‘Luxury beliefs’ are the latest status symbol for rich Americans

New York Post

The upper class benefits socially from decrying its own privilege while paying no actual price for it. NY Post photo composite

A former classmate from Yale recently told me “monogamy is kind of outdated” and not good for society. So I asked her what her background is and if she planned to marry. She said she comes from an affluent family and works at a well-known technology company. She was raised by a traditional family. She planned on having a traditional family. But she maintained that traditional families are old-fashioned and society should «evolve» beyond them.

What could explain this?

In the past, upper-class Americans used to display their social status with luxury goods. Today, they do it with luxury beliefs. People care a lot about social status. We feel pressure to display our status in new ways.

This is why fashionable clothing always changes. But as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods. One example of luxury belief is that all family structures are equal.

‘Upper-class people don a luxury belief to separate themselves from the lower class’

Relaxed attitudes about marriage trickle down to the working class and the poor. In the 1960s, marriage rates between upper-class and lower-class Americans were nearly identical. But during this time, affluent Americans loosened social norms, expressing skepticism about marriage and monogamy. This luxury belief contributed to the erosion of the family.

Today, the marriage rates of affluent Americans are nearly the same as they were in the 1960s. Affluent people seldom have kids out of wedlock but are more likely than others to express the luxury belief that doing so is of no consequence. Another luxury belief is that religion is irrational or harmful. Members of the upper class are most likely to be atheists or non-religious.

But they have the resources and access to thrive without the unifying social edifice of religion. Places of worship are often essential for the social fabric of poor communities. Denigrating the importance of religion harms the poor. While affluent people often find meaning in their work, most Americans do not have the luxury of a «profession.» They have jobs.

The key message is that the outcomes of your life are beyond your control. This idea works to the benefit of the upper class and harms ordinary people. This message is damaging.

‘The key message is that the outcomes of your life are beyond your control’

Often members of the upper-class claim that racial disparities stem from inherent advantages held by whites. Yet Asian Americans are more educated, have higher earnings and live longer than whites. Affluent whites are the most enthusiastic about the idea of white privilege, yet they are the least likely to incur any costs for promoting that belief. When laws are enacted to combat white privilege, it won’t be the privileged whites who are harmed.

Poor whites will bear the brunt. It’s possible that affluent whites don’t always agree with their own luxury beliefs, or at least have doubts. Because, like with diamond rings or designer clothes of old, upper-class people don a luxury belief to separate themselves from the lower class.

Read more.

Source: Rob Henderson | New York Post

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