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The Self-Made Myth by Mike Lapham, Brian Miller

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CHAPTER 1The Self-Made Myth

Origins of the Self-Made Myth

The myth of the self-made man lies deep in our country’s collective psyche. As a new nation breaking free of its colonial ruler, America’s identity was built in large part on the contrast of our frontier nation—with farmers carving a living out of the raw wilderness and merchants peddling their wares on our city streets—with that of Europe, whose economic pecking order was still largely defined by one’s pedigree and aristocratic lineage. Though this contrast was at times exaggerated, it nonetheless helped shape our identity as a new nation.

Many of our nation’s Founders viewed the concentrated and hereditary wealth of Europe’s aristocracies as incompatible with the democracy they were ...

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