This does not mean that ambition is at an end, that people no longer feel its stirrings and promptings, but only that, no longer openly honored, it is less openly professed.
Instead, we are treated to fine hypocritical spectacles, which now more than ever seem in ample supply: the critic of American materialism with a Southampton summer home; the publisher of radical books who takes his meals in three-star restaurants; the journalist advocating participatory democracy in all phases of life, whose own children are enrolled in private schools.
What is odd is that they have perhaps most benefited from ambition — if not always their own then that of their parents and grandparents.
What has happened is that people cannot confess fully to their dreams, as easily and openly as once they could, lest they be thought pushing, acquisitive and vulgar.
If the tradition of ambition is to have vitality, it must be widely shared; and it especially must be highly regarded by people who are themselves admired, the educated not least among them.
If ambition is to be well regarded, the rewards of ambition — wealth, distinction, control over one's destiny — must be deemed worthy of the sacrifices made on ambition's behalf.
America and Americans were prosperous beyond the dreams of the Europeans and Asians whose economies the war had destroyed.
When the United States entered just such a glowing period after the end of the Second World War, it had a market eight times larger than any competitor, giving its industries unparalleled economies of scale.
It was inevitable that this primacy should have narrowed as other countries grew richer.
There are about 105 males born for every 100 females, but this ratio drops to near balance at the age of maturity, and among 70-year-olds there are twice as many women as men.
A history of long and effortless success can be a dreadful handicap, but, if properly handled, it may become a driving force.
"American industry has changed its structure, has gone on a diet, has learnt to be more quick-witted," according to Richard Cavanagh, executive dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
For a while it looked as though the making of semiconductors, which America had invented and which sat at the heart of the new computer age, was going to be the next casualty.
Since much of the variation is due to genes, one more agent of evolution has gone.
But however amazed our descendants may be at how far from Utopia we were, they will look just like us.
This means that, for the first time, there will be an excess of boys in those crucial years when they are searching for a mate.
Darwin had a phrase to describe those ignorant of evolution: they "look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as at something wholly beyond his comprehension".
The grand mediocrity of today — everyone being the same in survival and number of offspring — means that natural selection has lost 80% of its power in upper-middle-class India compared to the tribes.