A Modern Prejudice

That the rich are not protected from hate-speech proves that the one thing that speech codes are not designed to reduce or prohibit is hatred… —Theodore Dalrymple

I cannot add a single cubit to Theodore Dalrymple’s prose. But like so many of his essays, his latest piece “Eat the Rich Now, Starve Later,” prompts reflection. It also calls to mind some of his other commentaries on the subject of prejudice. As he sees it, all humans operate on the basis of some sort of “discrimination.” Nor need this be unfair or biased judgment. It may be intuition backed up by traditional wisdom. On the other hand, many people who denounce the bias of others are guilty of the nastiest sort of preconceptions, masked by an even worse hypocrisy.

So where does the modish hatred of the rich come from? You don’t find it, as a rule, among the “downtrodden” except when they are shiftless and under-employed. You find it among pampered undergraduates who have never been deprived or burdened with responsibility. A hundred years ago a student named Hilaire Belloc wrote a poem in honor of his “Republican Club”:

We taught the art of writing things
On men we still should like to throttle:
And where to get the Blood of Kings
At only half a crown a bottle.

This is juvenile exuberance. Belloc outgrew it, as did most people in our culture (until fifty years ago). A community is in no danger from revolution unless radicalism and its root causes, irresponsibility and envy, becomes subsidized and perpetuated. We should be wary of welfare recipients demanding free bread or free iPhones. These are the people who will clamor for the guillotine when the demagogues take over. Dalrymple is right to point out the opportunism of middle and upper class extremists. For a very different, and inspiring, story of a radical turned realist, see Robert P. George’s obituary on historian Eugene D. Genovese.

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