Further note on Kristof column

I thought that the column by Nicholas Kristof cited by birdie was generally perceptive: he understands that contemporary liberalism has (for good reason) come to be seen as an elitist upper-middle class movement. However, early in the column, he shows that he still fails to grasp a fundamental part of the problem:

I'm writing this on tenterhooks on Tuesday, without knowing the election results. But whether John Kerry's supporters are now celebrating or seeking asylum abroad, they should be feeling wretched about the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting - utterly against their own interests - for Republican candidates.

Kristof's assertion that the blue-collar workers are voting utterly against their own interests makes sense only if you grant two assumptions:

  1. these people don't know where their real interests lie, and
  2. Kristof does.

Nothing better expresses the elitism at the very heart of contemporary liberalism than this kind of "I know better than you how you ought to perceive your interests" attitude. So deeply entrenched is this mindset that I am convinced that Kristof was unaware that he was manifesting the very problem he sought to point out. It would never occur to him that a person's or a group's interests could be construed in any way other than in economic terms--that a person might be persuaded of the real existence of a God, for instance, and that as a rational consequence of that persuasion she might pursue a course of action that did not maximize her economic well-being, but instead contributed to some other form of well-being she believes to have a higher claim.

Until Kristof can understand and accept that these persons are in a better position than he is to define and pursue their own interests, he still doesn't "get it". Close, but no cigar.

Comments

Some of us voted against Bush because we Believe

"that a person might be persuaded of the real existence of a God, for instance, and that as a rational consequence of that persuasion she might pursue a course of action that did not maximize her economic well-being, but instead contributed to some other form of well-being she believes to have a higher claim."As an Alaskan, it would maximize my economic well-being to have voted for the President. He favors opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, which puts more money in my pocket. The price of oil will likely remain higher due to mideast conflicts, refusal to implement higher CAFE standards, etc. This too will put money in my pocket as well as make state employment more secure.But I voted for Kerry, who had the best shot of defeating the President, precisely because of my faith in Christ Jesus. Others are entitled to disagree with me w/o condemnation, but in my view the President spent most of his first term inverting the Gospel. He and his advisers villified anyone who disagreed with them. He replaced "eye for an eye" with "hit them before they hit us." He replaced "love your enemy" with "you're with us or against us." I saw "presidential prayer teams" (not under the President's control) praying for our soldiers, but leaving out even our allies in their prayers.I read Bible passages like Galatians 5:"Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions,occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."I did not see PUBLIC examples of the fruit of spirit in the President or his close advisors, but I did see plenty of idolatry (to our military might), "hatreds, and outbursts of fury," - directed at anyone who doubted his Iraq policy; and acts of selfishness -- like only allowing Iraq reconstruction contracts to countries who favored the war.In short, my faith led me to reject the President on the basis of his public actions and policies, despite my pocketbook's urging to vote for the candidate most likely to contribute to my state's economy.Now that the President has won a second term, I hope that he will be generous and gracious in victory. I will pray that he governs with wisdom and conduct more policy making in the light of transparency. I am prepared to support his policies that seem right for America and won't despise those simply because the President proposes them.

Channeling Marx?

I don't know much about Kristof, but this 'economic interest' theme to me is just a way to talk about socialism without using that word. Marx wrote quite a bit on how the ruling classes use religion to keep the masses in line. The way that Bush pretends to not be elite and be a born-again Christian and people actually believe it is absolutely brilliant.

Re:Channeling Marx?

I think you definitely on the right track. I don't know precisely what Kristof's economics and politics are, but even if he isn't a Marxist or socialist himself, his matter-of-fact equation of interest with economic well-being is a clear indication of how the first principles of Marxian materialism have shaped modern thinking.

Syndicate content