65 Comments

The truth of "luxury beliefs" is not that people are calculating whether policies would benefit them or whatever. It's more that people are capable of taking ridiculous positions when they're completely sheltered from the reality. They have the luxury. Think "defund the police" - the people living in crime-ridden neighborhoods never wanted the police defunded, but rich white people in 99% white New England cities and attendees of universities which have their own security sure did. Think about the border - the people who live in border states want to secure the border; it's rich white people in New England that were falling all over themselves to declare themselves "sanctuary cities" right up until Texas started shipping busloads to them. They have the luxury of being able to take positions that are objectively destructive because the consequences will not affect them. That's what is really going on with the utterly ridiculous "luxury beliefs" that western elites hold. They've become detached from reality.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Might "luxury beliefs" also "terminally online beliefs"? I lived in an expensive AND crime-ridden neighborhood on the west coast. I saw all kinds of crazy shit like teenagers smoking fentanyl, homeless waving metal rods around, someone pointing his gun at random passerbys and someone pushing people on the subway platform, because I walked around all the time and actually tried to enjoy the city. One of my friends who lived in the same neighborhood was blissfully unaware of all these crazy shit happening in the neighborhood because she worked from home and didn't step out of her apartment much.

Expand full comment
author

definitely some extreme beliefs have been enabled by social media

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

It's not like no poor black people thought that defund the police was a great slogan. White college professors might have been more likely to believe it, but being exposed to consequences bears no guarantee they will affect your decision making. A lot of people don't think (or just don't care) about the consequences of their decisions. They just react to a single event without gaming out the repurcussions.

Expand full comment
Jun 4·edited Jun 4

+1000. The problem is that Ruxandra hasn't read Henderson's book, so she is arguing against what some conservatives have said that he meant, rather than asking him directly.

small correction -- he did say that professing such beliefs would benefit them, but not in a 'this belief works well for me, I forget about how it might not work for others' way, but in the form of a loyalty and purity oath. From that point of view, the more obviously nonsensical the belief is, the better, because the whole point is excluding those who don't have the appropriate class loyalties. This isn't about truth, but about power sharing in places like Yale and Cambridge, and in later life. Rob Henderson may be wrong about his time at Yale and Cambridge -- reading the book made me think that it was less about the elites than those who are aspiring to join the class, the wanna-be's who are most attracted to such loyalty displays, but, hey, I never went to school either place so what do I know? -- but his message to the lower classes will be true nonetheless. "Don't behave like this is true. Usually practicing the habits of those more successful than you are leads to success, but in this case it won't work, at least if you act as if what they say is true is true. By the way, they don't _act_ as if what they say is true, is true, either."

Expand full comment
author

I read most of his articles and included quotes

Expand full comment

Yes, but it was only after reading his book that I got a better understanding of what he meant because he spells it out better there. Which is a shame.

Expand full comment
author

I mean, if you introduce a concept over the course of like 10+ mainstream articles way before you publish a book, I think it's fair to use the term as described in those articles. IT's also the meaning people use because that was the one that was popularized by the author.

Expand full comment

The defund police claim was based on a YouGov poll taken right after the George Floyd murder. A Pew poll taken a bit later showed no correlation.

Ruxandra, forgive me for linking to my post that showed this.

https://robertsdavidn.substack.com/p/the-death-of-the-leisure-class

Expand full comment
Jun 4·edited Jun 4

I do not think that you can reconcile Helen Dale's belief that people select their beliefs based on their personality traits with Henderson's belief that it is all about in-group signally for high-status groups. Dale's argument is that people need to consider people who are very much unlike them in temperament, because what was good for me may not be so good for them. --Their hearts at least were in the right place, even if they made the mistake of believing that all people are like them --.Henderson's argument is that the people he met were willing to falsely profess any number of beliefs for the status rewards and entry into the top levels of his society. --These people's hearts were always in the wrong place, even if they needed to lard on a lot of self-deception in order to swallow the lies they are telling themselves and others--

