So, unless this is the only blog you read, you heard about David Brooks’s column this past week. Most of the attention was focused on the paragraph where he takes a (probably made-up) friend with “only a high school degree” to a fancy-pants hipster sandwich shop. His poor little friend couldn’t deal with the fancy names on the sammitches and had a panic attack. So Brooksie took her to Taco Bell or something.
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Reminder: David Brooks is a very silly person who thought the sharp crease in Obama’s pants meant he would be a great president. I guess the arrogant liberal elite word for him would be “fatuous.” But if he weren’t so self-consciously status-signaling to his fellow arrogant liberal elites, the main point of his column might not have been obscured. And it was a pretty good point, about how the American upper middle class is screwing over the lower middle and working classes, and one of the way they keep other people down is through self-conscious social-status signaling.
But the other ways are also notable, and he notes them. For example, hyper-leftist cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle enact housing and zoning laws specifically intended to restrict the availability of housing. (They call it, “Smart Growth.”) What this does is restrict the housing supply so that the upper middle class can be assured that the value of their homes will increase. They also game college admissions to ensure that the elite colleges act as connection clubs for their own kind. But mostly he focuses on the social status signaling; how the elite signal to each other that they are part of the club through conformity in their tastes and causes. (Which is why upper middle class women are suddenly all nutzoid about trannies.)
The parts Brooks doesn’t talk about are the parts he doesn’t want to talk about for fear of risking his own social status. One is the explosion in the administrative class in government, education, and health care. The reason all of these have become so much more expensive is the proliferation of useless expensive Golgafrincham Arrk Fleet B-Ship people. The amount of doctors and nurses in health care has been fairly constant, but the numbers of overpaid health care bureaucrats has exploded. (Michelle Obama got a no-show $300K per annum administrative job at a hospital when her husband was a senator; a job that was eliminated after she left). Colleges could eliminate every staff member with the word “diversity” in their job description and eliminate all the useless departments with the word “Studies” in them and education would be a lot more affordable to people from the lower classes. But the upper middle class likes these things, or pretends to, for the sake of preserving their status.
Not to mention, unchecked mass immigration … which Brooks supports… is helpful to the upper middle and upper classes, but devastating to the lower middle and working classes. But he can’t say that, or even think it, because what would the other arrogant liberal elites think?
Social stratification — when people become locked into their socio-economic classes and cannot move — is a terminal symptom of a stagnant and declining society.