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American Dreams, American Realities

Why is that people all over the world admire a whole slew of American institutions, at the very time that we seem to be doing our best to destroy those institutions?

That’s the question that my colleagues and I have been asking. It grows out of our GoodWork Project — a large-scale research initiative we’ve been working on for nearly two decades. In an effort to determine what constitutes “good work” in various sectors of American life, we’ve conducted in-depth interviews with approximately 1,500 people, ranging from seasoned professionals to recent immigrants.

Among the things that people have told us they expect to find in the United States: a judiciary where they can get a fair shake; a free press that investigates broadly and exposes wrongdoing wherever it occurs; auditors who probe accounting records and promptly report irregularities; physicians who are not beholden to pharmaceutical companies; colleges and universities where students can study widely, switch fields and not remain indebted for decades; and finally a political system where you can succeed without having to sell your soul to wealthy supporters.

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