Victor Davis Hanson: Reflections on the "Liberal Revolution" in America

These are exciting though scary revolutionary times, akin to the constant acrimony in the fourth-century BC polis, mid-nineteenth century revolutionary Europe, or — perhaps in a geriatric replay — the 1960s. This is an era when the fundamental assumptions of the individual and the state are now being redefined, albeit in a weird, high-tech, globalized landscape.

A word of caution: we are not talking about hoi polloi versus hoi oligoi, or the commune on the barricades fighting the estate owners. No, not this time around.

Instead, the present attempt to remake America is the effort of the liberal well-to-do — highly educated at mostly private universities, nursed on three decades of postmodern education, either with inherited wealth or earning top salaries, lifestyles of privilege indistinguishable from those they decry as selfish, and immune from the dictates they impose on others.

Such are basically the profiles of the Obama cabinet and sub-cabinet, the pillars of liberalism in the Congress and state legislatures, the public intellectuals in the universities and foundations, the arts crowd, and the Hollywood elite. Let us be clear about that....

They are all battling on behalf of “them,” the poorer half of America, currently in need of some sort of housing, education, food, or legal subsidy, whom the above mentioned elite, in the way they live, send their children to school, socialize, and vacation so studiously avoid....

Note well the term “poor.” These are not Dickensian or Joads poor, but largely Americans who by the standards of the 1940s would be considered lucky. Partly because of globalized Chinese consumer goods, and partly redistributive practices of a half-century, our current “underclass” has access to clothes, electronics, entertainment, apartments, cell phones, transportation, etc., undreamed of by the middle class of the recent past. I live in one of the poorest areas of one of the poorest counties in a bankrupt state; and those I see poor are not like those I saw 40 years ago in the same locale....

Some of the revolutionaries are guided by genuine noblesse oblige. Others act out of guilt and can justify their own consumption if they “care” for a distant poorer other. Still more explain their own privilege through using government to redistribute income. A few are driven by genuine hatred — stemming from the fact that the highly educated academic or artist makes far less than the doctor, lawyer, CEO, or — heaven forbid — tire store owner, family orthodontist, or owner of a half dozen Little Caesar pizza franchises.

How can that be that the PhD who reads Old English, or the painter who emulates Pollock, or the writer who is the next Fitzgerald, or the AP teacher is given so much less by society than the crass, smug captain of industry, who reads less, has no real taste, and hardly understands his own existential dilemma? Should not salary and capital be predicated on good intentions, high education, rhetoric and argumentation, and a bit of necessary sarcasm?...

There is no appreciation that scrappy, often grubby Americans this minute are scrambling on their computer terminals, on their forklifts, in their commuting cars to run a business, provide a service, or move up the employment ladder in hopes of improving their lot and leaving behind something for their kids. They are the engines of capitalism and they don’t often go to Yale, or Rev. Wright’s church, or work at Human Resources Department. And when they all do, we will be in sorry shape....

So fascinating these modern revolutionaries. A Buffet does not choose to pay the high income tax rate on his earnings, though he surely could in lieu of lecturing how taxes are too low. A Gates Sr. does not plan for his offspring to pay into the strapped treasury needed inheritance taxes, though he remonstrates that they must be raised on everyone else. A Geithner does not comply with the tax code, though he assumes it should be raised on others. A Gore lectures on honesty and truth and science on his way to a $100 million con that turns him from an affluent ex-politician into a global grandee.

I’m sorry — I don’t take seriously much of anything from this wannabe revolutionary bunch.

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More Comments:

Stephen Kislock - 3/19/2010

How many Wars are the Chinese fighting Now?

How many Coups, have the Chinese participated in? The US of A, over 40.

Michael Davis - 3/19/2010

What then? Then we become like Argentina with a boom-bust economy, worthless currency, and a population that heads for other countries (or if they are from another country already, then returns,) China becomes a hegemon, and let's just say, they ain't gonna be as nice and friendly as the U.S. has been these past 20 years since the USSR imploded.

Stephen Kislock - 3/19/2010

Credit that should not been given. Criminal Mortgages,we know they can't afford it, But we will just, sell this toxic instrument to someone else.

China, was forced on us, the American People by American Business, for the Short Profit. When it gets to the Point, where American, cannot afford even Chinese products, What Them?

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