Is the Great American Open Road Just A Fantasy?

If you are were to ask any typical red-blooded high school American kid, what the definition of freedom is.

There's a high chance that the answer you will get will be somehow, someway related to a car or operating a car.

It's interesting how things turn out this way because for the longest time, freedom meant open land. That's right, America had this idea called manifest destiny.

According to manifest destiny, since there is so much free land, West of the Eastern seaboard, anybody migrating to the United Stateds from Western Europe, places like Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Germany, Spain, France can automatically become rich.

No joke. Why? They just need to move West because of all the free land which of course is not really free because it was originally Indian native American territory and register for basically a song hundreds of hectares or acres of land. There was no limit and it is precisely this mindset of Western expansion some rise in the principle of manifest destiny that gave American so much confidence.

There was really no problem they cannot solve because ultimately, it all boils down to wealth. It all boils down to money and the great thing about the whole idea behind manifest destiny is that you can pretty much earn your money as long as you're willing to work hard for it because there is this all this land that you can clear.

There is always that mental option of going West, making your fortune. The interesting thing about this is it doesn't really matter how many times you failed in the past.

Unlike Europe, that had debtor prisons where you get summoned by your creditors into prison for your relative's pay of debt, in the United States, people can declare bankruptcy. It is one of the few jurisdictions who pioneered bankruptcy.

It's as if the whole United Staes was based on the concept of second, third, fourth or even fifth chances. This is a big deal because even if you are the poorest of the poor in Europe, and you make to the United States, you can still end up being rich.

In fact, a lot of wealthy families trace their origins from people who has fled poverty from Europe. This has always been the American dream. It's not the big house, the picket fence with the two cars. That's just a recent version of the American dream.

The American dream really was all about reinventing yourself in a new land. Of course, in practical terms, this means reinventing yourself financially.

This was only made possible by the fact that there was all this land, whether the land came from the Louisiana purchase from France or from the conquest of Mexico during the Mexican-American War, there was all this land and the key that would turn that luck where you can turn that dream into actual net worth and cold hard cash is hard work.

That's why when you hear American politicians talk about the American ethic and the American ideals, you can count on them to mention two things. They will talk about the middle class and they will talk about hard work.

Now, you may be thinking that this is a small thing, but this is a big deal because it speaks to the culture of the United States. In other places, the talk is all about the poor and how everybody has a responsibility to help the poor.

In none of the discussions, is there any talk about the poor working hard to reinvent themselves and become middle class? Instead, it's all about people who are better off paying their fair share to lift up those who are worst off.

The idea is some sort of social obligation. As you can well imagine, in cultures where that kind of talk is popular, socialism is also popular and unfortunately, socialism is a one way ticket to poverty.

Now, what does this all have to do with the great American road system? Well, it has everything to do with it because the whole idea of freedom morphed to the great American highway after manifest destiny closed.

That's right. In the late 1800's, there was no more virgin territory to settle. Americans made it all the way through from Boston on the East Coast all the way to San Francisco in the West Coast. The whole place was basically settled. That's why a famous historian came up with the book called The Closing of the American Mind.

The whole sense of possibility that the open Western land used to provide American dreamers, whether they are recent immigrants or tenth generation Americans was simply gone. What replaced it is the idea that you can still become whatever you want to be and the big analogy to this is the open world.

When you get in your car and you go from point A to point B, you can feel the wind in your hair, you can feel freedom because this idea of forth motion is ingrained in American culture. That is the open road mindset that Americans have even to this very day. Unfortunately, economic reality has caught up to the fantasy.

Just as the closing of the American mind due to the settlement of the continental United States puts a damper on ideas on instant wealth through hard work on the land. There's a creeping realization in the US that despite the stuff that you buy, and despite how big your house is, you can still continue to struggle.

The idea is beginning to sink in, that maybe fulfillment is not really a function of how much money you have in the bank or how many cars you own or how big your house is, but more of your attitude and your sense of meaning and purpose.

If there is any threat to the whole idea of the open road as some sort of stand in for personal American freedom, it would be this recent realization. It's fairly recent. It is quite exciting because more and more Millenials choosing not to buy a house, instead, they're choosing to live in their cars. They're choosing to see the world. They're choosing not work a regular nine to five job.

It would be quite interesting to see how this spans out because you have to understand this is going to be the next wave of parents in America. It would be quite interesting to see the impact on the Unite States as standing in the world as this generation takes over.