Now, putting the phrase “class warfare” in its proper perspective: The following is from [by Al Franken, at the end of Chapter 35, “By Far the Vast Majority of My Tax Cuts Go to Those at the Bottom”:
Nevertheless, for purposes of this discussion, let us assume rhetorical (as distinct from violent or revolutionary) “class warfare” is an apt name for the POV Edwards expressed in 2004. If so, America needs much, much more of it, and in far more radical terms than Edwards is willing to touch.
For the following reasons, to begin with:
Different social classes do exist, in a vertical-hierarchical order, even in America. In some respects they have identical interests, and in other respects conflicting interests. That’s plain common sense and you don’t need to be any kind of Marxist to see it. That does not automatically mean the lower classes are any better or any more deserving than the upper. It does automatically mean that siding with the lower classes’ interests in any case of conflict should be the default position of any person of truly good will – just because the lower classes are the only ones who really need extra support to get even a chance at a chance of a fair shake. “The poorest he that is in England has a life to live as much as the greatest he.” – Slogan of the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levellers]Levellers.](]Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,[/url)
In many ways – not in nearly as many ways as some populist or socialist zealots would assume, but still in very many very real ways – the upper classes really are exploiters who accumulate their wealth by taking unfair advantage of the less fortunate. Only fair they should be forced to give some of it back to society. (Of course it’s true that, nowadays, upper-class people are also “workers” in the sense that they work, even if they are independently wealthy and don’t have to – it’s a cultural thing; and it’s also true that they are also, in some respects, creators of wealth and providers of employment. Things are seldom simple, and this is clearly not one that is.)
Above a certain level, wealth means not only purchasing power but political power; and it runs clean against the very idea of democracy to allow the rich to wield political influence out of proportion to their numbers – which they do, especially nowadays. Being raised in the profit-centered ways of thinking of the business world (which cannot comprehend or acknowledge even the concept of “enough”), most of them (not all, but most) will only use that power to take ever unfairer advantage of everybody else and to build up their political power ever more and more in an endless and socially destructive cycle – which they do, especially nowadays.
Even if a democratic and egalitarian society, which this is supposed to be, does not strictly require equality of outcome, it does at the very least require equality of opportunity. Everybody should be born with roughly equal chances to make it in life. At present, we’re not, to put it mildly, and only a fool or a liar would say otherwise. Measure our present social order against anything you might come up with to meet the test of the veil of ignorance.
None of this means it is imperative to destroy the American overclass as a class; nor even to knock them out of their place at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid. Within limits, a case could be made for the positive social value of an elite class. What we do need, however, is a much flatter pyramid, with the top and the bottom a lot closer together than they are now. As George Orwell put it in 1941 in The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius (Part III, Section II):
That’s far more radical than anything any current presidential candidate – even Dennis Kucinich, let alone John Edwards is willing to suggest. But if some of them were, that sort of “class warfare” would have a perfectly legitimate place in American political and electoral discourse. Where’s the harm in at least talking in these terms?!