We need a new way of thinking about class differences, per the National Review

Yes we do and here is a start:

It's Not Just the Haves Versus the Have-Nots, or Conservatives versus Liberals, etc.

  The 2008 worldwide financial collapse was a major historical crisis and hurt multi-millions of innocent people. Sadly, the same essential underlying economic and political circumstances have existed in America (and elsewhere) for generations and continue to exist. A small minority of self-interested, aggressive people referred to as a private citizen elite (see Chapter 2, "Characters,” for a detailed discussion of private versus public citizens) have regularly imposed their wills and satisfied their private interests at the expense of the vast majority of us. Not only that but they've shown a self-satisfied disregard for any sense of a public interest and a common good. (Those who believe in and support a public interest and a common good are considered public citizens.)

The distinction of private versus public citizen attitude in specific situations is not always simple and clear cut. Some of the examples given above may entail mixed motivations and competing values. Others can be considered simplifications of a complex reality but the essential attitudinal distinction should be clear. Also, private citizens do not equate necessarily to wealthy businessmen or even capitalists or the financial elite. Members of each of those groups may be either private or public depending on their intentions, their decisions and actions, and the outcomes they are responsible for. The Wall Street traders, for example, who made high commissions for themselves knowingly selling flawed and doomed investment products are clearly private citizens. A wealthy businessman, on the other hand, who markets quality products or services honestly, treats his employees fairly, and doesn't exploit the environment or other public resources (including regulatory and tax policies) may well be a public citizen.  

 Neither is the private–public distinction intended to reflect the popular notions of conservative-liberal, Red State-Blue State, Republican-Democratic, rich-poor, or upper versus middle/lower classes. Although, for example, there may very well be some high correlations between conservatives, establishment Republicans, the rich and the financial elite class and the private citizen type noted here, there are both private and public citizen types in all classes, parties, and groups. There are Blue State residents who lobby government for special interest benefits for themselves. There are working-class union members who fight to protect even socially worthless jobs to maintain their own positions, etc. All of these people are acting as private citizens (although they may not be rich, part of the elite class, etc.) Throughout this book the group referred to as the “elite" means the high concentration of upper-class citizens who are private citizens. The philosophically valid and practically important distinction is not wealth or position but attitude.

 Occupy Wall Street's distinction of the 1% versus the 99%, while highly popular and enduring, is flawed, too. It reflects disparities of wealth and income only without including the multitude of other elements necessary for fair and accurate characterizations. For example, it is important to know if a rich person made his money fairly or whether he deceived or exploited to get it. A wealthy 1% er businessman (a Warren Buffett or such?) who has never harmed the collective interest and has done things in the “right way,” so to speak, may be a public citizen. Surely, it's not fair or intellectually sound to lump him with the wealthy Wall Street heavyweights--private citizens--who deliberately exploited multimillions of lower-class innocents.

 In any case, many of the conventional social labels noted above are (given our current poisonous partisan environment) emotionally-laden to an excess. They are firmly fixed in irrational ways in much of the public consciousness. Too many people latch onto these labels as either matters of identity or of disdain rather than intellectually-sound categories of analysis. They are, therefore, not suitable for a new way of looking at social matters emphasizing reason and clear thinking. We want to step out of that problem by setting out our own, more valid categories of social organization. The private-public citizen distinction is one of them. Others will be noted later, including the ideas of an underclass and an “American Team.”

 Furthermore, those same social labels are not conceptually rigorous or nuanced enough anyway for the purposes of the new paradigm being articulated here. What does it mean, for example, for a "Red State conservative" to be for limited government but also for highly-regulated cultural affairs--educational curriculums, abortion and sexuality matters, etc.? How do we understand Red State conservatives being in favor of robust national security apparatus and law and order yet demanding of a high degree of individual freedom and privacy? Conservatives highlight their emphasis on low taxes but is anyone philosophically in favor of high taxes? (Clear-minded people will not focus on mere tax levels but on the value received from governmental expenditures.) 

  These examples suggest that many of our conventional political categories are contradictory, incoherent, and too ambiguous to be fathomed in any meaningful sense. (Some might point out that this is the point! Would someone/group—e.g., the elite?—find value in promoting these specific categories to confuse the American public and to obscure the most relevant category in society--that of a private elite versus the collective lower classes? That would be a devious but clever strategy. What do you think?)

 There is a lot of philosophically-muddled categorization throughout our public discourse making it hard for clear-headed and fair analysis and even quality communication among groups. The public–private attitude distinction, however, is conceptually clear and, most importantly, it is philosophically grounded in the two fundamental, inescapable attitudes that citizens present as members of society–their own interests and the interests of the group. This not only is a classic philosophical dichotomy but it is key to aligning interests correctly in a program for major social change. Agents for change do not want to target the wrong group of people. That would be unfair as well as wasteful of an opportunity to correctly fix things. They also do not want to unnecessarily alienate potential supporters or squander any leverage we can obtain from those who may merely look like bad guys but are not. We've got to get the analysis right before we can act right.




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