Victor Davis Hanson

Second, the wealthy have not set an example that hard work and self-discipline leads to well-deserved success and the good life. Recently, a drunken, affluent young prospect for the U.S. ski team urinated on a sleeping 11-year old during a transcontinental flight. And the more the psychodramas of drones like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, or some members of the royal family, become headline news, the more we see boredom and corruption among the pampered elite. The behavior of John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Arnold Schwarzenegger does not remind us that good habits of elite public figures follow from well-deserved riches and acclaim -- but only that with today's wealth and power comes inevitable license and decadence.

Third, communism may be dead, but Marxist-inspired materialism still measures the good life only by equal access to "things." We can argue whether those who loot a computer store are spoiled or oppressed. But even a person in faded jeans and a worn T-shirt can still find all sorts of spiritual enrichment at no cost in either a museum or a good book. Did we forget that in our affluent postmodern society, being poor is often an impoverishment of the mind, not necessarily the result of a cruel physical world?

Finally, there is far too much emphasis on government as the doting, problem-solving parent. What made Western civilization rich and liberal was not just free-market capitalism and well-funded constitutional government, but the role of the family, community and church in reminding the emancipated individual of an affluent society that he should not always do what he was legally permitted to. Destroy these bridles, ridicule the old shame culture of the past, and we end up with unchecked appetites -- as we now witness from a smoldering London to the flash mobbing in Wisconsin.

Our high-tech angry youth are deprived not just because their elders put at risk their future subsidies, but because they were not taught what real wealth is -- and where and how it is obtained and should be used.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.