The American Enterprise

America still beckons.

The American dream may be a musty old relic in the minds of some American elites, but for Annique Lambe--who arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago from Ireland--it is alive and well. Now a schoolteacher in Manhattan, she marvels at the energy and opportunity that she and other friends who are also recent immigrants from Europe have found on these shores.

"New York is a huge place where something is always happening," she says in a soft Irish lilt. "Now I am a part of it, living among the big towers and the skyline. It seems miraculous to me."

From the seventeenth century on, waves of immigrants from the European continent played a primary role in forming America. It was not mainly the rich, powerful, or well-connected of Europe who came, but those of a more modest station. A simple working person in America had a far better chance of rising into the comfortable classes than his European counterpart, and his offspring's chances were even greater yet. Most new arrivals to America eventually enjoyed a leap upward in quality of life and social mobility.

Yet even as the European masses headed to this side of the Atlantic for a better life, some intellectual and social elites insisted that Europe's culture was better than anything found in the United States. As an intellectual, cultural, and artistic center, Europe was unsurpassed. That belief remains powerful today. Some, like American writer Richard Florida, have even suggested that some of the brightest and most culturally sophisticated young Americans--the much-ballyhooed "creative class"--may in the future seek their fortunes in Europe. Glowing journalistic anecdotes about cities such as Prague, Berlin, Paris, London, and Dublin have suggested that significant numbers of America's best and brightest may end up expatriating themselves to the continent.

American advantages

New Yorkers have a perfect one-word response for such claims: fuggedaboutit. Europe may be a great place to visit, but U.S. emigration to the continent is paltry--while the reverse flow from Europe to the United States remains at consistently high levels even with the somewhat bothersome screenings imposed after 9/11. While Europeans are no longer the primary immigrants to the U.S. (that role having been taken over by Latin Americans and Asians), they remain an important factor in the continuing re-invention of America.

As in the past, immigrants from France, Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe continue to come to America to participate in an economy that is more dynamic, healthier, and generally more open than what they are leaving behind. …

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