I find Helen Dale's argument a lot more compelling than Rob Henderson's, but then all the status I have obtained in life has been in large part due to the fact that I care so little about what other people think about me. It's what you get when you are busy doing something else for it's own sake, or for fun, or because you were bored, or ... I cannot imagine caring that much about what other people think about me, or aiming to increase my status on purpose. But that, of course, speaks of my psychological temperment, and class background. Wow do I score low on agreeability and extraversion, and climbing into the 'senior trade unionist and middle class' is something my ancestors did, not within the oral tradition of my family.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

The distinction between "status" and group membership is vital here —luxury beliefs really don't confer status. No one will ever enter the "elite" just by adopting these beliefs. Lots of stoners on the west coast without college degrees believe all this stuff.

If you're already in an environment where these beliefs predominate (not just Yale and Columbia, but also Oberlin or Grinnell or most of the city of Portland), you go along to get along. Rocking the boat is low status /within/ these communities, because they're echo chambers where not believing the latest dogma is a Bad Opinion that makes you a Bad Person.

Then you graduate and hopefully grow up.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Ruxandra is pointing out that an ideology may suit one's temperament but not necessarily benefit people with that particular temperament.

Expand full comment

Pretty sure this is true, but like all my claims, it needs to be tested.

Expand full comment

Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

This doesn't engage with Henderson's main objection to "elite beliefs," which is specifically the observation that they *don't* correspond with temperaments.

Henderson's prime example was his observation that elite college students were almost always the products of stable nuclear families, but considered the institution of marriage, and nuclear-family-oriented social norms, to be retrogressive and wrong. According to Henderson, many of the same students themselves planned to get married and establish a traditional nuclear family, but outwardly, their belief was that such norms were damaging to society.

The students in this case were genetically and environmentally predisposed towards a family-desiring temperament, they were observed to actually have this temperament in regards to their personal plans, and yet their stated beliefs indicated the opposite. I don't think the luxury beliefs thesis is right, but the temperament thesis cannot be true because it fails to deal with the primary motivating observation.

Expand full comment
author

That makes sense. It's a good objection, honestly.

What I'd say is that these people are also fairly liberal in temperament and inclined towards gender equality. The first trait means they don't like to be seen or see themselves as imposing life choices on others. The second one means that they'll reject beliefs that sound anti gender equalitarian -- and this is how social conservatism is coded these days. Again, I think this is much more vibes and sentiment driven than outcome driven, so in a way you're proving my point. If some belief is "coded" as against your temperament, even if that isn't actually true in terms of outcomes, you'll reject it

Expand full comment
Jun 4·edited Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

This might be right. It could be that people buy an ideology "package" based on temperament, and ensuring the coherence of all the beliefs in the package is more important than matching each individual belief to temperament. So you have the bizarre cases where some people have beliefs that contradict their temperaments (and their actions).

An alternative counter to my objection might be that people with super-strong temperaments towards some action X might not realize the value of the *norms* supporting X, even if they themselves plan to do X. Using the nuclear family example, someone might object to nuclear-family-norms, because they alienate certain people. The objector, because she is so *strongly* inclined towards nuclear families, may not realize that some people are only *marginally* inclined towards nuclear families, and could be pushed towards or away from a nuclear family depending on norms.

In general, a person who recognizes that X is obviously good for her, but not for everyone, might argue that an X-norm should be eliminated, because the people for whom X is good will do it anyways, and the people for whom X is not good or unattainable will not feel alienated. But she neglects the cases for whom X is good but not known to be good.

Expand full comment
author

yeah this is very much true for elites: "An alternative counter to my objection might be that people with super-strong temperaments towards some action X might not realize the value of the *norms* supporting X, even if they themselves plan to do X."

