Yes, it's a struggle to raise a family, pay the bills, do right by our neighbors, and keep the bottom line of net worth going up. But I do not think that our struggles are anything like those of our forebears who tamed a continent, fought world wars, and passed it all on to us.
Barack Obama, more than most politicians, is making his name on the scurrilous notion that only the government can provide for us. Rather than providing hope, he is actually crushing the hopes of those who follow him. He offers a block of government cheese, when a seven-course meal is waiting for those who will but learn to shop, cook, and set their own tables.
The fact is that while a "sluggish" economy may be a more difficult environment in which to succeed, there are always places that are booming in the midst of the bust. There are always people who need services, and things which need to be made. So even in a tough economy, the will to succeed and the right plan can overcome the obstacles.
And it's supposed to be a struggle. If it were easy, or if success were as simple as choosing it, with no more effort required than for failure, then everyone would do it.
But in this world, and not that fantasy one, the rewards of success, on whatever scale we measure it, are usually in some way proportional to the amount of work, luck, skill, or determination put forth to achieve it. "Get rich quick" schemes usually only enrich the early adopters at the top of some pyramid, and then only until those at the bottom find out. Wealth is built by hard word, saving and investing. Every successful entrepreneur has to face the question, at some point, of whether to spend now to make his life easier or to invest in his business.
And the decision to invest for the future is the essence of virtue. While failing to feed one's family is not virtuous, choosing to plow profits back into the business rather than buying the family a fancy car or new television is.
Something on the order of 100% of the people who have ever lived have had life very much worse than the most desperate American of today. People are capable of surviving and thriving without many things considered essential by moderns. Television, computers, lawnmowers, and even indoor plumbing are not essential to survival, though to one degree or another each is considered so.
Deciding what is a luxury and what is essential will reveal how a person views the future. If the future is seen to contain rewards for which a person needs to work, then he will turn aside from acquiring the nonessential items of personal recreation but will insist on having the items which are required to achieve his goals. A mobile telephone is a frivolous toy in the hands of the slothful, but the link to a future empire for the industrious.
Parents need to instill in their children the belief that success is in their power to achieve if they follow the rules and work harder than the next person. Reward success, and children learn that to get the reward they must work and achieve. That is the wellspring of true self esteem. That's real hope. And it has nothing to do with whether the overall economy is booming or busting, because people succeed in bad times and fail in good ones.
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