As I was power washing our home’s siding and deck with the help of my family this Memorial Day weekend, my daughter turned to me and said “a family working hard to clean the OUTSIDE of their house….such a bougie thing to do”. She was referring to bourgeoisie values. Some believe bourgeoisie values have a negative connotation but I am proud (as are my friends, clients and family) to embrace these values. A lot of public intellectuals, however, do not – scorning our family values as they exhibit a profoundly ungrateful attitude towards the incredible prosperity made possible only through capitalism and the moral values of the bourgeoisie social class.
Ingratitude is obviously a bad thing – a cognitive enemy of sorts. The introduction of Jonah Goldberg’s new book Suicide of the West (2018) points out two types of ingratitude in order to sharply delineate the one that is more threatening. There are two version of the fable “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg”. In one, a farmer asks the Goose to lay more golden eggs, and the Goose politely refuses. The farmer then becomes enraged and kills the goose – no more golden eggs – moral of the story, as every child knows, be happy with what you have – ingratitude and greed are bad. In a different version, a farmer and his wife reason that the Goose must have a big chunk of gold in its gut, so they cut open the Goose only to find no such source of gold – no more golden eggs – same moral of the story but this version illustrates a more dangerous type of folly from ingratitude. The farmer and his wife deploy reasoning. Their reason for killing the Goose seemed plausible to them.
Goldberg’s point is that intelligent people who attack the Golden Goose of capitalism, seeking to undermine bourgeoisie values, utilize their “reasoning” in attempts to kill what has been a wildly successful philosophy, lifting millions out of poverty and enabling the flourishing lifestyle we enjoy today. The current level of global wealth was completely unimaginable just centuries ago. We enjoy an economic Miracle – or what Deidre McCloskey calls “The Great Enrichment”. Her book Bourgeois Equality (2016) articulates successful family values.
Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the county. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
Two law professors publically agreed with McCloskey’s cultural observations in 2017 (Amy Wax and Larry Alexander quoted above) only to be accused by the Goose killers as racist – peddling the “malignant logic of hetero-patriarchal, class-based, white supremacy that plagues our country today. These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability”. That criticism is such an ungrateful, hateful, resentful way of viewing the world and our values. Beware of the Social Engineers (Hayek warned us about them in 1944 – see my 12/20/16 post) who want to cut open the Goose of capitalism that’s been laying golden eggs. Our War Chest remains chock-full of gratitude for the Miracle of western civilization. Keep those golden eggs coming!