When most of us hear of “the American dream,” we think of a house in the suburbs with a little white picket fence.
How did the American dream get so lame?
There was another American dream before that (as there have been many over time). It was the dream of 40 acres of land – enough land for every man to be lord of his own (small) estate, enough land for every man to grow his own food, enough land for every man to build his own home, enough land for every man to hunt his own game, enough land for every man to walk around in some degree of freedom.
The earlier Jeffersonian Americans must have grasped that freedom can only find its expression with plenty of elbow room. And I think that’s still the case today. The suburban and urban lifestyles provide opportunities for humans to exchange ideas and practices with each other, but they also severely limit the range of human freedom and expression.
You can’t grow your own food or raise your own animals. You have to listen to the dictates of an HOA. You live in plain sight of your neighbors. You have to keep your dogs and your kids on leashes. You have no space to roam and little space for creative use of land (I hope you like maintaining a lawn).
When people dream about escaping the suburbs, they often dream about escaping back to the farms their parents left a generation before. It’s no wonder. For all its faults and for all the challenges of agrarian living, the Jeffresonian dream of a nation of small farmers is probably the one best suited for free men.