Thursday, October 13, 2005

Channeling Hari Seldon

Conservatives complain that liberal politics is fueled by envy, which is doubtless true. But anybody who has ever listened to Limbaugh knows that rightist politics depends on the very same motivations. To a very crude approximation, the mass politics of the left is based on resentment against people with too much material capital while the mass politics of the right is based on resentment against people with too much cultural capital. Unfortunately, the right has a certain advantage in this competition between dueling jealousies. In principle, anybody can be rich because anybody can win one of life’s many lotteries. In contrast, membership in the cultural elite is thought to have something to do with merit. In this respect, money is more democratic than talent since even an idiot can aspire to become a rich idiot in a nation ruled by rich idiots; but the mediocre can only imagine becoming a genius or a saint or simply a competent human being by imaging they are no longer themselves. Which is why the real virtues and accomplishments of an Al Gore inspire far more hatred than the undeserved successes of a George Bush, especially among journalists.