Expand full comment

"Second, it’s not clear to me that elites supporting ideologies that are in line with their temperament is always a bad thing. We can bash classical liberalism all we want, but it also led to the great enrichment of everyone, the lifting of many people out of poverty and so on. This is something I struggle to conceive of as a bad thing but hey, maybe it’s just my temperament speaking!"

Most of the benefiting seems to have come before the 1960s revolutions in the OECD. After that economic growth slows, social and familial dysfunction increases, drug use and crime get worse, fertility collapses, etc.

Occasionally someone will say something like "well, do you want to go back the technology of the 1950s"? No, I'd like the technology of the 2020s and the social norms of the 1950s. I don't think these are mutually exclusive. High crime rates don't cause nerds to make assembly lines more efficient. People shitting in the street of San Fran isn't helping tech bros invent new smart phones.

Singapore isn't "classically liberal" on all sorts of dimensions that are holy writ to western liberals and yet its one of the great success stories on every metric.

Charles Murray had a whole thesis on this. That the post 60s changes in the elite temperament were basically wrong for lots of reasons and they should make active efforts to revise them in light of how they turned out.

I think a lot of elites want to congratulate themselves for things that probably would have happened anyway, perhaps even faster and better had they behaved better! Not just for the lower orders, but for themselves. Just because a vice doesn't lead a high conscientiousness person to the gutter doesn't mean it is good for reaching your full potential and/or societies full potential.

Expand full comment

The technology and social norms are deeply connected. Modern technology weakens our interdependence with our families and communities because individuals can survive, even thrive independently. Those traditional social values were indispensable when we truly needed each other in very tangible ways to avoid deprivation and death. Eg, modern agriculture, logistics, and household appliances, and numerous improvements in economic productivity have weakened our direct dependence on our family and local community.

Not to mention the information technologies that have allowed people to connect with individuals across the globe with more similar interests, temperance, and beliefs. Previously there was no choice but to get one with ones family and neighbors. And of course birth control fundamentally restructures relationships between men and women, including allowing one to forgo marriage, or at least children, without committing to celibacy.

Jean M. Twenge explores these influence of technology in driving individualism and broader social changes over the last ~100 years in her excellent book Generations, https://a.co/d/1KdWiA5

Expand full comment

If anything I think modern technology makes certain vices easier to reduce. Crime for instance is way easier of a problem in a world of cheap surveillance, DNA evidence, anti-theft devices, and lower use of cash transactions. Crime is essentially a policy choice, and polities that choose different policies can make crime decline 90% overnight.

Even San Fransisco was able to clear its streets for President Xi's visit because it had the will to do so.

The Pill does allow people to forego marriage while avoiding celibacy. But Mormon's and Israeli's have the pill (and don't preach against its use) and they maintain high fertility and marriage rates. The same could be said for conservative westerners generally.

Things like the marriage penalty, a government tax/benefit structure that favors low fertility, and lack of school choice are all things we could change even with the existence of the pill.

My thesis is that elites solved their easy divorce problem by delaying marriage till their 30s and using the pill to avoid celibacy during their 20s. By ones 30s women are too old to remarry (the main initiators of divorce) and status uncertainty of the partners is much lower in ones 30s then ones 20s (changes in status can lead to divorce). Furthermore, if one only has 0-2 kids then life is pretty low stress which also reduces divorce.

This is fun enough when one is young but leads to a massive fertility shortfall, and in the long run to a collapse in the dependency ratio (people aren't having the kids that will pay for their retirement). Its fundamentally selfish short term living that hopes to foist a lot of the costs of creating the next generation on society in order to juice consumption in the hear and now (consumption of not just goods but novelty, freedom, egoism, experiences, etc).

Expand full comment

Having one's kids to pay for their retirement is the most selfish thing to do ever

Expand full comment

Our entire retirement system is based around having the young pay for the old. It is in fact a worse system then having kids pay for ones parents. We ask other peoples kids to pay for old people who didn't have their own kids rather then for their own parents.

