Answer on @Quora by @iggyflrs to Why is the United States of America so much wealthier than other countries?
Answer by Ingemar Flores:
Many great answers ignore the significance of immigration in two important ways: (1) the number of immigrants, which has been significant for America's entire history and forms part of its DNA, and (2) the multiplicity effects of individualism enabled by a Constitution built on big ideas.
I grew up elsewhere before coming to the USA. I remember as a kid that America held an almost mythic quality, that if you could just get there then your energy and ideas could finally take off, making you, your colleagues, and America richer together.
For #1 consider the following fact: America does not have a legally declared language. Some may find this symbolic, perhaps academic at best. It is very important, though. Some of my Polish great-grandparents moved into an all-Polish city in the countryside of New York State. Their newspapers, contracts, stores, schools and churches were in Polish. There were German-language cities that dotted the land from Pennsylvania all the way to the Midwest. The children of immigrants learned English and moved out into the rest of America. Some Poles never learned English, and it didn't hurt them one bit. They thrived and America thrived.
America is a country, not a race. Any immigrant can become American. I could live in Japan for twenty years, attain citizenship, pay taxes and never be "Japanese". I could live in France for twenty years and never be "French". But I and many others have become Americans in our lifetimes. It's an important advantage in attracting the dreamers of the world.
For #2 consider: Why didn't Elon Musk start SpaceX in his native South Africa? Why didn't Sergey Brin start Google or something like it in his native Russia? Why did Andrew Carnegie's parents leave Scotland? Where did the Beatles and Shakira make their fortunes? Why did Arnold Schwarzenegger go to America to "pump iron"?
America is an idea that exists. It doesn't completely live up to the idea but it's good nonetheless. As an example, foreign visitors might be shocked at the level of poverty that can be found anywhere in the country — in the cities, in the rural areas, anywhere. But still, if there is a person anywhere in the world with an outsized motivation to succeed, a Visa to America is a winning lottery ticket. Why?
Because in America the State takes (mostly) a back seat. You don't have to bribe your way, or deal with inordinately powerful labor unions. Gangs and corrupt buereaucrats cannot easily steal from you. The rule of law is strong, and the markets or strong. Your great energy and idea can be taken to market directly. Ring doors, call your neighbors, start an online store… That mentality permeates society. By law, any person can operate a sole-proprietership without filing anything in advance; just start doing business and keep track for tax purposes. If you succeed in just one market, let it be America. The market is large and rich, business flows easily, and wealth can accumulate quickly. Rags to riches stories can be found from any corner of the land, in business, sports, entertainment; any corner. Most will never be rich, but anyone can try. Don't think so? YOU reading this can start an online business, process bank payments and get going. Now you don't even have to be in America to participate in America.
When dreamers interact with dreamers, magic happens. Silicon Valley happens. Hollywood happens. Broadway happens. These are magnets for the globe's dreamers. Not everybody can cut the mustard, but the ones who can are treated to success and the joy of interacting with others of the world's best. Countless cities try to create Silicon Valley or Hollywood clones. It's a paradox. A government cannot order up a Silicon Valley any more than a gardner with a pocket full of seeds can plant a forest in the desert.
If it sounds like I'm cheerleading for America, let me assure you that the country has many problems too. I already mentioned poverty. In some instances it may be easier to get a better K-12 education elsewhere and then immigrate to America as a young adult. The universities are top-notch and are the crucible of many important business relationships. The degree of commercialization is, for my taste, too much. Crappy food companies try to target my kids with insidious marketing campaigns. It's a rich country where families can collapse into poverty over medical expenses. It's also, frankly, sickening that so many schools can suffer attacks from gunmen and the government doesn't fix it.
But it is the country of jazz, rock, and rap. It sent humanity to the moon and gave it the Internet. It also gave us twinkies, Coca-Cola, and Barbie dolls. It's a country of many global cities (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc) each formed by different immigrant groups who came by following the same American Dream. It's a nation borne of philosophers instead of kings.