We have seen the future, and it sucks.

The New, Nearly Invisible Class Markers That Separate the American Elite From Everyone Else

21st June 2017

Read it.

An obsession with who is and who is not ‘elite’ invariably marks people who are definitely not.

Being wealthy has become so passé that rich people are increasingly choosing not to display that wealth—that’s the theory behind a new book exploring the changing consumption habits of rich people in the West.

Actually, the reality is that the finer things in life are so available to non-rich people that rich people just don’t have that much in the way of an opportunity to grind the faces of the poor into the dirt they way they used to (in proglodyte fantasies). Bill Gates and Joe Sixpack both drink the same Coke, eat the same fries, pee in the same kind of toilet, and use the same type of gas in their cars.

In her new book, The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, Currid-Halkett takes aim at “Aspirationals”—the group that she sees as the new elite.

In other words, the people who are desperately afraid that they aren’t in the Upper Class, and so are going out of their way to find some means somehow to signal that they actually are. A bit of category confusion here.

Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breast-feed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption—like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates.

As I said, it’s all about signaling — mostly to yourself, to re-assure you that you are on the ‘right side of history’.

Still, Currid-Halkett’s book is an important glimpse into the decisions driving how today’s rich spend their money. And while it may be funny to joke about their yoga pants and affinity for kale, the rise of the “aspirational class” may have very real consequences. Perhaps most disturbing is Currid-Halkett’s conclusion that these consumption trends may exacerbate inequality. Increased spending by wealthy parents on education and health for their children, for example, may deepen class divides and limit opportunities for poorer kids.

Note the proglodyte axiom: Life is zero-sum, so if wealthy people spend more on their own kids it somehow ‘limits opportunities for poorer kids’.

Note the proglodyte axiom: Inequality is bad per se, so if you are better off but somebody else is even better off, then you are by definition worse off, even though in absolute terms you are better off. Ching! You’re a victim, and the taxpayers owe you money. Fork it over.

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