Luxury Beliefs – a flawed and unoriginal concept

‘Luxury Beliefs’ That Only the Privileged Can Afford, by Rob Henderson.

The concept of luxury beliefs seems like a rebranding or rehashing of the Champaign socialist or Limousine liberal trope/archetype. The origin of the latter dates to the early ’70s:

In the 1970s, the term was applied to wealthy liberal supporters of open-housing and forced school busing who did not make use of either of these themselves.[7] In Boston, Massachusetts, supporters of busing, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, sent their children to private schools and lived in affluent suburbs.

It describes an upper-class liberal or do-gooder who supports policy out of altruism or for social or political gain, who is also immune from the consequences or externalities of said policy. For example, supporting the decriminalization of drugs, de-incarceration, or stricter gun laws, but also having private security and living in a gated neighborhood.

It’s not so much that luxury beliefs are popular only among the wealthy–they are popular among voters of all incomes and education levels. Otherwise why would politicians continue to openly champion such beliefs if they only appeal to the educated or the wealthy. That would make no sense if the objective to maximize votes. Birth control, drug legalization, abortion, ‘social justice’, defund-the-police, student loan forgiveness, etc. are popular among poor and wealthy Democratic voters alike, and there is nothing particularly exclusive or predictive of wealth about supporting those things.

One can argue that poor voters are disproportionately negatively affected by defunding the police or drug legalization, as Rob argues, but this is more to do with voter ignorance or voters voting against their interests, than a luxury belief. In other words, it’s a misapplication of terminology to describe an already well-established political observation.

Rob’s ideological blind spot becomes more evident in how it’s only applied to the left, but Republicans also have their own form of luxury beliefs, such as tax cuts and foreign interventionism. The bottom two quintiles of adult Americans pay little to no income tax, and whose children are also most likely to die in combat. Same for corporate tax cuts.

He also fails to consider why people hold the beliefs they do for reasons that may be rational and not a luxury belief. Supporting de-policing can be explained by poorer people having a negative experience with the police, opposition to civil asset forfeiture (which libertarians and some conservatives have likened to legal theft, and is hardly only a left-wing position), families being broken up due to long sentences, or the perception of the police being ineffective. Just because the lower classes are disproportionately affected by crime does not mean the police are effective at solving crime.