Many have asked how did America become the world’s wealthiest nation. Here’s my answer.
First, we opened our doors, or rather held them open because they were open when the very first settlers came, to all those people from other lands and nations, millions of them, who for whatever reason wanted to leave where they were and come here, at first to a vast mostly unknown and unsettled land and frontier, and then later to a no less vast but fully described and settled land and nation.
Second from the time of our founding as a nation we fashioned a government whose major responsibility would be to guarantee that the people, once here, would be truly free to pursue their own desires and interests, and that while here any oppression they may have endured in the lands they had left would be on their arrival a thing of the past.
In short we became the world’s wealthiest nation because we allowed millions to come here to live, and once here we gave them the freedom and security (government’s principal role) to live and to work as they chose.
So the source of our nation’s great wealth? Allowing people to come here in large numbers, and once here allowing them the freedom to pursue their dreams.
These, what should I call them, policies? They were certainly not, at the beginning anyway, conscious policies of the government. Rather I would say they were at the beginning, and still are, truly human ways of being and acting, ways that the people coming here latched onto and reinforced throughout the founding and early years of our country’s history.
These ways are, perhaps, the principal and strongest evidence of our own humanity, and that which has made us, at least up until recent times, the exception among nations. For what other nations have ever allowed their humanity, their membership in the human race, to interfere with their constant and usually failed efforts to direct the lives of their peoples?
Now, given the problems that our country is currently facing, we have to ask, is this still the way things are. Or are things now changing in regard to what I have called the sources of the country’s great wealth? For one thing many are now beginning to question our exceptional status (there are even those who would willingly take it away!). And in fact, how real is it, or is it still, our supposed uniqueness among nations?
It does seem to be that today, our exceptional wealth, or what is the same thing, our ability to provide for our people, is in decline. More and more Americans are finding it harder and harder to provide for their families. And our government, while taking more and more from those who have, still does not seem to be substantially alleviating the plight of those who have not.
So are things changing? Is there a real decline? Well yes, when you see, for example, that those who come here now, unlike those who came here earlier, are no longer readily welcomed as new Americans, and in more and more cases are not being allowed to stay and are being deported, even when their American employers (not to mention the country’s well being) are benefiting from their work and are begging the government to allow them to remain.
Again, is it real, our fall? Well yes, when you see, for example, our representatives and senators in Congress rejecting the Dream Act that which would have provided conditional permanent residency to illegal alien-students who had come to the US as minors, and lived and attended school in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. Again new Americans, clearly a source of new wealth, are being turned away.
And the decline is especially real when you see more and more people, already here, clamoring for special rights and privileges, often at the expense of the new comers. When you see Americans now well established seeming to forget that they too were once immigrants to our shores asking only to be given an opportunity to work and otherwise do for themselves.
The people who come here today are asking for no more, but no less, than just such an opportunity. To no longer provide it, we do so at our peril. Restore it and the country’s seeming decline would quickly come to an end. For when in the past when immigrants came freely to our shores did we worry about the country’s future? The new comers brought the future with them.