cover of book

The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It)
by Michael R. Strain
Templeton Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-1-59947-558-5 | Paper: 978-1-59947-557-8
Library of Congress Classification HN90.S65S64 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.513


Populists on both sides of the political aisle routinely announce that the American Dream is dead. According to them, the game has been rigged by elites, workers can’t get ahead, wages have been stagnant for decades, and the middle class is dying. 

Michael R. Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, disputes this rhetoric as wrong and dangerous. In this succinctly argued volume, he shows that, on measures of economic opportunity and quality of life, there has never been a better time to be alive in America. He backs his argument with overwhelming—and underreported—data to show how the facts favor realistic optimism.

He warns, however, that the false prophets of populism pose a serious danger to our current and future prosperity. Their policies would leave workers worse off. And their erroneous claim that the American Dream is dead could discourage people from taking advantage of real opportunities to better their lives. If enough people start to believe the Dream is dead, they could, in effect, kill it. To prevent this self-fulfilling prophecy, Strain’s book is urgent reading for anyone feeling the pull of the populists. 

E. J. Dionne and Henry Olsen provide spirited responses to Strain’s argument.

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