John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. This helps explain why American culture is so hostile to the idea of limits, why voters during the last energy shortage rejected the sweater-wearing Jimmy Carter and elected Ronald Reagan who told them it was still "morning in America." Nowhere does the myth of progress have more fervent believers.
During the contest for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, John F. Kennedy visited a mine in West Virginia. “Is it true you’re the son of one of our wealthiest men?” asked one of the miners there. Kennedy admitted that this was true. “Is it true that you’ve never wanted for anything and had everything you wanted?” “I guess so,” Kennedy replied. “Is it true you’ve never done a day’s work with your hands all your life?” Kennedy nodded. “Well, let me tell you this,” said the miner. “You haven’t missed a thing.”
What greater folly can be imagined than to call gems, silver, and gold “noble” and earth and dirt “base”? For do not these persons consider that, if there were as great a scarcity of earth as there is of jewels and precious metals, there would be no king who would not gladly give a heap of diamonds and rubies and many ingots of gold to purchase only so much earth as would suffice to plant a jessamine in a little pot or to set a tangerine in it, that he might see it sprout, grow up, and bring forth such goodly leaves, fragrant flowers, and delicate fruit?
A certain kind of rich man afflicted with the symptoms of moral dandyism sooner or later comes to the conclusion that it isn't enough merely to make money. He feels obliged to hold views, to espouse causes and elect Presidents, to explain to a trembling world how and why the world went wrong. The spectacle is nearly always comic.