Status Conflicts Among the American Elite

I strongly recommend Alec MacGillis’ article on how the hedge fund world loved Barack Obama in 2008 and now hate him, for reasons that he argues are more about ego than money.

To generalize a bit, I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of what passes for economic policy debate in the United States is a kind of status competition among members of the elite. Some people are good at things that earn you a lot of money (managing hedge funds, playing men’s basketball) while other people are good at things that can get you a decent salary but are much less lucrative (being an athropology professor, playing women’s basketball) even at the top level. The battle over taxing the people who earn a lot of money is in part about getting revenue, but it’s in part just a fight over recognition and social esteem.