For a long time I have noticed that among my friends and associates, those with seriously more money don’t seem to have a seriously better or more interesting life. We holiday and travel to the same destinations, watch the same movies, go to the same kinds of theatre, eat out just as nicely, live in comfortable homes, and more or less enjoy the same kind of lives. They spend much more and they live better, but not in such a way that I envy all of the things I miss that they can do. I therefore think this article is dead on: Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update. This is the point:
In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.
They can show their affluence by holding idiotic beliefs that because of the cushion of wealth that surrounds them never wreck their lives. Anyone else on lower incomes without that cushion would court personal disaster if they tried to follow in their own lives what the rich say they personally believe about life. An example:
Top universities are also crucial for induction into the luxury belief class. Take vocabulary. Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.
The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. 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.”
None of this idiocy will ever affect them which helps to separate themselves from the plebs.