Elite Responsibility and Societal Neglect

American elites (which I define as the upper-middle and upper classes) are a paradox: we preach bohemianism while living socially conservative lifestyles.  In our post-60s world, we refuse to share our social best practices—the very reason why we are elites, and people in lower classes are not—with those who most need it.

This is societal neglect.  It isn’t libertarian principle, respecting the choices of people who don’t harm others; it isn’t possible to make bad lifestyle choices in the lower classes and not harm a great many other people.  That requires money, which they don’t have.  But the neglect doesn’t stop at our refusal to preach good moral values.

In my grandparents day, upper-middle-class people had a social duty to help their communities—unlike today, where we simply donate to charities (in the case of many, though by no means all, conservatives) or vote ourselves higher tax rates (in the case of liberals).  Which is more likely to help poor people: volunteering in churches, schools, and local government, sharing social best practices with those who need it; or simply handing a check to a foundation or the tax collector, neither of whom can use the money as effectively as you can, and who may actively harm the people they claim to help (as in the case of the government)?

Would housing restrictions (and their deleterious effect on housing affordability for the poor) exist, if the people who populated local  government did so out of a sense of civic duty?  If they also volunteered in schools and churches, and built relationships with lower and lower-middle-class people?  Most of the American upper middle class lives in a bubble, with virtually no contact with lower classes.  The problem of our day isn’t gender or racial discrimination; it’s class discrimination, and voting for higher tax rates or paying gobs of money to charities does not compensate for that.

We elites need to admit that neither sending checks to foundations nor voting ourselves a higher tax burden substitutes for genuine community engagement; for volunteering in schools, serving in local government, in churches, and sharing social best practices in person.

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