August 3, 2012

Why "You Didn’t Build That" won't go away: Obama "went after bourgeois dignity."

Virginia Postrel explains:
“Bourgeois Dignity” is both the title of a recent book by the economic historian Deirdre N. McCloskey and, she argues, the attitude that accounts for the biggest story in economic history: the explosion of growth that took northern Europeans and eventually the world from living on about $3 a day, give or take a dollar or two (in today’s buying power), to the current global average of $30 -- and much higher in developed nations....

That change, she argues, is way too big to be explained by normal economic behavior, however rational, disciplined or efficient.... McCloskey’s explanation is that people changed the way they thought, wrote and spoke about economic activity. “In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” she writes, “a great shift occurred in what Alexis de Tocqueville called ‘habits of the mind’ -- or more exactly, habits of the lip. People stopped sneering at market innovativeness and other bourgeois virtues.”...
Read the whole Postrel piece, and perhaps the book as well. (I just put it in my Kindle.)

A question for the day: What is each candidate inviting us to sneer at?

66 comments:

Fen said...

Obama - sneer at American Exceptionalism

Romney - sneer at the Nanny State

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

A question for the day: What is each candidate inviting us to sneer at?

False premiss.

Romney is of a personal character than he does not sneer. Sneering is a Progressive specialty.

"Both sides do it", as the phrase is commonly understood, is one of the more specious memes out there.

Hagar said...

I do not much care for the term "bourgeois dignity," but yeah, I took Obama's rant personal. It was not just about the .com billionaires, it was about all of us with "middleclass values."

Christopher in MA said...

Slight correction, Fen.

Obama - sneer at America.

edutcher said...

Interesting in the fact that the Romster just finished a speech in NV where he was very upbeat about what he was going to do and a lot of it was about giving people the opportunity to be successful.

Great reception from the crowd.

But I agree with Christopher, Choom has spent the last 4 years sneering at this country.

ricpic said...

Middle aged white men are not welcome in the Democrat Party or in Oakland or in the WaPo opinion pages. They're sneered at. Which is good. Because message received and acted on. Middle aged white women on the other hand see all sides of every issue and will never get the message in fact what message? life's a feast ha ha ha ha ha.

Jay said...

Obama went after capitalism.

He doesn't understand how businesses operate or why they grow.

His fundamental worldview is government centric.

And he's dumb.

Christopher in MA said...

I think another reason it won't go away is the Wizard of Oz effect - you got to see Obama behind the curtain, behind all the gauzy rhetoric about hope and change. In Dorothy's case, it was just disillusionment; in our case, it's a frightening look at the coercive state the Democrats have in mind.

Or call it the 1984 effect. Remember when Winston Smith protested that the Party couldn't go on and would be destroyed some day, O'Brien's response was (I paraphrase) "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping into a human face forever."

That was the moment when Smith realized the Party had no other objective than power and would channel all its energies into maintaining that power.

The same with "you didn't build that." Voters now (I hope) realize that the Democrats have no other objective than power and will confiscate all our earnings and abrogate all our liberties to maintain it.

Seeing Red said...

I need to read Stanley Kurtz's new book as well.

Oso Negro said...

Obama is clearly inviting sneers at those who are attracted to the achievements of the individual versus the collective. Frankly, the whole "you didn't build that" speech could have been lifted wholecloth from "Atlas Shrugged". It isn't clear to me that Romney is trying to get people to sneer at anything, but his religion, his money, and his personal manners have, and will continue to invite much sneering.

chickelit said...

It will be said that many of them went down singing "Sneering My God at Thee"

Pogo said...

What Obama sneers at is why he's seen -correctly- as unAmerican.

Colonel Angus said...

But I agree with Christopher, Choom has spent the last 4 years sneering at this country.

The last 4 years? I don't believe there was any point in his 50 years where his views toward this country could be better described than loathing.

Palladian said...

I dislike politicians who sneer.

Sneering suggests malice and malice is dangerous in a state actor.

