Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2010 16 Teves, 5771
Every Man a King
By Victor Davis Hanson
As the year in politics closed,
Liberals countered that the wages of the middle class have become stagnant over the last decade, and it is time for the wealthy to pay more for others. Meanwhile, both sides talked of American decline and assumed that the federal government was either the problem or the solution.
These debates were predicated on ossified notions of relative wealth and poverty as calibrated in money, and ignored that such methods of measurement are now archaic in our brave new world. Imagine if just 30 years ago we had dreamed that soon most Americans would have small mobile phones that let users talk or send text messages and photos to anyone in the world for mere pennies per minute -- a veritable revolution in daily life brought about without the aid of a massive
Could yesteryear's Great Society have ever promised to nearly all Americans that they would soon have instant information at their fingertips on almost any topic imaginable, from treating migraines to wiring a house to a crash course in Dante's "Inferno"? Surely the kings, corporate magnates and fat cats of the old
Today, Americans have cheap GPS navigation systems superior to what jet pilots used 30 years ago. Secret agent
The country tore itself apart over health care in 2010. What was rarely mentioned is that dozens of cancers that were not long ago tantamount to death sentences are now treatable. For all the talk of an epidemic of obesity and couch-potato sloth, today's 80-year-olds -- thanks to new life-saving drugs, and rapid advances in correcting chronic bone, joint, hearing, vision and dental problems -- often resemble yesterday's 60-year-olds.
As gas exceeds
In 1970, I was once given a ride in a plush luxury
I grew up listening to scratchy vinyl records on a huge awkward needle player. Now, thumb-sized digital music pods at cheaper prices hold far more songs and play them with far better quality. Flying used to be an aristocratic privilege beyond the reach of most of the middle class. Today it is an American pastime. Cruises in the 1960s were synonymous with private yachts; now the middle class enjoys luxury liners.
Three-bedroom, two-bathroom suburban houses of the 21st century are warmer in winter, cooler in summer, with far more appliances and comforts than was true of the vast mansions of the old rich of the mid-20th century.
In sum, Americans are richer, healthier and have more options than at any time in their history -- and in ways that do not usually register in our outdated metrics of what constitutes being wealthy or poor.
Yes, there is poverty still, and tension over relative status and influence. In addition, the good life cannot always be measured by materialism alone, but by peace of mind, security and opportunities as well.
Yet this Christmas we should all at least give ourselves some credit. In the last three decades,
Quite simply, yesterday's royalty would not make it into today's middle class.
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
© 2010, TMS