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I used to often pass through the lobby of a large DC office building in which there were always several ridiculous sculptures and other nonsensical 3-D assemblages of stuff. The “collection” changed fairly often but the style was consistent: Large, garish, silly and/or mildly offensive.
That “art” (and what I knew of the building owner) was consistent with my long-held suspicion that the chief source of funding for the art market in the US is wealthy self-made people from non-elite backgrounds anxious to demonstrate or to achieve membership in high society. The parasitic class of critics, brokers, and sellers are far more likely to be from upper or upper or middle-class backgrounds and graduates of prestige colleges than are their buyers. Only someone relying on an “expert” rather than his or her own aesthetic preferences would buy the kinds of garbage “art” that have proliferated in public and private spaces.
Rich people purchasing status certification from “experts” is a harmless waste of money if it means buying a large canvas full of random colors purporting to be high art—or, in the ultimate brazen con, a solid color or even blank canvas. The less intelligible or inherently pleasing the “art,” the more important the role of the critic (See, The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe.) and the more prestigious the purchase. But when the status being purchased is no longer by means of art or yachts or mansions but from the endorsement and funding of policies crafted by “experts,” it distorts politics and life and comes at the expense of many other people.
I hesitate to judge or try to psychoanalyze the billionaire CEO of BlackRock Larry Fink. Still, he does seem to be fairly typical of this new trend—a highly successful yet seemingly insecure man who needs to be certified by the elite’s high priesthood (“experts”). His father owned a shoe store, his mother was an academic. He went to UCLA, not Stanford or Yale. He is a very capable financial steward and has been wildly successful at every stage of his career. He is said to be worth over a billion dollars. He is woke and a climate change warrior and a staple of gatherings of the new elite. The seductive delusion of assuming the role of courageous global leadership by abject uniform followership at the direction of “experts” has become almost a pandemic of the wealthy in our time.
The world’s billionaires are trying to find status and meaning by delegating much of their judgment to “experts” who can certify them as pro-science, prescient, or noble and “global leaders.”
It is almost ironic the extent to which leftist social science academics (is “leftist” now a redundant adjective here?) claim that “status anxiety” is what drives non-elite white people into the evil clutches of Donald Trump. See, for example, this solemn Thomas Edsall piece. When conservatives gather, it is mostly a pleasant surprise to find kindred spirits rather than an identity-shaping experience. When the issues are income destruction, school core curriculum based on racial division and sexual perversion, and the pernicious anti-democratic and anti-constitutional encroachment by government (aided by its media allies) that is a far more substantive threat package than mere “status anxiety.”
In stark contrast, the Davos crowd faces no such visceral, tangible threats to life and livelihood. Their status anxiety really is about status. And they flaunt their dependence on “experts” as if it makes them appear enlightened.
Bill Gates was making COVID policy while having less grasp of the issues than the great majority of us at Ricochet probably because none of us paid Gates-level bucks to “experts” to tell us what to think (and that we were really clever for thinking it). Leo DiCaprio and the other super-rich climate warriors cannot possibly know how weak the climate models really are or that it makes far more sense to begin to adapt to the coming likely modest gradual change than spend ruinously to fail to prevent it.
The parasitic political and policy class funded by the super-rich have locked their patrons into a death struggle against the normals. The Davos luminaries now see populist revolts as a rejection of their rightful, expert-certified role as Global Leaders. Billions of dollars worth of misplaced ego is now literally screwing up the politics of the entire world.
The next time you are inclined to laugh at some rich buffoon paying millions for a painting a chimpanzee could replicate or spending vast sums for a preposterously large yacht or a fortune for an absurdly lavish conversion of a medieval castle into a vacation home, remember that he could have spent that money funding activist groups and political manipulators set on destroying your freedoms, our families, global economic growth, opportunity, and normal life. If we could redirect all those private jets to diverse, expensive tropical resorts instead of Davos, think about how much better it would be for everyone on earth.Published in