Expand full comment

Yeah, but everybody pays for everybody's kids' education without guilt tripping these kids.

Expand full comment

Everyone pays the school system, not the children or even their parents. I certainly don't guilt trip children for being forced to go to schools they often hate. I do often guilt trip the school system for how it operates.

The only individuals I'm guilt tripping are the childless. They should stop free riding on other peoples children to pay for their retirement. The costs of raising a child are the premium payments for future old age claims, and some people are making those payments while others are shirking.

Expand full comment

While we're at it, let's take the 1950s tax rates also. 50% for corporations and 90% for high income earners.

Expand full comment

It just seems to me that the elites are in thrall to the “marginalized” because they are often the canary in the coal mine. If the majority has a green light to discriminate against blacks, gays, etc., they may eventually come for the Jews, who are disproportionately situated among the elite, and often fearful of right-wing, populist movements for obvious reasons. So you get the “quest for inclusion” (the title of one book that explains the Jewish “drive for a more tolerant, pluralistic, and egalitarian nation with Jewish desires for inclusion in the larger non-Jewish society.”) In addition to the quest for inclusion, you also get a desire to raise up blacks and other minorities to respectability with anti-poverty programs that mostly backfired; therefore, the quest for inclusion means we are still mired in the “We’re depraved on account we’re deprived” sociological perspective.

Of course, more recently, Wokeism has received steroid shots from CRT-type activists and has backfired somewhat on Jewish allies, as they have now been cast as the oppressor by woke Lefties (as was predicted in 2014 by the Jewish co-authors of _Beyond All Reason_). However, although I think Jews are enormously influential since WWII regarding pushing tolerance/pluralism/multiculturalism, etc., I don’t think the Jewish tail simply wags the woke gentile dog, as many woke liberals were psychologically ripe for Wokeism in terms of temperament.

Expand full comment

CRT actually has relatively few Jewish theoreticians, though of course it built on the Frankfurt school.

I'm hopeful with the Jewish billionaires realizing woke is bad for them too, though I don't expect too much. The neocon crowd at Commentary, Quillette and Tablet was writing anti-woke articles in 2020.

There are quite a few Jewish classical liberals and libertarians, probably because it's where you go when you're Jewish and have a conservative temperament since the Christians want to dunk you in water and the ethnonationalists want to dunk you in fire.

Expand full comment

CRT (regardless of its connection to the Frankfurt School) runs afoul of many Jews because it focuses more on disparities as opposed to blatant discrimination. As Jews obviously had/have no problem ascending the economic ladder, they probably don’t want anyone looking too closely at disparities considering where they are in the economic/political hierarchy. However, since WWII (and before), Jews have been enormously influential in attacking discrimination and building a consensus that it is deeply immoral. They also disproportionately attacked the Darwinian paradigm when it came to applying evolutionary theory to group differences. The combination of these two attacks helped paved the way for more radical forms of Wokeism.

Expand full comment

I'm skeptical people actually want the social norms of the 1950s. A lot of what people imagine '50s social norms were is a fantasy.

Expand full comment

"50's without Jim Crow, and whites can marry East Asians, and no wife-beating (without a safeword anyway)."

Expand full comment

Taiwan is a much better example of being classically liberal and technologically innovative than Singapore, too bad they are in a such prescarious position being threatened by their authoritarian cousins.

Expand full comment

As you say, belief assertion by elites as social signaling isn't new. The new phenomenon I *think* Henderson is getting at is that elite signal-beliefs have become much more antinomian in the last couple of decades. Rather than look to intra elite dynamics for a cause of this, I would connect it to the general rise of antinomian beliefs across classes and ideologies. Non elites are more likely than before to want to "burn it all down" too, just in different ways-- this is a huge driver of support for populist movements, after all. So while Henderson has a point about how often actually "burning it down" turns out worse for non-elites, it's not so simple as elites consuming antinomianism as a psychic luxury.

