TMO The Great Gatsby Curve and the Decline of the American Dream insetThe Great Gatsby is a great American novel and a literary classic, capturing the essence of an era. Written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the plot takes place over a few months during the summer of 1922 in the Long Island district of New York. Fitzgerald portrays an era of decay, both in moral and social values, displayed as cynicism, unrestrained greed, and the hedonistic pursuit of material excess. The famously reckless and opulent jazz parties of the time epitomised the resultant corruption of the American Dream as the unquenched desire for money and pleasure superseded the more noble societal values of equality and liberty.

The ferocious rise in the stock market in the aftermath of WWI led to a sudden increase in the national wealth and a newfound boom in consumerist materialism, which could be indulged in at unprecedented levels. New money started to emerge as industries brought in record profits, and now anybody could earn a fortune with enough ingenuity and hard work. Furthermore, passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a thriving underworld of bootlegging, which sought to meet the cosmopolitan masses’ huge demand for liquor.

This is how Jay Gatsby, originating from a penniless midwestern family, made his millions. His lavish mansion resides in the fictional village of West Egg, overlooking a bay. It was situated directly across the water from the East Egg mansion of Tom Buchanan, a man of old money, and educated at Yale. The novel’s symbolic use of geography, separating Gatsby and Buchanan, highlights the tension between old and new forms of wealth: East Egg represents the established aristocracy, and West Egg the self-made rich.

In West Egg lies a mound of ashes, deposits from the insatiable fires of the newborn capitalist society. On the bank of the bay Gatsby looks onward, fixated by a green light, a shining beacon of envy from East Egg. Gatsby wanted more than anything to join the old money and reunite with the object of his love, Tom Buchanan’s wife, Daisy. Thus Gatsby held lavish soirees at his mansion in hopes he’d catch the attention of the old money in East Egg.

On its face The Great Gatsby is a story about thwarted love between a man and a woman, but the theme encapsulates the much larger disparity between the classes at the time and the impact it was having upon society at large. The pursuit of social status and material gain inevitably led to the destruction of the American Dream. The few who made it to the top through industry and/or criminal means (such as Gatsby) were accepted — yet looked down upon — by the old aristocracy, who monopolised the social and cultural capital of the city.

Consider the parallels between the time in which The Great Gatsby was written and our present day situation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, during the Thatcher and Reagan years, the West enjoyed a massive increase in national wealth and a boom in industrial, technological advancements. Markets were deregulated and soon exploded in revenue for the country. The neo-liberal ideology behind this economical juggernaut promoted the value of greed and the pursuit of selfish interests as the highest expression of freedom. Sadly, the reality for 99% of the population today is that the American Dream is now an illusion, with the U.S suffering from amongst the highest inequity and lowest social mobility in the developed world.

“The Great Gatsby Curve is a chart plotting the (positive) relationship between inequality and intergenerational social immobility in several countries around the world. The curve was introduced in a 2012 speech by chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger.” [1]

“The connection between income inequality and low mobility can be explained by the lack of access for un-affluent children to better (more expensive) schools and preparation for schools crucial to finding high-paying jobs; [sic] the lack of health care that may lead to obesity and diabetes and limit education and employment. Krueger estimates that ‘the persistence in the advantages and disadvantages of income passed from parents to the children [will] rise by about a quarter for the next generation as a result of the rise in inequality that the U.S. has seen in the last 25 years.’ ” [1]

There’s only one hope of salvation for the American Dream: embrace a Merito-demorcatic Republic which enshrines equal opportunities through the implementation of the Millionaire’s Death Tax, ensuring a fair and stable means of redistributing the colossal wealth presently concentrated within the upper ranks of the economic system. Without this measure, the next generation will be 25% less fortunate in terms of opportunities to earn a decent living; the generation after that will fare 50% worse. The stakes literally couldn’t be any higher: your children will suffer the cost of our failure to intervene in this critical time of instability.

The American Dream is a sham. We’re living in a plutocracy based on privilege and excessive greed. It’s time to accept that democracy has failed, the Great Gatsby Curve is growing exponentially, and We the People no longer have a means of influence over the political system. The government works in the interests of the wealthiest 1% — the entrenched elite — under the justification that material goods are the highest attainment worthy of an individual’s aspirations.

The Meritocracy Party are the true defenders of democracy: we want the power to be given back to the people. Every institution, public service, and agency will be remodelled to enact the people principal, i.e., every measure will be taken to actualise everyone’s unique potential, and maximise the utility of the nation’s creative minds. We want a government for the people by the best of the people, working towards the best of all possible futures for our children. We want all the corrupt bankers, politicians and financial terrorists in jail for the crimes they have committed against us. The economy will be reined in by the people to work for the people, instead of operating as a system of feudalism. Investments in public services will be funded by the revenue gained via the Millionaire’s Death Tax, such as Catered and Comprehensive Education, which promises the most advanced and optimised curricula in the world, tailored to all children’s unique and precious qualities.

Punish the plutocrats, castrate the fat cats, and cast aside the corruption. Create a society of enlightenment and unlimited potential. Ensure the future for your young ones. Invest in the merit of the population. Join the resistance. Join the Meritocracy Party.

by Thomas Payne

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Gatsby_Curve

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3 Responses to “The Great Gatsby Curve and the Decline of the American Dream” Subscribe

  1. Casper Saul May 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Superb article. Is the recent popular rediscovery of The Great Gatsby portending events to come? Time will tell. Brilliant writing Thomas.

  2. Julien Hdez July 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    A new member of the Meritocracy party

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  1. Great Gatsby | Pearltrees - July 22, 2015

    […] The Great Gatsby Curve and the Decline of the American Dream. The Great Gatsby is a great American novel and a literary classic, capturing the essence of an era. Written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the plot takes place over a few months during the summer of 1922 in the Long Island district of New York. Fitzgerald portrays an era of decay, both in moral and social values, displayed as cynicism, unrestrained greed, and the hedonistic pursuit of material excess. The famously reckless and opulent jazz parties of the time epitomised the resultant corruption of the American Dream as the unquenched desire for money and pleasure superseded the more noble societal values of equality and liberty. The ferocious rise in the stock market in the aftermath of WWI led to a sudden increase in the national wealth and a newfound boom in consumerist materialism, which could be indulged in at unprecedented levels. […]

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