The Politics of Exclusivity
One basic tenet of Capitalism is excluding the unworthy — by denying them access to what they want they’ll therefore become worthy in order to get it, or they won’t in which case they absolutely deserve to suffer.
This reasoning might be appropriate when it comes to luxury items like gold-plated yachts, but it’s also applied to things like physical necessities and education. If you’re starving, you need to get a better job in order to afford the food you need to be strong enough to get a better job. If you’re dying of a treatable disease, you need to get a better job in order to afford the treatment you need to feel well enough to get a better job. If you’re undereducated, you need to get a better job in order to get the certifications you need to get a better job. You get the idea.
This can obviously lead to poverty becoming a viciously cyclical thing indeed. Compounding this situation is the framework I mentioned in the first paragraph, the idea that poor people are poor because they individually deserve to be. Conservatives think that the poor deserve to be poor because they’re lazy, liberals think that the poor deserve to be poor because they’re racist or sexist or otherwise prejudiced, but either way the dominant discourse of contemporary political power thinks that desperate poverty is necessary for justice to be served.
What it comes down to is a passive form of murder. Lazy/Prejudiced/Otherwise-Worthless people should not exist, and while we’re not currently allowed to just slash their throats mid-scream we can at least deny them the means they need to live and wait for their miserable lives to end while we look the other way.
The concept of luxury is built on the back of this suffering. Every dollar spent on luxury is a dollar spent endorsing preventable desperation.
Conservatives, at least, offer the clarity of a full-throated endorsement of this situation. Liberals, however, are stuck in the unlucky spot of being merely the second-most enthusiastic cheerleaders of Capitalism’s conscious immiseration.
Appeals to elite benevolence can only go so far when the existence of the elite is itself a problem to be solved, when luxury and misery are two sides of the same gold coin. Pity-charity liberalism is a politics of gala balls and buy-in dinners, where a slice of the elite gather to flatter themselves on their elevated moral consciousness. What we get is an image of the elite that is superficially diversified while exclusive at its core, the hallucination of trickle-down equality. We get the idea that racism is over because a dozen black people are extremely rich now.
Confining our discourse to that which flatters elites is what produced the echo chamber that lost liberals the country in 2016. The results are catastrophic, but one good might come of it — the dire fever of elite appeal might finally, finally be broken.