Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gloom fetish

Virginia Postrel writes about "The American Standard of Whining ... Supposedly only the rich are living better, while everybody else stagnates or falls behind. But if so, who is buying all those flat screens at Best Buy?"

She even quotes Adam Smith, who noted back in 1776, "A continued Series of Prosperity would not give us near so much pleasure in the recital as an epic poem or a tragedy which make but one continued Series of Unhappy Events."

At a time when the great middle class encompasses a larger proportion of the population than ever, we still hear all the talk about "the rich" and "the poor". Most of us are neither, but the romance of class struggle is just too good to put aside. Perhaps so many have most of their intellectual capital tied up in such thinking that they would they be muted without it.

Unheard of material wealth and longevity just don't cut it. They do not, after all, contribute to greater happiness.

Small wonder. We cherish our gloom.