Proletarian novels and movies made the working class the moral bedrock of the nation. In Frank Capra movies like “Meet John Doe,” the common man is the salt of the earth, while the rich are suspect. It wasn’t as if Americans renounced worldly success (this is America!), but there were rival status hierarchies: the biblical hierarchy, the working man’s hierarchy, the artist’s hierarchy, the intellectual’s hierarchy, all of which questioned success and denounced those who climbed and sold out.That's certainly what I think. The biggest driver of inequality in America is not globalization or technology, but the lack of any competitive value system to keep ambitious people from getting as much money as they can by any legal means and flaunting it to the maximum extent.
Over the years, religion has played a less dominant role in public culture. Meanwhile, the rival status hierarchies have fallen away. The meritocratic hierarchy of professional success is pretty much the only one left standing.
Friday, June 14, 2013
The Only Value System Left
David Brooks notes that there used to be "inverse hierarchies" -- coming from religion, politics, and morality -- that Americans took seriously:
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