Finally, the issues of inequality seem to be exacerbated by excessively high returns to the financial sector. "From 1973 to 1985," writes Simon Johnson, "the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits." During the first decade of the 21st century, however, Johnson notes how the financial sector's portion of profits reached 41 percent.
But none of these concerns has one simple fix. How can companies increase wages in the face of global competition? How can communities successfully inculcate family values in a permissive and sexualized culture? How can one cultivate genuinely competitive enterprises in a sector that is purposefully protected from failure through regulation, insurance and bailouts?
Writing in the 1830s about America, Alexis de Tocqueville said, "Among democratic peoples new families continually rise from nothing while others fall, and nobody's position is quite stable." That dynamic instability can be exhausting, but it should also be both inspiring and accessible.
We regret that this year's debate about the American Dream has become so uncivilly personalized. Nonetheless, we welcome a robust, open and honest debate about how to expand the opportunity for all to prosper if it can add light, rather than mere heat, to this fundamental, and fundamentally American question.
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