Luxury Beliefs of the Leisure Class Are at the Heart of Fractivism

Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

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A leisure class of trust-funders has always been at the heart of fractivism, spending the money of their capitalist ancestors to parade their luxury beliefs.

I’ve written often about the leisure class of trust-funders behind fractivism. Whether it’s the Park Foundation, the William Penn Foundation or the Heinz Endowments, it’s always the same spoiled brats at work, funding others to do their dirty work of trashing oil and gas while they sit comfortably atop a perch of moral virtue passing out money they didn’t earn as supposed philanthropists.

Check out our posts here, here and here for examples. The psychology of all this, though, has been explored in a fascinating article at Quillette about the leisure class, the essence of which is that luxury beliefs are the new potlatch, where “gifts are bestowed on the guests and property is destroyed by its owner in a show of wealth.” And, that isn’t all.

luxury beliefs

Idleness .*oil on canvas .*111 x 73 cm .*signed b.l.: J. W. Godward 1900

Fractivism is enabled and spurred by financing from trust-funders. We know who they are. They run foundations designed to shelter money from taxation while using it to exercise political and special interest influence. They are elites without substance who desire recognition for what they suppose is a superior morality. Here’s just a bit from the Quillette piece to explain (emphasis added):

Human beings become more preoccupied with social status once our physical needs are met. In fact, research reveals that sociometric status (respect and admiration from peers) is more important for well-being than socioeconomic status. Furthermore, studies have shown that negative social judgment is associated with a spike in cortisol (hormone linked to stress) that is three times higher than non-social stressful situations. We feel pressure to build and maintain social status, and fear losing it…

And indeed, a recent piece of research supports this: it is the upper class who are the most preoccupied with gaining wealth and status. In their paper, the researchers conclude, “relative to lower-class individuals, upper-class individuals have a greater desire for wealth and status…it is those who have more to start with (i.e., upper-class individuals) who also strive to acquire more wealth and status.” Plainly, high-status people desire status more than anyone else

You might think that, for example, rich kids at elite universities would be happy because their parents are in the top one per cent of income earners. And they will soon join their parents in this elite guild. But remember, they’re surrounded by other members of the one per cent…

Jordan Peterson has discussed this phenomenon. Citing figures from his experience teaching at Harvard in the 1990s, Peterson noted that a substantial proportion of Ivy League graduates go on to obtain a net worth of a million dollars or more by age 40. And yet, he observes, this isn’t enough for them. Not only do top university graduates want to be millionaires-in-the-making; they also want the image of moral righteousness. Peterson underlines that elite graduates desire high status not only financially, but morally as well. For these affluent social strivers, luxury beliefs offer them a new way to gain status

[Thorstein] Veblen proposed that the wealthy flaunt these symbols not because they are useful, but because they are so pricey or wasteful that only the wealthy can afford them, which is why they’re high-status indicators

As I noted in my original luxury beliefs essay, material goods have become more affordable and, thus, less reliable indicators of social class. Status has shifted to the beliefs we express. And beliefs are less expensive than goods because anyone can adopt them. They are not financially costly

The elite want to differentiate themselves from the rabble with their visible badges of luxury…

The affluent do not want to be seen with “common” goods. They view them as distasteful. Today, it’s not just common goods they view as distasteful—it’s beliefs too. The affluent, dreading an “odious” designation, resist displaying commonplace beliefs. Those beliefs are for the little people. Instead, the upper class want to be seen displaying luxury beliefs

The economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell once said that activism is “a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.” The same could be said for luxury beliefs.

This is what explains so much of the elitism that is behind fractivism and other associated environmental causes today. This why, for example, “artist” Sarah Lutz throws millions at ex-nun Pam Solo to finance her outrageous salary, her son’s shoe business and fractivist groups such as the Responsible Drilling Alliance, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), the Clean air Council, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and Otsego 2000, all through a phony group called the Civil Society Institute.

It’s also why Park Foundation and fractivist grand dame, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter are spending their father’s and grandfather’s fortune on emulating the Rockefeller with whom they’re linked as junior partners in financing the inartfully named “Sustainable Markets Foundation.” That’s in addition to her pitiful elitist poetry, of course. Directed, manipulated and used by Fractivist Raspution Jay Halfon, the Park Foundation funds the self-appointed Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Delaware Povertykeeper a/k/a Riverkeeper, 350.org, Earthworks, EarethJustice, Food & Water Watch and NRDC, to mention just a few. Meanwhile, its grantee,  the Sustainable Markets Foundation has funded Walter Hang, Earth Island Institute, Frack Action Fund, Gas Free Seneca, Greenpeace and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) Fund, among many others.

And, it’s why Leonard Haas, another “artist” who is one of the family of trust-funders that is the William Penn Foundation, together with his trust-funder siblings, funds the Sierra Club, the Povertykeeper, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Clean Air Council and sundry other fractivist groups, including the land gobbling Open Space Institute, which is an off-shoot of the NRDC and wants to make a wilderness of Upstate New York and numerous other places, all of which is threatened by the economic revitalization and higher property values natural gas development brings.

There’s also a fabulous article written by one of my favorite writers, Joel Klotkin. that offers additional insights. It’s titled “America’s Drift toward Feudalism.” One of things he discusses is how the leisure class is grabbing up land to both signal their superior morality and just happen to keep it for their own enjoyment and use:

The ultrarich represent an emergent global aristocracy—or rather, a new oligarchy. Fewer than one hundred billionaires now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets—the same amount that around four hundred billionaires owned a little more than five years ago. In the United States, the richest four hundred U.S. citizens now have more wealth than 185 million of their fellow Americans com­bined. The shift has been dramatic: the top 1 percent in America captured just 4.9 percent of total U.S. income growth from 1945 to 1973, but in the following two decades the country’s richest classes gobbled up the majority of U.S. income growth.

Patterns of property ownership reflect the very same trends that anchored both the medieval aristocratic and ecclesiastical classes. The proportion of land owned by the nation’s hundred largest private landowners grew by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2017. In 2007, according to the Land Report, this group owned a combined twenty-seven million acres of land, equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined. A decade later, the hundred largest landowners had holdings of over forty million acres. Their holdings are now larger than the entirety of New England. Even in much of the vast American West, where much of the land remains in public hands, billionaires have created expansive estates that many fear will make the rest of the local population land-poor.

This is what fractivism’s enablers and financiers are all about; luxury beliefs intended to cement social status and grab land without sacrificing one damn thing themselves.

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2 thoughts on “Luxury Beliefs of the Leisure Class Are at the Heart of Fractivism

  1. It is time that the environment NGOs have disclose the use of their vast resources for lobbying, legal, fellow NGOs, and political activism.

    Thanks for your continuing reporting on the oversized influence of foundations and not for profits, Tom.

  2. That’s what captialism made possible .
    1 percent holding the majority of wealth.
    And they want clean air and clean water which is a good thing.

    Compared to the fossil fuel industry that backs Tom and is willing and does sacrifice our environment to make their billions and grab land for development..

    Tom, you could consider submitting these theories and essays to Judge Legg in my county when you and your attorney explain why you won’t answer your subpoena and reveal your records to show who backs you.

    The fossil fuel industry wants to be the only ones who fund their mouth pieces, and lobby and promote their agenda….

    The wealthy have funded and promoted our national parks, conservation and nature preservation since our country’s inception….

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