The American Dream is Alive and Well
It is part of the ethos of this country that you ought to be rich. You ought to be, unless you have taken some specific vow of poverty such as priesthood, scholarship, teaching, or civil service, because money is the way we keep score. This feeling has been a long time in the making. It goes away sometimes in depressions, when briefly wealth becomes suspect and poverty is not dishonorable. The rest of the time, poverty is very close to criminal. (Smith 249)
This is an excerpt from the concluding chapter of The Money Game by the bestselling author Adam Smith, a former mutual fund manager and famous writer on Wall Street in the 1960s. It suggested that Americans by and large strive for wealth and equates becoming rich with success "because money is the way we keep score." The "ought to" means Americans generally believe that becoming rich is within the grasps of many.
The fact that "ought to be rich" is part of the ethos of the country suggests that everybody knows somebody personally who has become rich. A father would tell his son that Joe Blow came from no where to making millions. You "ought to" be able to do it too. An industrialist once remarked that Americans are unequally rich while citizens of communist countries are equally poor. To him being rich probably meant having more than one needs. However having more than one needs is certainly desirable but would fall short of a typical American Dream. Becoming rich means starting somewhere, maybe near zero, and ending with a lot more than at the start. So we define the American Dream as (1) having more than one needs and (2) having a lot more eventually than at the start.