Roger L. Simon

Barone's Blog

If there is any sign that blogs have arrivés, it is that Michael Barone, the dean of American political analysts in my estimation, is blogging and doing it in a committed manner. (No comments yet, but you can’t ask too much on US News & World Report) This is the kind of guy who spends his off hours rereading Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments.

In Barone’s most recent post, he examines a quote from Himmelfarb on the two systems of morality in civilized society and uses it to put forth Adam Smith as a modern political pundit.

“The ‘liberal’ or ‘loose’ system, favored by ‘people of fashion,’ was prone to ‘vices of levity’-‘luxury, wanton and even disorderly mirth, the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the breach of chastity . . . ‘ The ‘strict or austere’ system, generally adhered to by ‘the common people,’ regarded such vices, for themselves at any rate, with ‘the utmost abhorrence and detestation,’ because they knew-or at least ‘the wiser and better sort’ of them knew-that these vices were almost always ruinous to them; a single week’s dissipation could undo a poor workman forever. This is why, Smith explained, religious sects arose and flourished among the common people, for they preached the system of morality conducive to the welfare of the poor.”

Of course it’s Barone’s intent to bring forth this dichotomy into our times.

You can also see what Smith describe in today’s politics. It’s most visible in Wyoming, our smallest state. Wyoming is full of what Smith calls “the common people,” and in 2004 it voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush. He carried every county but one. That was Teton County, which includes Jackson Hole, the ultraexpensive resort inhabited primarily by what Smith calls “the people of fashion.” This is what I called the trust-funder left in a column last March, and you can see their influence in the huge majorities for John Kerry in such trust-funder havens as San Francisco and Berkeley, Aspen and Telluride, Martha’s Vineyard and Manhattan.

There’s plenty more at the link above.