America! America!

America! America!

When I came back to New York last fall, just in time for the Sputnik, after a year in London and two months in Tuscany, I felt I had crossed a boundary much wider than the Atlantic. We are an unhappy people (I felt), a people without style, without a sense of what is humanly satisfying. Our values are not anchored securely, not in the past (tradition) and not in the present (community). There is a terrible shapelessness about American life. These prosperous Americans look more tense and joyless than the people in the poorest quarters of Florence. Even the English seem to have more joie de vivre.

No nation in history has been richer or has had a more equal distribution of wealth, and since 1940 there has been a fantastic increase in the wealth and a considerable decrease in economic diffierences. It Socialism be the equal sharing of plenty, then we are far along the road. We have more of everything a human being can conceivably, and inconceivably, want than Fourier, Proudhon, or Marx could have imagined possible. According to Fortune (June, 1954), we spend over $30 billion a year on pleasure (“The Great Fun Market”): sports, travel, hunting and fishing, books and magazines, liquor, gardening, home workshops, movies and television, etc. Yet we are, I insist, not happy. Why not? Let me put down a few impressions.

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