this is an interesting essay introducing an idea I'd never even considered in the plethora of reasons for the conservative knee-jerk reaction against "wealth redistribution"--that some people fear there will not be a layer of people poorer than themselves. if there is a single objective truth to the newer testament it's jesus' observation that the poor will always be around but it has never occured to me that some people might be afraid that they might be that poor themselves. while I am currently unemployed with little hope of work before january at the earliest and the fear of sliding further is a visceral one that haunts my thoughts, I've never thought that my ego could be placated by there being a class or a group I end up looking better by comparing myself to and that it's in my interest to ensure they remain there.
my wife and I used to have a friend about whom we could always reassure ourselves, no matter how bad things got for us, "at least we're not dave." but dave came from the wealthy family my wife worked for and his future, no matter how he screwed up (so long as he kept his head low beyond the occasional dui or possession charge), was ensured and his ride through life welllubed with women and drugs. the last we'd heard from him, he was married to a wealthy lawyer in the city and his family, remaining upstate with the business, paid him an enormous salary to keep quiet and occasionally appear at trade shows. at the point we knew him--and it's true, part of the reason we were friends with him was the free wine and smoke he brought with him when he visited--we had so little money that we subsidized our dog's diet with boiled government rice. we sometimes skipped meals to make certain he had enough rice and kibble although we always had nice wine to drink while we watched him eat.
and we'd tap our glasses together and say, "at least we're not dave."