Palladian said...

Take Chris Christie, for instance. A sneerer. I do not approve.

Then there's someone like Nancy Pelosi, for whom sneering has, of necessity, become solely internal. Even an attempt at a physical sneer could provoke a devastating structural failure of the curtain wall.

pm317 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pm317 said...

Obama sneers at everyone who does not lick his feet. Romney, I am not sure he sneers at anyone. He should sneer at Obama and perhaps he would do that if Obama didn't occupy the Oval office.

AJ Lynch said...

Agree with PM317 that Romney should sneer no make that snicker disdainfully at Obama's craptastic record.

garage mahal said...

This line of attack seems to be working. For Obama. Keep it up!

AJ Lynch said...

Who shouldn't be offended at those soundsbites: "You ain't that smart...you work so hard?...lotta smart people out there...lot of hardworking folks out there".

That captures how resentful Obama has been most of his life. He is a hater and and a sneerer and so I no longer give him the respect of calling him President Obama. He has removed his mask at last.

edutcher said...

Colonel, sir, I stand corrected.

prairie wind said...

Obama sneers at the idea of working hard. Why work hard when you could just take from someone else? He finds hard work foolish and redistribution smart.

When has he ever admired hard work?

Romney doesn't strike me as someone who sneers. If he turns out to sneer at the Tea Party, though, he'll be in trouble.

Michael K said...

"This line of attack seems to be working. For Obama. Keep it up!"

I agree with the suggestion but not the rationale.

Sloanasaurus said...

This reminds me of a quote:


"Ireland has a very different attitude to success than a lot of places, certainly than over here in the United States. In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard. It's a different mind-set."

-Bono

dreams said...

I just read that from following a link from http://betsyspage.blogspot.com/

I'll read the book if my library has or when they get it.

edutcher said...

FWIW, it looks like Zero is just plain trying to make up the numbers now. That's the real sneer.
Tthe sunny (sort of) jobs added data is nowhere near as good as it looks.

He thinks everybody is as dumb as his base.

Sloanasaurus said...

Again, the whole Obama logic is to some how morally argue that people who are successful have an "obligation" to have their wealth redistributed by the government. I.e. since they didn't earn it all on their own, then the governemnt gets to share in it.

It's really disgusting stuff. But we need to be worried because in their marxist minds, they actually believe this stuff and will die for it. Millions on this earth have fought and died so that they could be repressed. IT's sad but true.

Colonel Angus said...

When has he ever admired hard work?

Why should he? When you observe the fact that he didn't work very hard to get where he is, its difficult for him to relate to some guy who is running his own business.

Tibore said...

"A question for the day: What is each candidate inviting us to sneer at?"

Caricatures that they can use as an imaginary "them" to post "us" up against.

traditionalguy said...

Obama is playing to his base. That strengthens them in the determination to Take What You Want. Just go occupy it.

Is that Obama's real goal? I think not. His real goal is to divide Americans and start the Charley Manson predicted helter skelter times. That is his real goal. He then plans to pick up the pieces after an Obama Spring uprising here is settled.

If that sounds paranoid, then tell me a reason for the thousands of drones, the 5 million rounds of military ammo for HSA, the Marines converting a division to riot control police, and the detention camps being built with RR spurs to them. All of that has happened since Obama started to "run the country." His emergency internet kill switch is being installed. Why??

LordSomber said...

Tall Poppy Syndrome.

dreams said...

My library doesn't have "bourgeois dignity" yet but does have her book "The bourgeois virtues". I reserved it and I'll read it provided she makes interesting.

dreams said...

Romney is going to win by a landslide like my hero Ronald Reagan did in 1980.

Just imagine how our economy will take off when we have a President who embraces our increasingly abundant energy resources and unleashes the pent-up entrepreneurs along with the whole private sector.

Michael K said...

"In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard. It's a different mind-set."

This is an old characteristic of the Irtish, here or in the old country. It's gradually fading out but some of it still remains. That's why they voted D for so long.

