As I drive to work every day in my fully paid for 2002 CRV with 110,000 miles, I have plenty of time to observe my surroundings. Sitting in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, I have noticed that the number of luxury Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac and Lexus vehicles seems out of proportion to the number of wealthy people in the Philadelphia population.
When I see an older gentleman, wearing a suit, driving one of these automobiles, I assume that he is a wealthy executive who has put in his time and rewarded himself with a luxury vehicle. But, most of these vehicles are being driven by Joe the Plumber types. As I take a shortcut through some of the more depressed areas of West Philadelphia, I see people talking on their Apple (AAPL) iPhones, Direct TV satellite dishes attached to dilapidated row homes, and Cadillac Escalades & Mercedes parked on the mean streets. This is not exactly the world that Henry Fondaâ€™s character, Tom Joad, described in The Grapes of Wrath.
When I see â€œpoorâ€ people appearing to live a more luxurious life than myself, I donâ€™t feel jealous. The thought that goes through my head is: Which banks or finance companies were foolish enough to loan these people the money to live this lifestyle?
It’s always easier to blame an institution for a basic tendency of humanity that our society has let get out of control: we want to pander to everyone, to please everyone, to get votes and be popular, instead of taking a stand for what is realistic and a pragmatic moral response to it.
After all, people who are not smart enough to be able to predict how reality will react several steps down the line are not going to see why what they’re doing is stupid and unnecessary. Dumber people don’t understand what smarter people are talking about. Also, since dumber people can’t understand smarter people, dumber people assume dumber people are smarter.
This is why most great civilizations have been based on the smart oppressing the dumb.
Our society is based on the opposite principle, which is the collective mass oppressing the potentially intelligent individual — because the mass designs its solutions for the lowest common denominator, and therefore the smarter people don’t fit well into its plans.
All of the bloviation about libertarianism, freedom, etc. was originally designed to counter this problem. But then the crowd surged in and took over those ideas too, making them “safe” by reducing them to the principle: tell no one they cannot do whatever it is they think they want to do. That’s how you build a mob, a cult.
And so the problem continues, and people shrug as if they’re helpless, which is a sad lie in itself: the situation can be easily changed, but it requires some of us agree on what it is.