29th October 2011
Victor Davis Hanson, being an historian, can’t help but realize that there is nothing new under the sun.
In a nutshell, our American elites, even if well-meaning with real concern for the less fortunate, have adopted the medieval practice of compartmentalization. Loud demonstrations of general progressive piety exempt one from consistency. Our medieval ancestors could practice usury if they helped repair a collapsed nave or joined a Crusade, as traditional Christianity tried to deal with an imperfect world of important Christians who did not wish to live by their doctrine.
Today, liberalism puts a comparable burden on its elites: can one occupy Wall Street and still enjoy the luxury of that iPhone 4s? Did the university professor in Zuccotti Park worry about Wall Street when his TIAA-Cref account used to return 8% plus per annum? Can we still jet to Tuscany and worry about carbon footprints? Can we live in Chevy Chase, Malibu, or Woodside and be stalwarts on the barricades of racial integration and multiculturalism? How can we make $200,000 a year as Assistant Vice Provost for Diversity Affairs, when a part-time lecturer gets 1/5 for the same class a full-time, top-step professor teaches?
Modern society is a conspiracy of the Overclass and the Undercass against the Middle Class, and has been ever since ‘progressives’ captured the government and popular culture a hundred years ago. The Crust think that, since they’re all than anybody every sees, they’re actually the filling rather than just the decoration.
Savvy wealthy people—whether the Kennedy Trust beneficiaries, a Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett—understand that minimizing tax exposure, trying to avoid federal inheritance taxes through foundations, or accumulating vast riches are, in the liberal sense of ethics, offset by progressive platitudes. In short, we are supposed to think differently of John Kerry trying to avoid taxes on his multimillion-dollar superfluous yacht than we do of a car dealer’s Lexus. Warren Buffett can praise big government and higher taxes as the indulgence necessary to feel OK about shorting the government billions of future inheritance taxes by giving his fortune to a privately-run foundation that apparently is felt to be more efficient than the Department of Human Services, who, after all, could use the cash in these times of mega-deficits.
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