Jay said...

Ahahahahahahaha!

BWWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Over $100 million spent in ads to have these poll results!

Notice the trend?

madAsHell said...

He didn't earn those Harvard/Columbia credentials. Somebody else made that happen.

Can there be any doubt??

It is reflected in his thinking. "The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government."

creeley23 said...

I have an Irish friend who had spoken of that mean-spirited streak in the Irish. I sent that Bono quote to him and he replied:

They even have a word for it - begrudgery.

dreams said...

What Obama and the liberals don't understand is the government is to the private sector as a dental staff is to a dentist for it is the private sector and the dentist that generates the revenue that pays the government and the dental staff. Both the government and the dental staff are an expense and therefore diminish the profits of both the private sector and the dentist. We want government to be no bigger than is needed because it is basically a parasite on the private sector.

Fen said...

trad, can you source the claim of an entire Marine Division being retasked as riot police? The Marines only have 3. Maybe you mean "battalion'?

edutcher said...

Fen, I think he means the Marine Police Battalions, which sound similar to the MP battalions the Army has with a slight CA component added.

n.n said...

Obama placed the forest before the trees, an explicit denigration of individual dignity, which is extremely offensive to a majority of Americans, and most people generally.

tim in vermont said...

economic well being = resources + labor x ideas.

The oil in the ground was worthless for most of human existence, as was the iron ore, as was fertile farm land even for a long time.

Lefties recognize two of these three, but take ideas for granted as if they exist in a pool somewhere, same as the other two.

"You may think you are successful because you a smart...."

What he was saying is that people just stumble into these ideas and will continue to do so, regardless of the incentives.

Marxism has always had a problem with the "from each according to his abilities" side of the equation. They have the "to each according to what we think he needs" side down pretty good.

traditionalguy said...

Fen...My mistake, no Marine combat Divisions were re-tasked.

The news release last week was for formation of three battalions of Marine Police consisting of 500 men plus dogs in each "to restore order to an area."

Hagar said...

I bought a book on Irish history because I wanted to find out more about the early history, or rather pre-history, and it had a chapter on old Irish legends, and then got onto the arrival of the Anglo-Normans ca. 1150 and an unending litany of woes ensuing that was all the fault of the English.
So I bought two more books, one of them not too bad actually, but the same thing - a short introductory chapter about ancient legends, and then the 850 years of woe, all brought on by the English.

furious_a said...

Then there's someone like Nancy Pelosi, for whom sneering has, of necessity, become solely internal.

Not nice to mock -- her face is frozen like that from a botox treatment gone wrong.

Chip Ahoy said...

I love this question. I have no good answer to it, but I love the question. It takes Ann Althouse to ask such a question as 'what are the candidates asking us to sneer at', I mean, come on! And that is why I am hopeless in love with Ann Althouse.

Your answers are good too.

tim in vermont said...

"See this economic system that has dragged people out of poverty so successfully that you are determined to destroy, Mr President? You didn't build it! Somebody else made that happen!"

furious_a said...

In none of his remarks disparaging entrepreneurialism did the President (nor his muse Fauxcahontas, for that matter) credit Mom, Dad, Spouse, Parents, Siblings, etc.

Dude has some family issues. Wish he wasn't working them out at our expense.

tim in vermont said...

Fauxcahontis? I prefer "Lying Sacajawia.

cold pizza said...

We have nothing to sneer at, but sneer itself! -cp

Joe said...

To me, the most offensive part of the speech was the section before:

"I’m always struck by people who think ‘well, it must be because I was just so smart’. There are a lot of smart people out there! ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there!"

Obama's argument is very clear; success is a matter of luck. (I believe this not only mirrors his own world view, but his own experience.)

The implication is that since you don't earn what you have--since it's all luck--you can't protest when the government redistributes it.

In short, what Obama said IN CONTEXT was pure Marxism and antithetical to the American, nea western, experience.

Revenant said...

It "won't go away" for the simple reason that Obama slipped up and said what so many of us suspected he believes.

