The American Dream

Citizens in a democracy live with a set of ideals. Those ideals can complement each other or, sometimes, conflict with each other. The American Dream includes at least five basic ideals.

Democracy Liberty Equality Constitutionalism Individualism

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people," as Abraham Lincoln put it. For popular government to be a reality, social institutions must ensure political equality, nontyranny, and deliberation.

Individual freedom, encompassing (1) the ability of individuals to make their own choices and (2) limitations on government's use of power.

Equality embraces the concept of similar attributes. Political equality would include each person's vote or other political resources counting the same as anyone else's. Economic equality would include people having similar levels of wealth or income. Social equality would include similar status for individuals.

A belief in fundamental law, a social contract among the governed and the governors. Adhering to constitutional political processes, governmental structures, and limitations on the uses of power can provide legitimacy for government.

Each individual should have the right to pursue his or her goals free from social interference. In reality, there are degrees of individualism, as social organization by definition places some limits on individuals.

See Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981; Stefan Haag, Gary A. Keith, Rex Peebles, Texas Politics and Government: Ideas, Institutions, and Policies, 3rd ed., New York: Longman, 2004, Chapter 1.