The American Dream Lives

The American experience proves that openness toward the world brings prosperity.

The United States have always profited from immigration and up to this very day, argues The Economist, “The greatest strength of America is that people want to live there.”

The newspaper cites the story of a Korean immigrant who was startled, when he first came to the country, by its riches. “The roads are so wide, the cars so big, the houses so large — everything is abundant,” he said. Yet that was not why he became a citizen. For immigrants, America is the land that offers “the chance to be whatever you want to be.” Or, in the words of The Economist: “it is a place where nearly any immigrant can find a niche.”

Nearly all Americans are descended from people who came from somewhere else in the past couple of centuries. And the variety of countries from which immigrants come — roughly all of them, and usually in significant numbers — is unmatched. No matter where an immigrant hails from, he can find a cluster of his ethnic kin somewhere in America.

The size of the land, the diversity of its people and the many different cultures, traditions and governments spread over more than fifty states allow virtually every man and woman to find a place to their liking. America continues to be magnet for talent therefore. “Economic growth depends on productivity, and the most productive people are often the most mobile.”

As the world globalizes, creative minds have little trouble moving from country to country. According to The Economist, “They tend to pick places that offer not only material comfort but also the stimulation of being surrounded by other creative types.” And, as economist and Nobel Prize laureate Robert Lucas argued, “the clustering of talent is the primary driver of economic growth. ”

America’s openness toward innovation and the freedom it offers for talent to prosper have shaped American progress for centuries.

Even President Barack Obama appeared conscious of this fact when he declared in his State of the Union address that “it’s our ideals, our values that built America — values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still.” He stressed the “spirit of determination and optimism” which has always been at the core of American society.

As the country moves to impose stricter immigration laws, it is important to remember this history.

In spite of recent experiences, government in the United States has traditionally been one of limited interference in peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Yet the country knew progress and became one of the wealthiest in the world. A closed economy that protects its own industries, restricts immigration and seeks isolation from foreign markets can never sustain growth. The American experience proves that openness toward people, products and capital from abroad do not threaten a country; they bring it even greater prosperity. Americans today should remember that.