Jan 5, 2022Liked by Sam Atis

Discussions about "elites" might suffer from a "No True Scotsman" issue - I think we'd all agree that it's a little different than "rich + college + white", but attempts to be more specific usually come close to being circular: Elites are the people who believe the things I'm arguing elites believe.

So maybe there's something to Rob's argument, maybe not, but it does seem like the onus is on him to be a little more specific, so that this concept is remotely falsifiable. Starting theories from observation is totally fine, but it he wants to put it forward as more than an "interesting idea I had", it also seems like he should bring some data too!

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I think there's a difference between the concept of a 'luxury belief' being one that privileged people hold as a status signal, and one that can be held by privileged people without it hurting them and so we can say it's a status signal.

The suggestion by Rob H is that rich people hold these beliefs as status signals, whereas I think the reality is that when a rich person holds that belief it's easy to say 'well you would say that, it's not going to hurt you', which you can't with a person of less privilege. The reasoning that less privileged people then believe it because of 'trickle down' seems ludicrous. Maybe there are beliefs that are entering into the mainstream, which people of all backgrounds believe/don't believe, and he's merely picking up on the fact that, for some people, those beliefs don't have a cost and then giving it a name. If anything, it's surely a stronger signal to believe in things which do cost you; so by his logic a belief in weakening monogamy should be a stronger signal for those of less privilege.

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The luxury belief isn't "monogamy is bad", it's "society should weaken monogamy". It's a luxury belief because weakening monogamy won't hurt them. If they remain monogamous, it certainly won't hurt them. (And even if they don't, upper class people are better able to survive any problems caused by destroying the institution of marriage; an upper-class single parent probably won't be poor and jobless.)

Likewise, the luxury belief isn't atheism; it's "society should discourage belief in God". It's a luxury belief because the bad effects of discouraging belief in God fall upon the lower classes. They won't suffer those bad effects themselves regardless of whether they are atheists, since neither their moral values nor their social connections are tied to the church.

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Jan 5, 2022·edited Jan 5, 2022

The Myth of the Rational Voter is a book that explores the differences between believes that make a difference in your daily life vs believes you hold just for signalling.

That book is mostly concerned about how an individual's vote doesn't have any impact on an individual's life, so political beliefs are essentially all about signalling.

The Henderson piece might benefit from a clearer examination of the difference between these two kinds of believes.

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Absolutely phenomenal article. I really think Henderson's concept of luxury beliefs is good and important, but I have some tremendous skepticism of it. For example, I think Henderson's examples of "luxury beliefs" are WAY too general... like how does the belief in white privilege inherently negatively affect working-class or poor whites? Or poor Blacks or Hispanics? I, actually do believe that a CERTAIN KIND of belief in these concepts, such as white privilege, DO indeed negatively impact working-class and poor whites, and are therefore luxury beliefs. such as the notion that all white people, regardless of class background or life experiences, benefit EQUALLY from white privilege. This is not the case. Poor whites do not benefit as NEARLY as much from white privilege as rich white people do, and when highly educated, snobby white people tell poor whites the they're white and privileged just as a rich white person, that this is the main reason why poor whites do not believe in the concept. The belief that all whites benefit equally from white privilege certainly does inflict harm on lower-class whites, because it helps rich people have no empathy for poor whites, and tells them that poor whites should just individually use their white privilege and "pick themselves up by their bootstraps".

So I think these distinctions very much need to be made, because, as you pointed out, SO many non-college educated non-wealthy people believe in the concept of white privilege... the real class divide comes from HOW they believe in these things.

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I'm late to the party here, but I propose that "luxury beliefs" has tremendous explanatory power if you consider how they appeal to our comfortable-to-affluent educated class, rather than thinking of them as being "held almost exclusively by rich white people". There's considerable overlap between those demographics, but the "almost exclusive" standard overshoots and misunderstands the group for whom they have the most appeal.

In addition to inter-group status displays, these beliefs are extremely effective gatekeeping tools, as when I watched a Facebook pile-on develop several years ago when a non-college grad naively defended the phrase "All Lives Matter".

Of course, they are also often real beliefs. Perhaps the most interesting thing about them is the distance between the moral aspirations they embody and the unsavory reality of how they function sociologically.

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In some sense this article tries to settle this data, but it made a few mistakes:

1. When talking about "the rich" it is best to view them as the top 5-10% of the population who are likely to be generational rich, and not the well-educated affluent, or the top 20% sans "the rich". This observation can be seen here https://twitter.com/thehauer/status/1222514313723875332 ("the rich" following similar reproductive trajectory as the working class and the underclass) and https://unherd.com/thepost/the-most-vaccine-hesitant-education-group-of-all-phds/ (non-college educated individuals are as health hesitant as PhD recipients)

2. When dealing with "Luxury Beliefs" one can say that this is related to the Clueless Class, as per Ribbonfarm's Gervais Principle and Dancoland (https://alexdanco.com/2021/01/22/the-michael-scott-theory-of-social-class/), and that "the rich" are opportunistic (faking "Luxury Beliefs" whilst behaving in the opposite manner), whereas the affluent educated are more likely to be idealistic (having and acting out "Luxury Beliefs"). Those two demographics should be separately identified in depth.

3. It is possible that racial group are not homogeneous, or that a "rainbow" class exist in parallel to ethnic clustering? It would be useful to see education and income as control factors against race. https://aquarusa.wordpress.com/2021/03/29/mapping-the-political-space-part-iv-rainbow-white-elitism-populism/

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