Saturday, May 03, 2014

Liberals Undermine Middle Class

Eric Hoffer
Tom Bethell used to be with the progressive Washington Monthly, and now edits the conservative American Spectator. Bethell recently reviewed Fred Siegel’s 2012 book How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, which as we earlier pointed out, targets a progressive elite alienated from the Democratic Franklin Roosevelt-to-Lyndon Johnson  emphasis on uplifting America’s working class.  Bethell quotes Siegel’s attack on “gentry liberals. . . every bit as class-conscious” as British Tories, elitists who in the 1960s took up “the priestly task of de-democratizing America in the name of administering newly developed rights.” [emphasis added]

Bethell draws on other conservatives who share the Siegel perspective on gentry liberals, including Michael Barone, who wrote that “the roots of American liberalism are not compassion but snobbery,” and Joel Kotkin who said the anti-democratic character of modern liberalism
undermines much of the reason we became progressives in the first place, which was to help the middle and working classes. The gentry’s stridency and hypocrisy—what’s OK for them is not for everyone else—is utterly transforming liberalism today.  
Bethell’s hero is Eric Hoffer, the self-taught longshoreman-philosopher whom Bethell honored with a book. Hoffer disdained liberals as “intellectuals,” and believed intellectuals fear the masses, even as they retain their votes, because
In a democracy the intellectual is without an unquestioned sense of superiority and a sense of social usefulness. He is not listened to and not taken seriously. The truth is that intellectuals never found a democratic society acceptable. Bagehot himself was convinced: “If you once permit the ignorant class to rule you may bid farewell to deference forever.”
Hoffer also taught us: 
It is incredible how few foresaw that the coming of affluence would cause a shift from the pursuit of wealth to the pursuit of power, and that such a shift would be the origin of great evils. Where there is widespread plenty, common people will no longer be regulated and disciplined by the invisible hand of scarcity. Order and stability will have to be deliberately imposed by despotic power. At the same time, the well-off will no longer be able to derive a sense of uniqueness from riches.
Intellectuals raised to rule must protect their meritocracy--in theory (not in practice) built upon an equal opportunity to advance through education. Meritocracy preaches the virtues of pursuing learning over wealth (even as the power learning's winners acquire routinely produces affluence), and in the name of democratic socialism, intellectuals seek to undermine the capitalist system that offers all an equal opportunity to gather riches; the miracle economy that has uplifted masses by the billions worldwide.

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