Michael Anton, in the current Claremont Review of Books, has an absolutely brilliant, must-read article which identifies the peculiar historical relationship between San Francisco’s Barbary Coast outlaw culture and American haute bourgeois culture’s contemporary decadence all of which is closely connected to the incongruous American alliance between big wealth and the revolutionary left.
Contemporary liberalism exists to redistribute wealth, which in turn has, historically, sought to fend off, mock, and discredit liberalism. In the rare cases when these tactics fail, wealth makes the minimum necessary concessions to ensure its own survival against the Leftâ€™s relentless envy and resentment.
But for a decade or two now, the rich havenâ€™t needed to make much of an effort because theyâ€™ve managed to beguile liberals in much the same way that Tom Sawyer tricked his friends into whitewashing the fence. Rather than clamoring to redistribute wealth, liberalism now gratefully accepts whatever crumbs wealth deigns to bestowâ€”and in return treats wealth with the obsequious deference of a court eunuch.
How this happenedâ€”and especially its San Francisco pedigreeâ€”I hope to explain. Itâ€™s long been a truism that California is the political and cultural bellwether for the nation. But this particular export remains underappreciated.
For the moment, though, itâ€™s enough to recognize that both the rich and the Leftâ€”and above all the rich Leftâ€”have a clear interest in obscuring and even denying their arrangement: the Left because they need the cultureâ€™s rhetorical guns trained rightward in order to maintain their grip on power; the rich to deflect scrutiny and envy from themselves. Politicians decline to stoke populist outrage against this partnership because the rich pay them not to and because, in a democracy, they must court the Left for reasons not dissimilar to Willie Suttonâ€™s rationale for robbing banks. Sutton, though, couldnâ€™t count bankers as backers or allies. Todayâ€™s Democratic Party, by contrast, enjoys near universal support not just from Wall Street but from the 1% in every industry, save Big Oil and Big Pharma.
Drop everything and read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.