Envying Marco Rubio: In America, class resentments center on money

Strange thing about Americans: Class resentment is, in socioeconomic terms, a short-range phenomenon. Guys who work in convenience stores do not, for the most part, go around hating guys who work in Silicon Valley venture-capital firms; if anything, Americans of more modest means typically admire those who have done spectacularly well for themselves, and we Americans do not even mind our billionaires’ being a little conspicuous in their consumption from time to time, a cultural peculiarity that is markedly different from prevailing norms in, say, Scandinavia, where a supercharged version of tall-poppy syndrome keeps things ruthlessly modest. There’s a reason why the popular music genre thematically organized around a taste for champagne and yachts did not emerge from Sweden.

No, if you want to see class resentment in the United States, you need to get a $150,000-a-year guy in a room with a $400,000-a-year guy; alternatively, put a top-tier journalist or academic in a room with a top-tier entrepreneur or corporate executive and watch the envious fur fly. (Not that they’d be so gauche as to wear fur! Heavens!) It’s a circus of intra-rich-guy class anxiety, with the bottom end of the ruling class rolling its eyes at the higher end — not the proles mocking the 1 percent, but the 6.7 percent mocking the 3.2224115 percent and up.

You’ll see some interesting things in that context: You’ll see people complaining that Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring free high-speed Internet to every dusty Third World village that doesn’t even have two goats to its credit is basically a crime against humanity because it’s not super-good Internet.