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Did you see the movie with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd where two elderly brothers make a "Pygmalion"-like bet, namely, that they can ruin Mr. Akroyd's stock-broker character and substitute for him Mr. Murphy's street hustler character, teaching the latter everything he needs to take the former's place? This book is like that movie, only as the fruit of years of scholarly research.
The central thesis of the author is that the rich really are different: They think in terms of preserving their family "line" down through several generations. Doing this requires not mortgaging the capital that underpins their position. While they may outwardly live a carefree, womanizing, drunken existence, it is merely an "experience," that they wear like an article of clothing, to be put off when it no longer suits their pleasure.
The middle class is the recepticle of traditional morality because it has to be. The margin of error which the rich enjoy is absent, so sobriety, frugality, and hard work must be instilled to ensure that they at least hold their place; failure to do so results in downward mobility.
The poor live for the moment. That is why they are poor. They cannot leave, or choose not to leave, a life devoted to sexual conquest, excitement, violence, and the like, and those seductions inhibit the capital (physical and intellectual) formation required to reach escape velocity for those wanting out of the ghetto. Shades of Jeff Foxworthy's "redneck" jokes come to mind in reading Banfield: The latter writes that a poor man's toys are always better than all but the richest man's, because the latter won't devote so much capital stock to unproductive use, and the former are not disciplined enough to do without instant gratification.Read more ›
I'm only two chapters into it, but it seems to me that Banfield wrote this book from the perspective of the "upper-class", as defined by his own class paradigm. He is almost entirely un-objective, "classist" and even racist. As another reviewer also said, blaming the victim is the game here. I do agree with Banfield that personal choices (whether voluntary or "involuntary") about the future affect a person's life. Obviously! However, those choices do not affect only one's own life and one's family. The "upper-class" (or "middle-class"), forward-thinking man of Banfield's class paradigm undoubtedly made decisions that sacrificed opportunities for himself in order to gain future benefits for his progeny. But did he not also make decisions that sacrificed opportunities AND future benefits for the "working-" and "lower-classes"? When a business magnate lays off hundreds of workers from his factory, whose opportunity is sacrificed for whose benefit? And from the worker's perspective, was a personal lack of "future-orientedness" to blame for his being laid-off? Certainly he could have chosen another line of work, but to what extent could he do this on his own and at what price to the present health of his family? Contrary to Banfield's assertions, the present-orientedness of the "lower-class" is not limited to hedonistic pursuits of sex and drugs: food and housing are somewhat more important for most people, EVEN the poor.
As successful people often acknowledge, "we stand on the shoulders of giants". But what all too often goes unsaid is that the rich and privileged stand on the shoulders of the poor and underprivileged, crushing them (knowingly or not, caring or not) down further into poverty and hopeless present-orientedness.Read more ›
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The rich are hardworking, frugal, and disciplined and the poor are lazy, crazy, and stupid. We shouldn't worry about social justice because poverty doesn't have anything to do with the distribution of resources, it is 100% the fault of the poor themselves. Just like the above review says, Michael Milken didn't get rich by committing massive fraud and robbing people blind, he got rich because he's so frugal he deigned to drive a station wagon.
You'll enjoy this book if you need a dose of Ayn Randian propaganda.