Martin Gurri's ideas from _The Revolt of the Public_ most plausibly explain the general antinomian mood. The increased transparency made possible by information technology makes the flaws of existing institutions clearer, without making it any easier to construct or even coherently describe a better alternative.

I would add that this increased transparency extends, with regard to left-coded forms of antinomianism, not just to the present state of establishment norms but to their historical roots. A genuine and in principle good increase in honest reckoning with the evils of the past has led to a purity-spiralling desire to competitively disassociate oneself from those evils, and this is how you get e.g. the vogue for renaming things whose current name honors some past figure now deemed problematic. This same desire drives "luxury beliefs" inasmuch as those beliefs ostentatiously reject institutions (the police being a fine example) that are newly seen to be historically associated with bigotry and injustice.

Expand full comment
author

I think there might be a point here that elite beliefs are more antinomian now. But then, people should make this more specific claim.

Expand full comment
Jun 4Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I thought Helen’s original post excellent, and I think you’ve filled it out superbly. Clarifying insights from each of you as you elucidate a helpful but previously hazy concept. Thank you.

Expand full comment
author

thank you!

Expand full comment

I think that this is an example of some of the good criticisms of the concept of luxury beliefs, but I still think that it misses something important I think Rob is pretty correct on: the role of beliefs as a form of social signaling. Specifically, while temperment, personality, moral foundations, etc. predispose individuals towards certain beliefs, they will also predispose them to adopting social identities that are in-line with those beliefs. Once that happens, people will often be incentivized to adopt and promote more extreme ideas and behaviors as a way of signalling that:

1. They belong to the group

2. The group they belong to is dignified and/or high-status

3. They are a highly dignified/high-status member of the group

An example of this: if you are on an elite university campus, you are going to be surrounded by people who highly value fairness and caring. This will predispose such individuals towards progreve views such as supporting trans rights. However, these moral intuitions can also become the basis of a shared progressive group-identity. Once the worldview becomes an identity, than individuals have an incentive to engage in signalling to promote the status of themselves and their group. A good example of this is when someone insists on doing the pronoun-circle game even when it is obviously redundant. While believing in and promoting the idea of pronoun circles probably doesn't do much in practice to help trans people, individuals who start the pronoun game are able to:

1. Signal their membership in the progressive identity group

2. Signal that progressives are morally dignified group who will (nominally) go out of their way to support marginalized groups like trans people, while thsoe who oppose them are morally inferior deviants

3. Signal that they are such a moral examplar of their group by being the ones to initiate the pronoun game

Where I think Rob largely goes wrong is with his apparent belief that:

1. That this form of signalling is mostly about economic class

2. That this form of signalling is a predominately upper-class activity

Instead, I'd argue that adopting and promiting certain ideas/behaviors as a form of signalling like this is pretty universal. Rightoids are willing to believe in and promote the stolen election myth because it:

1. Signals their group-identity as a Trump loyalist

2. Signals that Trump loyalists are morally superior to Democrats and RINOs who are willing to cheat and steal to win

3. Signal that they are such morally rightous Trump loyalists that they refuse to stop calling out the injustice of their stolen election

Does the temperment, moral foundations, personality, personal interest, etc. of election deniers predispose them towards supporting Trump? Probably, but it is likely the adoption of being a Trump-loyalist as an identity that makes them adopt and engage in such schitzo behavior.

Expand full comment
author

I've already addressed this in my initial critique. Yes people use beliefs to fit into a group (both high status and low status groups, btw). Also called conformism.

That being said, once you're in that group (and you need to satisfy many other criteria to be in,) beliefs become secondary as a way to climbing. The status hierarchy within the group. Eg upper middle class will compete based on who went to Harvard not who believes in defund the police

Expand full comment

Absolutely, *but* it remains one of the criteria, so to speak. So in a time of heightened political agitation (like 2020), it increases in importance and 'calling people out' becomes an effective way to compete for status--you find some insufficiently woke thing someone said ten years ago and get them fired. You can also use the identity markers now that they're important--wanna get rid of the Boomers clogging up your promotion pipeline? Start a diversity drive, because they're disproportionately white males, and probably said something bad ten years ago.

