Monday, November 18, 2019

What Are Luxury Beliefs?

It’s an intriguing thought, well worth our consideration.  If you have ever wondered why people with gobs of money, who have ascended the economic status hierarchy are so prone to mouth incoherent radical leftist tripe, Rob Henderson offers one response.

They wear their beliefs like status symbols. Henderson calls them luxury beliefs because they believe that being being politically correct, however much it damages the nation, is a way to assert higher social status.

I would add that in an age where the national media and its attendant mob shuns anyone who expresses a discordant non-radical belief, spouting luxury beliefs is good public relations. It protects you from being branded a bigot and being expelled from public society.

Were I to speculate I would add that people who have conquered the marketplace and who have amassed great fortunes seem to have the unfortunate tendency to think that they must now become philosophers. They look for new words to conquer and they set their sights on the marketplace of ideas. Thus, they turn to those professorial and media intellectuals who seem to have status within the world of ideas. And they allow said intellectuals to manipulate their minds, to persuade them to think politically correct thoughts. They resemble the dupes in the Socratic dialogues, the rubes who easily allow the great philosopher to make them think what he wants them to think... and to persuade them that they are independent thinkers.

Luxury beliefs have taken the place of fancy clothes, large yachts, mega mansions and trust funds. They now signal membership in the upper class:

In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs. 

Henderson suggests that those who collect luxury beliefs also believe that they are possessed of superior righteousness, as though holding the right beliefs made them moral paragons:

 Not only do top university graduates want to be millionaires-in-the-making; they also want the image of moral righteousness. Peterson underlines that elite graduates desire high status not only financially, but morally as well. For these affluent social strivers, luxury beliefs offer them a new way to gain status.

Thus, high status in material terms becomes conjoined with high moral status. In material terms people show their status by wasting money. It might be by buying overpriced goods. It might be by spending money on leisure activities, like gambling. The goal is to designate oneself as a high status individual:

Veblen, an economist and sociologist, made his observations about social class in the late nineteenth century. He compiled his observations in his classic work, The Theory of the Leisure Class. A key idea is that because we can’t be certain of the financial standing of other people, a good way to size up their means is to see whether they can afford to waste money on goods and leisure. This explains why status symbols are so often difficult to obtain and costly to purchase….

Veblen proposed that the wealthy flaunt these symbols not because they are useful, but because they are so pricey or wasteful that only the wealthy can afford them, which is why they’re high-status indicators. And this still goes on. A couple of winters ago it was common to see students at Yale and Harvard wearing Canada Goose jackets. Is it necessary to spend $900 to stay warm in New England? No. But kids weren’t spending their parents’ money just for the warmth. They were spending the equivalent of the typical American’s weekly income ($865) for the logo. 

College students advertise their high moral status by mouthing the platitudes of political correctness. Thereby, they also protect themselves of any status lowering accusations of bigotry:

Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

Henderson is suggesting that no sensible and intelligent person could really believe this rot. Ergo, the wealthy students who do so are showing off their superior status, meaning their having been educated at America’s leading indoctrination mills:

Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

And, of course, Henderson adds, the policies espoused by these high intellectual status individuals, cost them nothing. Poorer classes pay the price for this intellectual aberration:

Affluent people promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others….

Advocating for open borders and drug experimentation are good ways of advertising your membership of the elite because, thanks to your wealth and social connections, they will cost you less than me.

Naturally, sexual license is high on the list of luxury beliefs. Nowadays, polyamory is all the rage. As it happened, upper class individuals who mouth this drool tend to maintain stable marriages. Lower class people who emulate them have far more broken marriages.

Polyamory is the latest expression of sexual freedom championed by the affluent. They are in a better position to manage the complications of novel relationship arrangements. And if these relationships don’t work out, they can recover thanks to their financial capability and social capital. The less fortunate suffer by adopting the beliefs of the upper class.

Henderson continues:

The Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam at a Senate hearing said, “Rich kids and poor kids now grow up in separate Americas…Growing up with two parents is now unusual in the working class, while two-parent families are normal and becoming more common among the upper middle class.” Upper-class people, particularly in the 1960s, championed sexual freedom. Loose sexual norms spread throughout the rest of society. The upper class, though, still have intact families. They experiment in college and then settle down later. The families of the lower class fell apart. Today, the affluent are among the most likely to display the luxury belief that sexual freedom is great, though they are the most likely to get married and least likely to get divorced. 

Upper class individuals cling to these beliefs until the same beliefs become too pervasive. Until, that is, lower class individuals, aka deplorables, adopt them. After all, being high status means that people of lower status will be likely to emulate you. An to act on your stated beliefs. At that point, those of higher status will feel obliged to change their luxury beliefs:

Over time, luxury beliefs are embraced down the social ladder—at which point, the upper class abandons its old luxury beliefs and embraces new ones. Which explains why the beliefs of the upper class are constantly changing. It’s easy to see how this works if we look at actual fashion. The author Quentin Bell, in On Human Finery, wrote “Try to look like the people above you; if you’re at the top, try to look different from the people below you.” The elite’s conspicuous display of their luxury beliefs falls into this pattern. Their beliefs are emulated by others, sending them off in search of new beliefs to display. The affluent can’t risk looking like hoi polloi, after all.

Moral fashions change over time for the same reason. Moral fashions can quickly spiral as more and more members of the chattering classes adopt a certain view. Once the view becomes passé, the upper class, aiming to separate themselves, then update their moral inventories.


whitney said...

These people promote open borders and open marriages but end up living like the KKK and Christian conservatives

UbuMaccabee said...

Whitney is right. White leftists are the most bourgeoise people in the nation. They live exactly like Amy Wax advises successful people to live, but they are fanatic crusaders for the self-destruction of other people, especially poor people. They peddle poison to the people who have the lowest immunity. Crusaders used to be like this:

Now they are this:

Great article. Status beliefs have always been with us; Mencken mocked Veblen as a darling of the intellectual status-seekers at the time. And Marxism has always had a big allure for the very rich and privileged. It was a way for the pampered sons and daughters to play at revolution, pretending to be allied with the proles--until their respective trials came, and the rich kids skated free while the poor did hard time.

Hip-hop is a perfect venue for rich white kids to fake that they are down with the lumpenproletariat--and get beat up in the parking lot.

Also, the girl in the lavender cannot be for real. Feminists do not have 9's. I smell a plant. The girl in orange is for real, too real.

Sam L. said...

Luxury Beliefs = Status Symbols = "I'm BETTER than you proles, and you'd better suck up to me."

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Why do people do what they do?

Because they can.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This is what’s behind the elites’ national push for drug legalization (aside from the guilt and need to normalize their own youthful indiscretions).

The more people smoking pot, the better.

I believe this marijuana fad will end in social disaster. No employer wants to hire a pothead.

And the longer these potheads live in their parents’ basement — playing video games — the more they stay out of the workforce. This will be the first question they face from a potential employer: “Where the hell have you been?”

Productive people don’t like unproductive people. Believing that they do is a “luxury belief.”

Anonymous said...

Only allergic to assholes Sam I am, as status symbols aren't really the problem and only become problematic once the majority begins to worship their accumulation. It gives people different varieties of garbage to pursue.

jxh said...

Those who pompously 'stand up' for 'marginalized' groups are profoundly arrogant. They wish to project themselves as a 'white knight champion' because obviously 'these people cannot stand up for themselves'

Racism at its worst.

Anonymous said...

The Engine is Eternal!