Man shrugging.

Is the American Dream Exclusive? Americans Debate Whether Freedom Varies According to Income

You know what they say: Money can’t buy happiness. But it’s no secret that wealth can change a person’s opportunities in America. Is freedom distributed at different levels depending on wealth? One person asked, and the internet responded. 

Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.

1: Freedom Costs 

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One commenter said they’d be hard-pressed to find a facet of life where a rich person doesn’t have more freedom. “Whether it’s bail leading to an effective debtor’s prison or public defenders being so overwhelmed they’re completely incapable of helping anyone, the rich are favored de jure.”

2: All Around the World

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According to one commenter, becoming wealthy and free isn’t just an American dream. “In all of human society, having more wealth means you have more options than those who don’t. If ‘freedom’ simply means ‘has more opportunities,’ then yes, wealth obviously does that, but not because of anything unique to America.”

3: Only the Few 

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While everyone technically has the same rights, one commenter believes only certain people can reap their benefits. “Rights and opportunities are useless unless you have the wealth to take advantage of them.” 

4: Above the Law

Older women looking at phone.
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One person says that a rich person can get away with anything, so laws don’t affect them. “There always seems to be a way out with enough money. There is no place on earth where this isn’t true to a major degree. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading or naive.”

5: Slowly But Surely 

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Although one commenter believes there’s never been a place or time where there’s truly widespread freedom, they believe access to it is widening. “You still need a baseline of wealth to have total (or at least incrementally more) freedom, but a bigger percentage of people have that baseline level of wealth than ever before.” 

6: Captain Obvious 

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One commenter doesn’t see how anyone could possibly argue otherwise. “Meeting your basic human needs costs money. How can one be free if they are prevented from meeting their basic human needs?” 

7: Life in Plastic 

Person handing over a debit card.
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One retiree definitely believes that freedom depends on how much you make. “When I reflect back, my freedoms were paid on a credit card. Maybe it’s my age, but being able to determine your own path is definitely what I call freedom.” 

8: Money Can Buy Happiness 

Elderly man with money.
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More assets mean more freedom, according to one commenter. “If you have boatloads of money, you can broadcast your free speech, own fully automatic weapons, and pay lawyers to weasel every inch out of every law. The downside is you have more to lose if you behave badly.” 

9: Front Page News

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One commenter says that while everyone has the same freedoms at a core level, the exercise of those freedoms is different for each person. They say, for example, “I can speak without much constraint, but that speech doesn’t have the same impact as someone who is able to pay for a giant billboard or a full-page ad in a nationally circulating newspaper.” 

10: Not the Same

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“You aren’t ‘free’ when you face economic uncertainty,” says one commenter, who believes income plays a part in freedom. “You aren’t able to access the full range of choices that someone with guaranteed basic things like food/shelter/healthcare would.” 

11: Equal Opportunity 

Woman thinking.
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One commenter thinks that the money people earn is completely different from the freedom they have. “Freedom is about rights. Owning and having access to things of value isn’t a right.”

12: Going For Gold 

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Another person agrees 100% with those who think rich people have unique freedoms. “If you look without bias, our capitalist systems are very clearly designed to punish the poor and keep the rich/powerful without consequence.”

13: Slim Pickings 

Woman holding a sad balloon.
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Americans have slim options for a happy life, according to this commenter. “We Americans have the freedom to choose between working a demeaning job every day for the rest of our lives and dying destitute on the street.” 

14: First, Get Rich 

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One commenter believes everyone has the same opportunities, for the most part. “Some people just have fewer steps to take in order to take advantage of those opportunities. For some, getting rich is a necessary step before doing certain things. You have the freedom to do it, though.” 

15: The Nuances

One commenter explained that in the US, you are “free to do things,” while citizens are “free from things” in most other developed countries. “In the US, you may be free to have a gun. In Europe, you are free from getting shot. In the US, you are free to have any healthcare you want (or none at all). In Europe, you are free from the fear of not having healthcare.”

Source: Reddit

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