February 11, 2024
This is an excellent read on how the arrogance of the elites is damaging our society and country:
In the same way that you don’t notice the specifics of your own culture until you travel elsewhere, you don’t really notice your social class until you enter another one. As an undergraduate at Yale a decade ago, I came to see that my peers had experienced a totally different social reality than me. I had grown up poor, a biracial product of family dysfunction, foster care and military service. Suddenly ensconced in affluence at an elite university—more Yale students come from families in the top 1% of income than from the bottom 60%—I found myself thinking a lot about class divides and social hierarchies.
I’d thought that by entering a place like Yale, we were being given a privilege as well as a duty to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. Instead, I often found among my fellow students what I call "luxury beliefs”—ideas and opinions that confer status on the upper class but often inflict real costs on the lower classes. For example, a classmate told me "monogamy is kind of outdated” and not good for society. I asked her what her background was and if she planned to marry. She said she came from an affluent, stable, two-parent home—just like most of our classmates. She added that, yes, she personally planned to have a monogamous marriage, but quickly insisted that traditional families are old-fashioned and that society should "evolve” beyond them.
My classmate’s promotion of one ideal ("monogamy is outdated”) while living by another ("I plan to get married”) was echoed by other students in different ways. Some would, for instance, tell me about the admiration they had for the military, or how trade schools were just as respectable as college, or how college was not necessary to be successful. But when I asked them if they would encourage their own children to enlist or become a plumber or an electrician rather than apply to college, they would demur or change the subject.
In the past, people displayed their membership in the upper class with their material accouterments. As the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen famously observed in his 1899 book "The Theory of the Leisure Class,” status symbols must be difficult to obtain and costly to purchase. In Veblen’s day, people exhibited their status with delicate and restrictive clothing, such as top hats and evening gowns, or by partaking in time-consuming activities, such as golf or beagling. The value of these goods and activities, argued Veblen, was in the very fact that they were so pricey and wasteful that only the wealthy could afford them.
Read the rest!
Essay | ‘Luxury Beliefs’ That Only the Privileged Can Afford
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