After all, there's competition *at* Harvard (and the New York Times, and Simon & Schuster), and having more diversity points can give you an edge on the competition.

Expand full comment

My own slight issue with the recent virality of the "luxury belief" meme in conservative discourse is that it seems to be viewed as a great epiphany whereas the idea has, in essence, been around since the 1990s. For example Myron Magnet in his book 'The Dream and the Nightmare' eloquently demonstated how ideas that were a kind of 'liberating' temporary philosophical fun ride for the graduate middle class when young became a lifelong poisoned chalice for those lower down the social scale.

Expand full comment

Explicit introspection seems like a mixed blessing. If you decide something based on self-illegible vibes, then self-illegibly glom onto the most socially acceptable explanation, then you’re perpetually sincere and innocent

Expand full comment

“Good” elite intentions. Good for whom? Why dismiss malice and replace with laziness? Cui bono for them. Cui bono for the argument itself.

Expand full comment
Jun 9·edited Jun 10

I posted this on Helen Dale's substack, and think it is of interest to you as well.

Scientifically, the question of Big Five versus politics has been investigated. Here's a review article from 2011:

https://www.annualreviews.org/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-polisci-051010-111659

Biggest effect: High O: social and economically liberal. High N: economically conservative

Next biggest: High C: socially and economically conservative

More marginal: High E: socially and economically conservative, high N: socially conservative (yeah, I was surprised too), high A: socially conservative, economically liberal

That's right, low agreeableness makes you slightly more libertarian! (Which implies other factors are at play or actual libertarians are very disagreeable.)

Liberal: high O, low C, low E. (INXP for all you Myers-Briggs fans--and notice the INFP is usually portrayed as the 'tortured artist')

Conservative: low O, high C, high E. (ESXJ for all you Myers-Briggs fans--and notice the ESTJ is usually portrayed as the businessman or manager)

Libertarian: low N, low A.

Sadly this is from 2011 so we can't really see the effects of woke or Trump.

Expand full comment

I appreciate the careful post, and I would recommend, as prior work on the topic of political beliefs linked to temperament, Will Wilkenson's "The Density Divide " https://www.niskanencenter.org/the-density-divide-urbanization-polarization-and-populist-backlash/

" I explore three such traits — ethnicity, ideology-correlated aspects of personality, and level of educational achievement — and their intricate web of relationships. The upshot is that, over the course of millions of moves over many decades, high density areas have become economically thriving multicultural havens while whiter, lower density places are facing stagnation and decline as their populations have become increasingly uniform in terms of socially conservative personality, aversion to diversity, and lower levels of education. This self-segregation of the population, I argue, created the polarized economic and cultural conditions that led to populist backlash."

Expand full comment

If we are talking about "luxury beliefs", then surely part of the conversation has to involve the way that scarcity affects the human brain. Scarcity disables our ability to think long term and focuses us on very short term goals, though that may tell us more about policy differences between the poor and middle class than the middle and upper classes.

In general the whole conversation doesn't seem very rational. Seems like Henderson takes a few beliefs he doesn't like and then works backwards to explain why the bad belief was badly reasoned. People have dozens, if not hundreds, of beliefs about a broad range of political and philosophical thought. It's not as though he's taking the whole range of beliefs and comparing them to beliefs among different income groups.

Expand full comment

I was a "gifted kid" with no direction because "he's gifted, he can do whatever", who had never failing as part of his identity — which crumbled because of, well, failures — and who eventually wanted to be left be, thus defied every social expectation. Of course I'm a classical libertarian (like, Thoreau yay, Rand nope). And of course, being auch a position so rare and phisiologically under represented is part of the appeal

Expand full comment

Among the counterpoints you summarize from your original article, 1) and 2) just aren't correct.

