, 2008

America--Land of Opportunity

Here's another uplifting story describing in part why I love America.

But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty. (emphasis mine--Darren)

You can read a book like Ms. Ehrenreich's, or Howard Zinn's (A People's History of the United States) and conclude that America is a miserable place where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the oppressors oppress. Or, you can read Shepard's story and see that America presents opportunities to those who will take them.


Allen said...

re: "A People's History of the United States"

You can now get Schweikart and Allen's "A Patriot's History of the United States" for about $8.00 at Barnes and Noble. I bought a number of copies for myself and relatives.

Erica said...

I've known a number of people who have made millions, lost it all, and been back in millions within a few years. I know people who've never made it above the teens, and probably never will.

It's all about the mindset, and thank heavens we live in a country that allows those with the right mindset to succeed.

dzbuddy said...

I don't know whether to be annoyed, flattered or just remark on the coincidence but this "allen" is not the guy whose been posting under "allen" for some time. That's me.

I'm guessing my blog, such as it is, isn't as easily duplicable.

Oh, and I never read Schweikart and Allen's "A Patriot's History of the United States". I did read "Why Johnny Can't Read" and bought couple of copies for some friends.

sailorman said...

It's pretty funny. Shepherd honestly thinks that he has no advantages from his education or background. And of course he doesn't... except, of course, his presumed literacy skills; his health; his confidence; his speech and grammar; and his knowledge. Not to mention the fact that he's white, and male, and young.

But by far the most amusing irony is that he leaves after 70 days because a family member gets sick. In a common incidence of bad reporting, neither he, nor the interviewer, seem to think that's unusual.

In the real world, however, this sort of thing can't be escaped. He'd either need to go help his sick family member or not.

In fact, it'd have been fascinating to see him struggle to decide between losing all his savings, or selling his truck, or losing his rent, and going to see his sick family--if he can afford the gas.

And perhaps he'd contribute to their medical care (does his fake "reality" include having health insurance for himself and/or his family members?) When he was done, he could start from scratch. Or start from a position of being in debt; medical care isn't cheap, and neither is travel. Wouldn't that be fun? And realistic?

Look, obviously people CAN and DO "make it" in society. But this story is so obviously non-representative that it boggles the mind to see it put forth as "proof" that this is easy, or common, or even reasonable to expect.

70 days *is not that long.* 70 days without anything major going on *is not representative.*

Anonymous said...

Sailorman, read the article again. He spent 70 days in a shelter. The entire experiment lasted 10 months.

Allen (from Hawaii) said...

to dzbuddy:

My name just happens to be Allen - didn't realize someone else posted comments with it. I've posted comments here once or twice before.

I'll sign as something else from now on

allen (from Michigan) said...

Don't sweat it. Plenty of room. No trouble making a modest accommodation.

And accept my apology for a flip response which was in no way warranted.

The shortcoming of stories like Mr. Shepard's is they offer scant fodder for cheap moral outrage of the sort encouraged by leftie mythology among which, it appears, is Mr. Zinn's book. In fact, such stories stand in direct contradiction to the cheerleader role preferred by Mr. Zinn's audience who put a higher value on striking the right pose then they do on any accomplishment as mundane as making a living.

My own epipheny with regard to the importance of the individual came, as unlikely as it may seem, from an economics text book. "The Ultimate Resource 2" by Julian Simon. Mr. Shepard's story is just a bit of anecdotal support for the underlying thesis; that there's really only one resource and that's human ingenuity. All other resources are derivatives of human ingenuity.

Capitalism and democracy provide the fertile soil in which the resource of human ingenuity thrives and grows. Socialism, monarchies and tribal cultures, being inherently undemocratic, suppress human ingenuity.