My issue is essentially that I believe that over the past 30 years institutional and cultural shifts have resulted in an increasing exploitation of the majority of society and the diversion of income to the top. There is no other credible explanation for why the in developed countries are so pronounced in the Anglo-Saxon countries, with the US an outlier among these, and so much weaker in the rest of the developed world. While there is a small shift towards inequality that is occurring across these nations, probably largely the result of the vast increase in labor through the development of the third world, this international component is far smaller than the country specific shifts we have observed in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.
However, Brooks mentions none of this, instead trying to frame it as if Americans are shifting towards envy. He summarizes Alexis de Tocqueville, stating that:
Alexis de Tocqueville phrased it a little differently, but his classic 19th-century text contains the same observation. Visiting from France, he marveled at Americans’ ability to keep envy at bay, and to see others’ successes as portents of good times for all.It's been a long time since I've read de Tocqueville, but from what I remember of it his main explanation for American's attitude is that rich and poor alike share in all aspects of life. They meet and discuss the issues of the day at each others homes and public entertainments, they recognize the mutual equality of each in politics, they live amongst each other interacting with each other constantly in life's daily commerce, and the benefits and burdens of living in a civilized society are shared according to individual's means and talents.
This is not descriptive of modern America.Our rich do not brush up against their inferiors in every day life. Today, they have separate stores, separate clubs, and a diverse array of high brow entertainments unavailable to the working poor. Their children attend separate schools, they live in wealthy suburbs, network amongst each other, and pour money into influencing their favored political candidates violating the original American's compact amongst each other to have equal voice in the political sphere even when of unequal means.
It isn't envy to realize that this is not de Tocqueville's America. If the rich want to maintain their wealth while dispelling envy the onus is on them to return to these roots. Live in Detroit instead of Grosse Pointe, send their kids to public schools instead of private schools, and shop at Walmart. Talk to the grocery store clerk about the most recent episode of Teen Mom and commiserate about the pot holes and bad public transit that each takes along the same commuting route.