The New York Times is outraged at what it calls the “cruise ship caste system.” Most cruise lines offer several different levels of service and accomodation at different price levels. The highest levels of service and accomodation can cost as much as ten times the lowest. At those higher levels things can be quite luxurious and offer private dining, private swimming pools, and all manner of escape from the hoi polloi below.
Behind a locked door aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship is a world most of the vessel’s 4,200 passengers will never see. And that is exactly the point.
In the Haven, as this ship within a ship is called, about 275 elite guests enjoy not only a concierge and 24-hour butler service, but also a private pool, sun deck and restaurant, creating an oasis free from the crowds elsewhere on the Norwegian Escape.
If Haven passengers venture out of their aerie to see a show, a flash of their gold key card gets them the best seats in the house. When the ship returns to port, they disembark before everyone else.
“It was always the intention to make the Haven somewhat obscure so it wasn’t in the face of the masses,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s former chief executive, who helped design the Escape with the hope of attracting a richer clientele. “That segment of the population wants to be surrounded by people with similar characteristics.”
With disparities in wealth greater than at any time since the Gilded Age, the gap is widening between the highly affluent — who find themselves behind the velvet ropes of today’s economy — and everyone else.
Oh, how awful. The gray lady calls this “The Velvet Rope Economy” and pledges that today’s piece is “The first in an occasional series on how growing disparities in wealth are leading to privileged treatment of the rich.”
As liberals always do when discussing just about anything, the author is using a slight of hand trick on “equality” and “privileged treatment.” He is not talking about equality at all, which holds that we are all equal before our creator and in the eyes of Lady Justice. The Times is not talking about this sort of equality, the only one that really matters. When they say we’re not all equal they mean we’re not all the same, and that is what really angers them. So long as we remain above dirt we cannot all be the same because each one of us is a unique individual. Seems that ought to be something to celebrate rather than to disparage.
As for privileged treatment, so long as you pay for it and it’s not illegal it’s not “privileged” in the sense the Times author means it, as something no one else can ever get no matter how deserving. To the contrary, anyone can purchase these luxury cruise accommodations. Some people take out a second mortgage on their house to buy luxury goods, some wait until they don’t need to do that. It’s a matter of the choices one makes and it has nothing at all to do with “privilege.”
The type of envy that gvies rise to the resentment and anger at the Times is a toxic form of envy. There is good envy and toxic envy. The good kind sees what others have and have accomplished in their lives and is inspired with an attitude of “someday that will be me.” That sort of envy is good for us. The toxic kind does the opposite. It destroys the hopes and dreams of all who so indulge themselves. It reduces those in the cheap seats to all manner of emotions that ruin their cruise vacation. I’d venture that most of the passengers in the lower decks of the Norwegian Cruise Line are not concerned with what the Times is talking about, and are just enjoying the cruise.
Scott Ott calls this drivel from the Times “commu-nincompoopism” and offers a few simple self-evident truths that may have escaped the notice of the diligent, unbiased Times reporter.”
1) Aspiration to a better life inspires creativity and hard work, which benefit not only the aspirant, but society in general.
2) It’s only “envy” if class divisions are enforced by government, religion, or other powerful institutions, preventing people from pursuing their dreams. Economic mobility means that today’s steerage passenger is tomorrow’s first-class ticket-holder (and perhaps vice versa). Envy gives way to aspiration, which inspires risk and hard work, and that often spurs accomplishment and reward.
3) Premium-fare customers reduce costs, and increase value, for the rest of us, just as the first rich fool to pay $50,000 for a big screen TV helped to finance mass production of the nearly identical, but probably better, $500 version in your living room.
4) High-dollar customers provide employment, higher wages and higher gratuities for people currently at the lower end of the economic scale — butlers, maids and such. Ask a waiter on the cloistered upper deck whether he wishes the wealthy would stay home.
5) Premium clientele boost profits, and thus increase value and dividends to shareholders, who, in turn, spend or invest the surplus, perpetuating the virtuous cycle.
6) The American dream is not egalitarianism, it is liberty to pursue happiness on the basis of merit, without institutionally imposed limits.
The Times is correct that we are not all in the same boat. Never have been, never will be either. Each of us is in the boat we have at the moment, and that may not be the boat we were in yesterday nor the one we wll be in tomorrow. The quote from Milton Friedman that graces the header to this blog suggests that attempts by government to put us all in the same boat will evenutally put us all in a sinking boat.