October 30, 2012
Victor Davis Hanson ponders a certain, quite common kind of leftist mindset. Among its attributes, this:
For some, especially those who are well-educated and well-spoken, a sort of irrational furore at “the system” governs their political make-up. Why don’t degrees and vocabulary always translate into big money? Why does sophisticated pontificating at Starbucks earn less than mindlessly doing accounting behind a desk? We saw this tension with Michelle Obama who, prior to 2009, did not quite have enough capital to get to Aspen or Costa del Sol, and thereby, despite the huge power-couple salaries, Chicago mansion, and career titles, felt that others had far too much more than the Obamas. “Never been proud,” “downright mean country,” “raise the bar,” etc., followed as expressions of yuppie angst. The more one gets, the more one believes he should get even more, and the angrier he gets that another - less charismatic, less well-read, less well-spoken - always seems to get more.
So do not discount the envy of the sophisticated elite. The unread coal plant manager, the crass car dealer, or the clueless mind who farms 1000 acres of almonds should not make more than the sociology professor, the kindergarten teacher, the writer, the artist, or the foundation officer. What sort of system would allow the dense and easily fooled to become better compensated (and all for what - for superfluous jet skis and snowmobiles?) than the anguished musician or tortured-soul artist, who gives so much to us and receives so much less in return? What a sick country - when someone who brings chain saws into the Sierra would make more than a UC Berkeley professor who would stop them.
Speaking of professors, remember Jere Surber, whose nuanced and complex socialism - and resentments about status - are exceeded only by his self-flattery? Of course you do. But still, the last paragraph should bear some repetition. And while we’re on the subject of superior beings and their benign and selfless wisdom, here’s a cheering thought. Occupy announces that the ongoing flooding and destruction, and the hospitals without power, along with the frightened, the cold, the injured and the dead... all of this is good for us. With capitalism “in retreat,” we’ve been “unchained,” you see.
In the comments, rjmadden notes how socialist bloviating often implies the need for a corrective caste system, under which society will be reorganised, regulated and, oh yes, made fair. Indeed, it’s surprising just how often professed egalitarianism coincides with assumptions of superiority and hierarchical entitlement. There are dozens of examples in the archives. Among them, John Jordan, an “artist and activist” and co-editor of We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism. Writing in the Guardian, Mr Jordan demanded taxpayer subsidy on the basis that he is “showing us how to live differently.” You see, talentless, recidivist anti-capitalists are our teachers - messiahs, in fact - and so we should be forced to hand over our earnings. It may be your money, the money you had to work for, but he, being so special, is more deserving.
An assumed caste system might also explain why George Monbiot flies around the world to promote his own books while insisting that other, less enlightened, less important people shouldn’t. Mr Monbiot is also annoyed by the fact that some people can afford to buy jet skis, and therefore go jet skiing, of which he disapproves. So much so that in 2007 he prayed for a recession to teach us all a lesson and put us in our place. Beneath him, presumably. And maybe that’s why Polly Toynbee grumbles about non-leftwing people earning almost as much as she does. Perhaps, like George, she imagines herself as part of the impending nomenklatura, and therefore entitled, unlike those boorish nobodies who just run businesses. Know your place, peasants. Our betters have big plans.