There's no deep mystery to it.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Why question this question for the day?

A question today, laudable as usual from this site, pertains further.

Mainly, whatever people want to sneer at they will sneer at, meaning the question at this blog is about media and its influence.

I sneer at the idea Obama is a budget hawk and Sheriff Joe went line by line through the budget looking for waste so that the administration could eliminate it.

But that's now; in real life I sneer at any slight from a puke libtard. My I.Q. is enough to allow me to dominate late night bar quarrels.

It is actually very fun, addictive, to prove bigots as bigots when accused of bigotry.

Chris Wren said...

Obama is the "bitter clingers" president, the "You've made enough money" President, and the "You didn't build that" President. What a relief it is that he's only the President of Washington D.C. and has no influence outside the Beltway.

The Godfather said...

Ann, thanks for the reference to the book. It sounds interesting. I'll be sure to buy it through your Amazon link.

I agree with those who say that Romney doesn't sneer (at least not in public), but Obama does.

When I was growing up and going to college in New England (50's and 60's), there were a lot of "liberals", both Democrats and Republicans, who were from wealthy families. After awhile I came to realize that they felt guilty about their wealth, which they hadn't earned, and thus favored distribution of income from the well-to-do to the less-so. Obama became wealthy because he wrote (or is credited with writing) two best-selling books about himself. I suspect that he doesn't really feel that he earned his wealth, and he generalizes that feeling to all successful people ("there are a lot of smart people", etc.). Although Romney came from a wealthy family, I understand that he actually made his own fortune. If so, he need feel no guilt about it, nor any resentment of other successful people.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Said better before not, which is always rare.

Michael K said...

I bought that book. Don't know if it was through your link. If not, oops !

I think it was. I forgot to make sure.

John Keegan died today. I've read a dozen of his books. In one of them, he named his favorite cafe in Paris. I ate there about ten years ago.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Truth sucks.

I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

CWJ said...

Damn. John Keegan died today? So sorry so very sorry. Just today, I was thinking about his observations about the American frontier.

CWJ said...

Thank you not quite unbuckley for posting the letter from the Birmingham jail. That's something I had never read and it was high time that I did so. Nonetheless, and excuse me for not making the connection, but what's your point?

Michael K said...

I have begun the book and it is startling how quickly it is becoming the antithesis of Obama's remarks. Her point, and she quotes Joel Mokyr early one, that economics is psychology more than anything. It brings up, although she hasn't yet referred to it, Heinlein's aphorism,

"“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

It looks very interesting although not, I suspect, to garage and shiloh.

Thanks for the recommendation. I hope I used your link.

Joel Mokyr, by the way, has a terrific history of technology in which he discusses early technology that has been forgotten and why the Industrial Revolution did not occur in the Roman Empire. Plus why China had forgotten metallurgy by the time the Europeans arrived.

Penny said...

"A question for the day: What is each candidate inviting us to sneer at?"

Just a wild guess...

The snickering candidate.

Over there >>>>>>>

Penny said...

America 2012

NO new bridges.

Metaphorical or otherwise.

Penny said...

And not much of a swimmer here!

SO?

Swimming lessons, a sturdy flotation device or breast implants?

chickelit said...

Swimming lessons, a sturdy flotation device or breast implants?

Breast implant buoyancy:

Silicone: heavier than water
Saline: neutral with respect to water (heavier with salt content)
Natural: buoyant because fat has about .7 the density of H2O

kentuckyliz said...

I live in one of the three poorest regions of the country, Appalachia. (The other two are the Mississippi Delta and Indian Reservations.) There is multi-generational welfare here, and too many kids whose career aspiration is drawing a check. They think people who work are suckers. They think successful people are lucky. It's a good place to live if you're poor, because a lot of other people are too--it's fashionable, common, accepted. They all vote Democrat because they get threatened with their check being taken away. I guess we're ahead of the times, and we can coach the rest of the country how to happily and proudly embrace the new lifestyle.