I’ve long argued that the liberal elites of today would have been the reactionaries seeking to perpetuate social structures that helped them keep their place in prior eras. Views on particular issues are highly related to a person’s immediate context. In contrast, the prioritization of self-interest and the degree of concern about and respect for others seems like it speaks more to the essence of a person.
So, it isn’t surprising to come across an post like one in The American Interest titled “Puritanical Elites Limit Their Kids’ Use of Tech They Create“:
These parents are, of course, more successful in protecting their children from the harmful side-effects of technology overuse than lower class parents working two jobs are. This is a classically American phenomenon in some ways: We don’t really hide the important stuff, we just don’t make it easy to find. In this way, the successful upper middle class just quietly teaches their kids not to listen to all the hedonistic crap pumped out into the culture. Ross Douthat has chronicled this phenomenon well: the well-off preach social libertinism but are conservative in their private lives. Whether they are exporters of technology or ideology, the elites are able to profit by encouraging one set of behaviors while they teach their children another.
The elite — or, if you prefer, the people who have benefited from advantages in life — should help the disadvantaged to improve their own lots. That doesn’t mean passing laws to forbid things that the upper-crust types don’t like. It does mean encouraging behavior that they know to be beneficial. It also means making sure that public policy doesn’t favor self-destructive behaviors over healthy ones (welfare and marriage being two examples).
In the not-too-distant past, the more-primitive state of transportation, among other technologies, helped minimize this effect. The upper crust still lived within walking distance from everybody else; they attended the same churches; they shopped at many of the same stores for necessities.
It’s definitely one of the great unsolved (because ignored) puzzles of recent history how a society can benefit from the mobility and cornucopia of choices that technology and prosperity have produced while maintaining a sense of community that encourages healthy behavior. A good start would be to discard the harmful ethos that conflates permissiveness with compassion and a lack of guidance with freedom.