We really love our Horatio Alger stories in the U.S. And I’m sure many of us know hard-working immigrant and native-born families and individuals who have “made it.” (And we need those younger immigrants to create economic growth!)
But one should be aware of survivorship bias in thinking. It’s a logic flaw of taking into account people that had success and not taking into account those who did not, as they are less visible to us. For every success, there are many failures, perhaps more based on bad luck than lack of hard work than we realize.
There have also been structural changes in the U.S. economy that have moved the goalposts for hard-workers. My ancestors could, and did, make a living using their hands and bodies, or starting retail businesses, when they got off the boat in the 1800s. But today, laborers and service industry workers don’t make much money, and factory jobs have declined. There is concentration of market power (and price pressure) from big box stores and Amazon, making local retail shops less viable. And retail in the short term is a non-starter during a pandemic.
I don’t discount enterprising people who have pivoted and started a plethora of “monthly gift box” internet stores, but that avenue is not readily accessible to the less tech-skilled. And we’ll see how many of them survive.
I would be interested to hear what our more libertarian or free market members think of global outsourcing to realize lower labor costs. Presumably, they’re all for it. I would argue this is an ideal opportunity for “big” government. Not in the form of trade protectionism, but financial support, government-supported infrastructure jobs, and training for displaced workers.