The American Dream; a national ethos of the United States, the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of successes in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. Studying the history of the United States it is clear to see why this idea is so necessary to the makeup of the USA. A land formed by immigrants, from all across the globe, need to be provided with some sort of vision they can equally aim for and acquire in order to spur the competition that is a key ingredient of a healthy capitalist state. Whether or not the idea has been attainable for all groups in the United States is another (much larger) issue but the sentiment of the idea is one that can still be explored.
My time in the States’ in 2014 left me with an emphasis on this idea, and my admiration of it led me to question whether such an idea existed across the pond. The ‘special’ relationship between the UK and US has been the topic of debate for countless political commentators and economists, yet it seems that the American dream has yet to disseminate to British shores. I say this because, despite the fact the UK’s financial services are amongst the top in the world, it is a very small elite sample of our population that are able to reap the benefits of such industries.
In most modern capitalist states education is the main driver of meritocracy. Reflecting on the statistics concerning educational attainment and students from low-income areas. 1 in 5 19 year-olds are without Level 2 qualifications (effectively the same as ‘5 or more GCSEs or vocational equivalent’); qualifications that many companies are placing as necessary at their respective recruitment processes. This results in most of these students missing out on opportunities to succeed in some of the UK’s most thriving industries. poverty.org mirrors the same concern, citing: “In a competitive job market, academic and vocational qualifications are increasingly important. Those without qualifications are at a higher risk of being unemployed and having low incomes.” When you decide to take a step further and break down the statistics based on race, the statistics become even more startling. According to data from the Office for National Statistics; black male graduates in London are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.
At a quick glance of the top echelons of some of the most prestigious institutions across the UK, we can still see the remnants of nepotism and cronyism. It is safe to say that they have aways been present in our society. However, the key difference is that with the introduction of globalisation, the competitive landscape of the world we live in today is evolving rapidly. We the British can no longer afford to look upon ourselves as being notably exceptional as we could afford to do a few centuries ago; at a time when Great Britain was responsible for much of the scientific and economic breakthroughs taking place in the world.
These days have passed, but even as we look to our leaders for guidance to creating a better and more equal societal structure, we see they are cut from the same cloth. With the vast majority of them being millionaires through either property, or inheritance, and are the bastions of family privilege and elitist nepotism. However, it’s not all doom and gloom and it appears there is beginning to be light at the end of the tunnel. There is scope to argue that the ‘British’ dream does exist; as we reflect on the lives and businesses of entrepreneurs such as Lord Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson we see that you do not need to necessarily be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to succeed. From Jamal Edwards and his dynamic SB.TV company to Jamie Waller and his game-changing debt-collecting initiative it’s clear the entrepreneurial spirit has become contagious among a young and energetic wave of entrepreneurs ready to emulate these trailblazers. The British Dream is on its way up, now it’s time we wake up and make this dream a reality.