A dashed-off note on an idea I may develop later:
Today, a billboard in Los Angeles demanding the end of bull-riding got me thinking.
Rob Henderson writes of luxury beliefs, which he defines as follows, “Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.” One trouble with luxury beliefs is that by their very nature they are a luxury. He gives examples of various luxury beliefs which could and do wreck havoc upon those who are left to pay the cost of such beliefs.
When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”
What of those who can’t afford such luxuries. Advocating for these positions is far more harmful to those in the middle class (even upper middle class which is a far more tenuous position than those a bit “further down” on the economic scale might imagine. A billionaire can simply live somewhere else; the white collar professional cannot.
I wonder if there is another class of beliefs which are available to the college-educated but not truly wealthy. Yes, many will try to hold the luxury beliefs, but those beliefs come at a very high cost. If you are the head of a multinational corporation, “white privilege” used as a weapon really can’t hurt you. But if you live near the border, enormous numbers of exceedingly poor people coming through your town can be very expensive.
And so while the very wealthy can afford to displace their beliefs on those with less money, it is not always an option the upper middle class – or for those with even less economic clout.
There seems to another category of beliefs which can be off-loaded onto the other – now often the political other.
One can assert some sort of moral claim which must be enforced (luxury beliefs are typically in the name of permissiveness; these claims seem to be more in the form of a prohibition). I noticed this recently when I saw people on either side of the political divide complaining in a most uncivil manner about civility.
This observation is not new in the least. There are any number of these demands stated in terms of moral prohibition which are demanded, though exclusively upon one’s political opponents.
It is not precisely hypocrisy, which would be a knowing demand and disregard for some norm. The people asserting the prohibition seem to either believe that only the
“other side” does these things or that the violation of the prohibition is morally permissible in this instance.
An even purer form of this form of thought comes when the demand is made upon something I simply would never do. The bull-riding billboard in Los Angeles, far from any potential bull rider was fascinating. Rodeos are not a common occurrence in Sherman Oaks. While a few horses pace around the Equestrian Center in Burbank, and some more in Shadow Hills, there is no livestock in Westwood or Hollywood.
Why then this demand to stop bull riding? This moral preening is even more pure than the other-side-does-it-only/more. There is always a possibility I could discover that “my side” is actually on the whole more profane, uncivil, or whatnot. But there is (almost) no possibility that Ventura Blvd. is suffused with Rodeo clowns – or even people who have seen a rodeo in person.
To complain about bull-riding due to the “torture” (I believe that was the word on the sign) is completely free to the people who saw the sign. To demand civility might eventually mean I must be civil. But to cast moral aspersion upon something I simply could never even by accident do!
This permits to have a moral high ground without ever being forced to expend moral capital. I need do nothing and I am morally good and right!
It seems that such beliefs function in a manner similar to “luxury beliefs,” without the unpayable cost.
A full taxonomy of beliefs, which ultimately function as various species of hypocrisy (moral permissions and prohibitions which do not apply to me, and always apply to you) would be interesting.
Perhaps there are at least three, luxury beliefs, morally cost-free beliefs (bull-riding is bad), and morally low-cost beliefs (prohibitions which apply only to your, and rarely if ever to me and my side).
We used conclude letters in the law with the words “dictated but not read”, which was an excuse for any barbarism in the syntax.
And for no reason, Jalama Beach, California