Image of the ruins at Jamestown, Virginia, from Robert Sears, A pictorial description of the United States, 1854

Endless economic growth, culminating in the world’s highest living standards, is part of the way that America—meaning “the United States of America”—sees itself. The phrase “the American dream” is hackneyed, but even the one word “America” can become a metaphor of desirability and longing. In Jacques Brel’s 1962 song, Madeleine was the alluring but difficult to attain girlfriend who was “mon Amérique à moi.” The first generation of Europeans after the Second World War yearned for...


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