Dinesh D’Souza argues that the what makes America unique isn’t its economic opportunity but its cultural mobility. He acknowledges and marvels at the former:

We live in a nation where “poor” people have TV sets and microwave ovens, where construction workers cheerfully spend $4 on a nonfat latte, where maids drive very nice cars, where plumbers take their families on vacation to St. Kitts. Recently I asked an acquaintance in Bombay why he has been trying so hard to relocate to America. He replied, “I really want to move to a country where the poor people are fat.”

The typical immigrant, who is used to the dilapidated infrastructure, mind- numbing inefficiency, and multilayered corruption of Third World countries, arrives in America to discover, to his wonder and delight, that everything works: the roads are clean and paper-smooth, the highway signs are clear and accurate, the public toilets function properly, when you pick up the telephone you get a dial tone, you can even buy things from the store and then take them back.

The American supermarket is a thing to behold: endless aisles of every imaginable product, many different types of cereal, 50 flavors of ice cream. The place is full of numerous unappreciated inventions: quilted toilet paper, fabric softener, cordless phones, disposable diapers, and roll-on luggage.

But, having immigrated from a middle class existence in India, he would have had many of these things there.

I didn’t have luxuries, but I didn’t lack necessities. Materially, my life is better in the United States, but it is not a fundamental difference. My life has changed far more dramatically in other ways.

Had I remained in India, I would probably live my entire existence within a 5-mile radius of where I was born. I would undoubtedly have married a woman of my identical religious and socioeconomic background, possibly someone selected by my parents. I would face relentless pressure to become an engineer or a doctor. My socialization would have been entirely within my own ethnic community. I would have a whole set of opinions that could be predicted in advance. In sum, my destiny would to a large degree have been given to me.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I often think about how much better off the poor are here than they are in other countries. I thought about that a lot when I *was* poor: I was acutely aware that it was better to be broke here than anywhere else, and that my standard of living was still amazingly high, relatively speaking.