“A middle class that outnumbers the combined poor and aristocracy is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to around 1900. The rise of the middle class was the result of Industrial Revolution capitalism. It has been one of the most significant and epochal developments in history, yet the intellectual reaction for the most part has been to either ignore it or treat it with disdain. Now the project to destroy the middle class is well under way, with unpredictable and uncontrollable consequences that promise to be just as epochal as its creation.
The emergent middle class was a cohesive force for political stability. The immigrants passed their memories of what they had escaped to their children and grandchildren. They embraced the reality and the promise of America based on their own fruitful experience. Life was good and would get even better, why rock the boat? Few noticed the thunderhead on the horizon.
That thunderhead was hate, directed not at America’s flaws and weaknesses, but at its virtues and strengths. The sacrifice, hard work, thrift, and ingenuity that had lifted millions from poverty was condemned as selfishness, blind ambition, and greed. The middle class that didn’t exist a century ago was materialistic, anti-intellectual, and spiritually impoverished. The unprecedented wealth America was producing was wrong because it was unequally distributed, or the most philanthropic and charitable people in history weren’t giving enough away.
You can guess where the hostility came from: the intellectuals who found what they peddled commanded little attention or respect, and would-be rulers in a nation with little desire to be ruled. The desire for autonomy, to be left alone, to be free to make one’s own decisions and live one’s own life, are the benchmarks of well-adjusted normalcy. The desires to tell or force other people what to do are the opposite, wellsprings of hate which are, depending on their intensity and quality, neurotic, sociopathic, or psychopathic.“