America is an interesting place, unlike no other in the history of the world, because it is so diverse. This multiculturalism is a positive, but it does bring unique challenges such as assimilation. It is why what it means to be American must be constantly refined and expressed. Without this definition, we have nothing but a bunch of people who look nothing alike living on a continent.
It is great that we have to focus on what it means to be American because it allows us to understand our ideals. If we lived in a homogeneous society then we could just say that the food, the culture, or how we look makes us affiliated with that country. That is a lazy argument. In America we are forced to make the complex argument that actually involves ideals, ideas, and perspective. This gives us a unique advantage over any other country. It may be hard to define what it means to be American, but what does it mean to be Chinese or German? Those, in my opinion are even more difficult to define in terms of ideas without using shallow terms such as looks or culture.
So what is my opinion in what it means to be an American? Well America represents freedom. We are the freest society to ever live. Our personal challenges should be what we do with that freedom. Are we productive? Are we making other lives better? Or are we simply lazy and immature people providing no benefit to anyone else? The essence of being American is being productive, working in your own best interests creating something for the greater good of society. Whether that means building a business or being a nurse, you must do something to be productive in order to consider yourself to be following the principles of what it means to be American.
This is the way I meld Ayn Rand’s principles of working in your best interests with my own ideal of what it means to be American. She states that you must avoid being altruistic and only focus on your own well-being. This isn’t a perfect ideal system, but it is close. Another slightly misguided idea of what it means to be an American is that you pay taxes. This is flawed because it isn’t the actual act of paying taxes that makes you American.
Being productive does so much good for society which is why it is important. Working at your craft does more for society than working at a charity because you are working at your peak effectiveness. Being extremely good at one task allows you to fit into society and make it work. It is the idea of specialization that allowed America to be great. Once we stopped needing to farm, we became able to do more specific tasks. Therefore, paying taxes doesn’t do much for society, but if you are paying taxes, you are being productive.
Taxes go to bureaucrats that consistently waste money on inefficient projects as well as towards wealth transfer payments. Wealth transfer payments are inherently un-American because they allow people to benefit from doing nothing, thus removing their motivation to be productive. If some of the people on these programs truly need the money, they can receive private donations. Think of the amount of generosity that would exist if our taxes were cut in half. If you have a legitimate reason that you can’t be productive, your fellow Americans will help you. That is part of what it means to be American. This would certainly be against Ayn Rand’s hatred of altruism.
Just to clear up one issue about farmers, the billionaire Jim Rogers constantly spreads fear about our lack of farmers. He states the nonsensical idea that we are in big trouble because there are less and less farmers and they are getting older in median age. I initially believed him, before realizing that he is simply wrong. Having fewer farmers is great for the worldwide society because it frees people up to do specialized tasks. You could have said in the 1950s “Oh know we have less farmers than ever before.” We will always have fewer farmers than in the past because we use better machinery to do the task.
This actually leads to my final point which is that better technology is good for America and the world. We hear the President lambaste ATMs because they steal jobs. This is illogical. The more technology we have the more productive we can be. It makes us more effective. It allows people that are doing tasks that could be down by computers to do more specific specialized tasks. If some people do not have a skill that allows them to be productive, they are fired with the message that they should develop a valuable skill. Firing someone as a bank teller and telling them to learn another skill is great for the productivity of America and the world.
In summary, being American is simply getting up every day and doing something great, even if it is a very small thing. We should not view our lives as simply trying to make as much money as we can; money is not our god. We should work because it feels great to be working at our peak effectiveness. If you are doing a job that doesn’t allow you to express your talents and has no upward mobility, I think you should quit and find a more suitable job. Money should not be the objective of having a job. In my opinion, you can make money doing anything, if you are extremely good at it and work your butt off. Heck, if a juggler can make money, you can too, doing whatever your passion is. You can do whatever you want, especially with the advent of the connected world we currently live in.