"We have this culture of luxury shame. I think its become kind of shameful to express over-affluence." --Hollywood Publicist Michael Levine
On January 27th, the Associated Press ran an article that seems to be trying to push all of our envy buttons at the same time. How sad and childish. The article, "The wealthy turn stealthy as economy weakens", expands the myth that if the rich would just stop being rich, we could all enter the great socialist utopia with our collective stomachs full and our spirits high.
Not so fast. Let's first examine Michael Levine's asinine assertion. Why do we have this culture of luxury shame to begin with? Is this really a good thing? Does it promote strength and confidence and optimism? Of course not. And these are things we need right now during a recession. Who gets to decide that it's shameful to express over-affluence? Is over-affluence even a word? I mean, if you have wealth and you did not obtain it by force or fraud, you're OK in my book.
We shouldn't be surprised in the least that the election of an ultra-liberal senator to the presidency has brought with it a new socialist propaganda. However, there is really nothing new with envy of the rich, guilt with wealth, and a desire to make everything a shade of gray. It was drivel back in the days of the New Deal, and it is drivel now with the cloud of an intensely pork laden stimulus bill before us. It should illustrate to us that Ayn Rand was correct decades ago when she said that the true battle is Capitalism versus Socialism.
This being said, look at how successful businessmen like Robert Jones are talking. He was quoted in the AP as saying, "A lot of us are downsizing not only because we have to, but because we think it is the right thing to do." I don't have a problem with the first part of his quote, but I believe the second part is a contradiction in terms. Who said it is the right thing to do? Someone with far less wealth? There is simply something terribly wrong with the idea that if a wealthy person feels bad about themselves everyone else of lower means will see their lot in life improve.
I dare say that the opposite is true. As Sean Hannity is fond of saying, rich people are the ones who create jobs. When is the last time a poor person gave you a job? Poor people ought to be grateful that the free market creates jobs. Free markets always give us more opportunity to grow than any government make-work program in the past, present or future. Our problem is that we always apologize for wealth made by others we "feel" is too much. We see nothing stupid about not letting anyone fail. Even AIG and GM run to the government like frightened children.
Indeed, viewing someone else's wealth they earned as shameful is just a foolish extension of believing life is a zero sum game. That is, if someone else is enjoying luxury that somehow takes my opportunity away to do the same. If I'm a winner, everyone has somehow lost. If I'm a loser, everyone has somehow managed to win. I can't help but think that if we continue to believe in this new culture of luxury shame, we will be left with nothing besides rags and dictatorship.
Even the wealthy don't want to physically be seen as they are. Wealthy. The AP article pointed to a disturbing fact that in my opinion points to evidence that feeling guilty for wealth is chic in part to an Obama presidency. Why else would the wealthy (Again, explain to me who gets to define what it means to be wealthy) decide to have their purchases shipped to their homes instead of walking out of a store with them? The last time I checked, this was still America. We're proud of what we can purchase with money obtained without force or fraud.
So, go ahead and reject this insidious culture of luxury shame. To say it's un-American would be a gross understatement. It is a farce with a capital F. And I highly doubt that a poor person came up with it. We've got better things to do.
Like working and living and loving in the greatest place on Earth.
Tony Zizza is a free-lance writer who lives in Hermitage, TN. He writes frequently about politics and popular culture. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.