Essay Sample on the History of the United States: Liberalism and American Dream

Posted on July 28, 2008

The guideline of the present paper is to discuss how Liberalism and American Dream have helped to create and to shape the history of the most powerful country of the world – United States. The concepts of liberalism and American dream represent political and ideological tendencies and their influence is seen throughout the American experience. In responding to the topic the paper will firstly define Liberalism and American dream, secondly explain their origins and thirdly how those tendencies have helped to shape United States history. In conclusion the discussion will be about how studying history helps to understand the present.

Liberalism is known to be an ideology and political tradition with the idea that liberty is the first and the most important political value. It is a matter of fact that the origin of the liberalism is in Western Enlightenment, but nowadays this term embraces different political thoughts. Liberalism emphasizes individuals rights such as freedom of though, limitation on government and religion power, the rule of law, free exchange of ideas, free public education for both men and women, market economy with free private enterprise and finally transparent government system which will protect the rights of all citizens. In modern USA liberalism is connected with open and fair elections, equal rights granted by law for all citizens, equal employment opportunities. It is apparent that such definition of liberalism is the evidence of its significant influence on USA history. (Goldberg 2001)
It is necessary to mention that “liberalism” originated from Latin “liber” (free) and was firstly described as struggle for independence and freedom between patrician and plebeian classes with the purpose to receive equal rights. American War of Independence was the first to establish a nation based on the concept of liberalism, especially on the idea that “governments rule by the consent of the governed”. The principles of free trade were firstly enunciated in the USA history due to liberalism.

The impact of liberalism on USA history is evident and significant, because due to it there was a rapid increase in literacy among population. Spread of knowledge resulted in successful social activism and nation has become interested in its authorized freedoms and liberties. The positive impact is passed law against child labor and laws requiring workers’ safety and fixed minimum wages. Liberalism set the idea that nations needs to be protected from exploitation and to be provided with education. It is apparent that impact of liberalism is profound on the USA history, because it implemented new ideas of personal dignity, religious tolerance, free expression of thoughts, private property, government transparency, human rights, popular sovereignty, rights for privacy, fundamental equality, national self-determination, free trade and market economy, rule of law, etc. that is why the impact and result of liberalism can’t be neglected by USA nation.(Goldberg 2001)

American dream is a belief “that in the United States of America hard work and determination can lead to better life, usually through the earnings of money”. Such values were in the root of American dream are closely connected with Horatio Algerism. American dream is living in a perfect house with two children and without financial problems. It is the lifestyle of the middle class. Nevertheless the American dream was strongly criticized because of it accent only on material possessions as the highest happiness. Critics argued that American dream didn’t suggest the ideas of intellectual wealth and development. (Hochschild 1995)

It is necessary to point out that the origin of American stems from the departure in economic and government based on the models of Old World. From the American Revolutionary war the unprecedented freedom was allowed and gave the possibility of dramatic social activity. Additionally many physical resources were held out and unclaimed waiting lucky investments in industry. Industrial Revolution combined great natural resources potential and unsettled continent and thus created American dream aimed at achieving wealth.(Cullan 2003)

American dream has its challenged throughout the 20th century, because the Great Depression caused hardships and racial instability was still present. After the World War II American families were trying to find the relative comfort and stability for living. American dream suggested “perfect family” to be a part of consequence. American dream was tossed aside by new generation of young hippies who strongly denied the traditional values and ideas of the dream. (Ehrenreich 1989)

Nevertheless the impact of American dream was seen throughout the USA history, because it promoted the ideas of education and personal achievement. It is apparent that a dream has never died out and is still present in souls of many Americans. American dream stimulated the people pursuing their energy into new source of gold – Internet, because it was the new way to become wealthy. In the result even ordinary people started their businesses and became millionaires. American dream attracted many entrepreneurial people from India and China to seek fortune in USA. The last argument is that American dream promoted hard work as the way to achieve a better life. (Hochschild 1995)

In conclusion it is necessary to state that studying history helps to understand the present. As it is said all reasons of the present are hidden in the past. History helps to understand better the origins of events and tendencies and to realize their importance. History is the mirror of the present, because it hides many secrets and unexplained events. It is historians who contribute development by analyzing historical trends and their possible results in the future. Due to studying history it is possible to figure out the impact of American dream and Liberalism on the history of the United States. If there were no history, there would be no present and past.

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