David Leonhardt’s ‘Ours Was the Shining Future’ downplays the promises and possibilities of life in America.
I have three great loves in my life: my family, soccer, and the American dream. So as a naturalized citizen and a defender of an aspirational vision for the United States, I was predictably excited to read Ours Was the Shining Future: The Rise and Fall of the American Dream, the new book by New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner David Leonhardt.
For him, the American dream is held up by three main pillars: power, investment, and culture. Power refers mainly to the battles between political factions, the scuffles between unions, corporations, and policymakers. Leonhardt worries about crony capitalism and money in politics, and prefers an even stronger role for public entities and government leaders to remedy both. Though he recognizes the importance of markets and private investment, he also focuses more on government investments in public services, infrastructure, and the like. He does something similar for culture; the book’s discussion mostly focuses on how the government can influence culture, rather than how private initiative and human ingenuity can shape it.