Once the liberal vision of legal equality of opportunity was mostly achieved, the melodrama of ensuring an equality of result entailed. Wealthy liberals, however, were not quite up to their own rhetoric, in the sense of living the life of egalitarianism, diversity, and conspicuously reduced consumption. I don’t remember any Silicon Valley grandees offering space for a few non-running Winnebagos to be parked out behind their six-car garages. (I can offer blueprints of how it is done by sending a few pictures from six or seven of my neighbors.) There are few Kias on Malibu streets. Or less dramatically, Google execs do not put their kids in Redwood City elementary schools to learn of hard-knocks from the Other. Kanye West’s house has unused room for lots of homeless people. MSNBC radicals do not take the subway home to inner Harlem. Tenured Stanford faculty do not live in East Palo Alto.
The result of cosmic disappointment in the ability of progressive politics to correct human disparities has given birth to the modern psychological disorder of elite liberalism, which is mostly about squaring the circle of maintaining privilege while deploring inequality. Say America is unfair ten times a day, and the BMW in the garage and the new putter are no longer sins.
Barack Obama cannot finish a sentence without lamenting unfairness; but he proves to be no Jimmy Carter in scouting out the most exclusive of golf courses, and the richest of fat cats to putt with. Elizabeth Warren talks of oppressed minorities, but then invents a pseudo-Native-American identity to get a leg up on the elite competition in order to land at Harvard. The fact is that the elite who champion the poor and the poor themselves are not the players of the 1930s; the former usually make about the same amount of money and enjoy the same privileges as those they damn, while the latter have access to appurtenances and privileges denied the royalty of old.
The wealthier and more secluded an Oprah, the most desperately she searches for evidence of bias and inequality, finally reduced to the caricature of whining about racially driven poor service over a $38,000 crocodile handbag. If most in California don’t care what people do in their bedrooms, or if gays have on average higher incomes than non-gays, or if gay marriage is now de rigeur, the search for cosmic equality continues at an even brisker pace, resulting in transgendered bathrooms in the public schools (crede mihi: the ten-year-old daughters of the Yahoo elite will not encounter transgendered fifteen-year-old boys in the female Menlo School restrooms).
It is not perverse, but logical that Obamacare architects don’t want Obamacare coverage. It is understandable that Washington young-gun liberals know exactly where DuPont Circle or Georgetown gets iffy. Modern liberalism provides the necessary mental mechanisms to ensure the enjoyment of privilege. Al Gore was the classical liberal of the age, crafting an entire green empire predicated on opposing the very values that he later embraced to become, and preserve staying, very rich.
There’s a whole bunch more and you should go read all of it. I mean it – go read it. What are you waiting for?
I’m not bothered by the fact that I’m not rich. I made my peace with that reality a long time ago. Nor do I begrudge anybody their wealth, not even the ones like Paris Hilton who inherit it. I don’t believe that rich people get that way at my expense. I have had a lot of things taken from me in this life but it wasn’t rich people who stole them.
What bothers me is wealthy people bemoaning the country and economic system that made them wealthy. What really annoys me is the hypocrisy of rich people acting like wealth is a crime while they live la dolce vita with their money. If Matt Damon thinks public schools are so great why does he send his kids to private school?
I’m not really big on fancy theories, I am more of a pragmatist. Capitalism and democracy seem to be connected. Generally speaking, where you find one you find the other, and when you find both of them you also find prosperity right around the corner.
Capitalism and democracy both have flaws, but they both have one important thing in common – they work better than any other system that has ever been tried. If your criteria is “the greatest good for the greatest number” then there is really only one option for a political/economic system – ours.
Our system took thousands of years to develop with some of the smartest minds that ever lived working on it. And yet the both democracy and capitalism are under constant attack by some of the very people who have benefited the most from them.
The ultimate irony is that a lot of the problems we have today are the result of people trying to fix what wasn’t broken, and the people responsible for that mess want us to keep trying more of what doesn’t work.