I don't want to get too idealistic here. It strikes me, though, that these days when a person achieves something like the American Dream (let's just say that's moving solidly into the upper-middle class), his lifestyle changes. He becomes a cigar aficionado and also starts collecting fine wines. He starts driving a sports car or a luxury car, perhaps both. He buys a larger, flatter TV and pays for access to sports cable networks.
Now I don't want to suggest that there was a time in America when financial success was divorced from selfishness. Humans are humans. But wasn't there a time when a person's service to his community and country grew in proportion to his family's success?
Here is something to gnaw on. What if we average Americans put a line item into our budgets: "American Value Creation." Not only do we work hard to see other line items (like retirement and college savings and discretionary spending) increase, but we use our ingenuity and resources to increase the value we bring to the American economy, our communities, our culture.
Let's just say you had $10,000 in that line item right now. How would you use it? Suggestions?