The important truth in this belief is that in countries with relatively
open capitalist economies it is possible for some poor people
to work their way up. Most well-off Americans have only to trace
back in their families one or two generations to find ancestors
of poor or modest means. This is not so true in older countries
like Germany and France where workers much less often become owners,
and Marxists have elaborate and interesting explanations for this
However, "opportunity" is a very elusive concept when
you come to examine it. Clearly not everyone has the same learning
abilities, the same access to borrowed capital, the same familial
support, the same influence in government circles--the list of
inequities goes on and on. But the belief that just about anyone
could become rich by really working hard and taking risks leads
many Americans to support policies which guarantee that a tiny
minority of citizens will control the vast majority of the national
wealth. They may not have won the economic lottery yet, but that's
all the more reason for them not to want to shut the game down.
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