Update on the Destructiveness of the Leisure Class
I'm responding to @robkhenderson article in Quillette, November 2019, in which the author, Rob Henderson, states:
"I realized that luxury beliefs have become fashionable status symbols. Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower 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.
Beliefs are now the coin of the realm to display one's social status. I agree completely with Rob Henderson's position. It goes a long way to explaining why we are inundated with fashionable, yet often counter-intuitive and counter-productive trendy belief systems, which emanate from the elite Northeastern universities and seem to infect the rest of society as a whole.
This article opened a door in my mind, which helped me to understand some of my friends, who attended Ivy League (and non-Ivy League) institutions.
I couldn't quite fathom their dogmatic adherence to the latest Leftist belief system coming out of Academia. I knew I was missing something, and that something is that the belief system confers social status on the believers in a way that I could not conceive, having not been privy to it.
Rob's article focuses on the damage this trickle-down of fashionable beliefs does to the non-elite classes as they try to emulate the belief system a la mode, but he spends less time focusing on how these obtuse belief systems wreak havoc on society by their inherent stupidity. The author touches on it in the last paragraph, where he quotes Thomas Sowell, who speaking on elite activism, stated that activism is “a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.”
I would posit this to be the more destructive force than the trickle-down effect: that the ‘fashionable’ belief system is inherently destructive, a fact which is irrelevant to the social status virtue signalers, who just need a fresh belief system every season regardless of its merit or destructiveness. This and the fact that the morals and beliefs are constantly rotating in and out of fashion to keep their freshness does as much damage, if not more, than the non-elites inability to absorb the negative consequences of acting out these beliefs, but it’s probably a photo-finish as to which is worse. Nevertheless, we’re evidently stuck with both.
Ironically, most of the comments I've seen on a post about this article engage in arguing the benefits vs. costs of the latest fashionable beliefs, thereby proving Rob's point and encouraging the problem, while at the same time, fully missing the point.