Regarding 1), there clearly is a decline in interest in material possession signaling relative to ideological signaling. For one, you can compare western elites to non western elites. How do architectural trends in Brooklyn compare to Dubai? How do rich Indians in San Jose signal their wealth vs. rich Indians in India? Or across time--how does Jeff Bezos dress in formal events compared to a western aristocract depicted in a 17th century portrait?

Regarding 2) you are stretching your definition of "libertarian" in order to assert a contradiction among common luxury beliefs. Your original article cites "variance maximizing" as a supposed libertarian idea, i.e. the idea that freedom is good because it allows talented people to achieve more. That is NOT a libertarian viewpoint. Libertarians believe freedom is good not because it serves an instrumental purpose, but because violence is wrong, and limiting people's freedom requires violence. Positing that freedom is good to the extent it moves society in a positive direction is simply another flavor of collectivism, which naturally appeals to people with other progressive ideas.

Expand full comment
author

also a good point from @logbrick:

"The distinction between "status" and group membership is vital here —luxury beliefs really don't confer status. No one will ever enter the "elite" just by adopting these beliefs. Lots of stoners on the west coast without college degrees believe all this stuff.

If you're already in an environment where these beliefs predominate (not just Yale and Columbia, but also Oberlin or Grinnell or most of the city of Portland), you go along to get along. Rocking the boat is low status /within/ these communities, because they're echo chambers where not believing the latest dogma is a Bad Opinion that makes you a Bad Person.

Then you graduate and hopefully grow up."

Expand full comment
author

1. Which elites? SF techbros might not wear expensive clothes but they'll certainly brag abt their latest founding round and how much their start up is making (implicitly from former.) NY elites will also have a lot of implicit status signals that are not belief based. In academia ppl don't signal with wealth but they signal with credentials. I would say that more generally people now signal with success, which tends to be variously defined across elite categories (and includes material possessions for some.) to the extent that money has given way to something it's to a more generalized notion of success and "self madeness", not with beliefs.

2. There's no contradiction between what I said and what you say? Freedom is variance maximizing in effect, regardless of why libertarians support it. And most of them accept that you'll have some who are hurt but it but they just don't consider it super important vs their appreciation for freedom.

Expand full comment

I think I agree with most of what you say (e.g. "lazily well-intentioned", that it is a sub-set of "beliefs suited to my temperament"), but still find "luxury belief" a useful term.

To me, it conveys "a belief that becomes asymptotically nihilistic or let-them-eat-cake-y as one climbs down the socioeconomic ladder." Such beliefs often run counter to wisdom commonly accepted on all rungs (e.g. "defund the police" -> "abolish the police") because otherwise they wouldn't be distinctive and therefore useful for in-group signaling, but are almost impossible to hold given sufficient disadvantage (e.g. being viscerally aware that there exist dangerous situations requiring police intervention).

A related concept is moral connoisseurdom - "you think X is good? well, because my moral discernment is highly refined, I can see X is bad." - which also serves as a way to cement moral authority ("my heightened discernment gives me more authority to distinguish good from bad.") While this throws out more babies than bathwater (e.g. don't get me started on leftist critiques of EA), sometimes X *really is* bad. Hell, this phenomenon could hypothetically overturn longstanding luxury beliefs - e.g. if the anti-GMO movement dissolved because its optics were cringingly white and privileged.

But yeah, I don't think people are consciously and deliberately setting out to be this way. Like you said, they're doing it by feels. It just so happens that (many of) our feels precipitate around self-interest and are amplified by the zeitgeist. When I'm annoyed by it, I try to remind myself that 1) the only reason moral connoisseurdom can take hold is that these communities *genuinely* and *passionately* value goodness, and 2) without question, I too engage in subconscious antics to convey my goodness.

Expand full comment