Are you middle class?

Posted on January 20, 2012 by

I’ve decided to move my comment from here to its own post. My general proposition is that those in the “struggling middle class” are actually working class, as a defining characteristic of the middle class is that it doesn’t struggle. I.e. if you have to work to live, then you are part of the working class.

What exactly is upper class in your classification?

I know enough of them, including of the British variety, to know that they would never consider me to be a member. They like to keep themselves to themselves, and marry amongst themselves, even if they’ll slum it with you superficially. That’s a bitter pill, but that’s how they are, even if they play nice for a bit.

It’s all about having a name. You can get into the peripheral circles with great wealth or power (or talent or beauty), but it takes a generation to truly have a name. Until then, you’re just an upstart with no name. And once you have a name, you can hang on for a couple of generations, even once impoverished. It’s a question of breeding, so to belong you have to have the right parents, and you obviously can’t have the right parents if you’re in the first generation.

I still find it strange to call everyone except the very rich ‘working class’.

What you are forgetting is that it was — within living memory — the case that the majority of the middle class was actually middle class. They had positive net worth and/or income-generating assets. They owned their houses outright, you know. No car payments, credit card debt, or student loans, either. They were free to change jobs and speak their minds publicly because they had enough savings and investments that they could survive for years without wage-income. Retirees still often fit into this class, but it is so rare amongst the young that we’ve come to consider it something rather extraordinary.

The biggest differential between the working class and the middle class is that the workers can be thrown out on the street within weeks or months of losing their wage. They don’t, therefore, have the security and future-planning that defines the middle class, nor their independence and flexibility.

People with high wages and low net-worth would be more accurately described as “professionals”. So at the upper-end of the working class, but not independently wealthy. Professionals used to mostly be middle-class, especially in mid-life, so that’s why the terms eventually became synonymous. You could assume that a doctor, lawyer, or engineer was middle class. They’re all just debt-laden wage slaves like the rest of them, now. Their debt is simply bigger and their wages are higher, but net they are identical.

An expanding middle class tends to lead to greater political freedom, as they are independent-minded and it is difficult to purchase their votes. A shrinking middle class tends to lead to greater tyranny, for the opposite reason.

What made America a well of liberty was that it had an expanding middle class and aspirational working class (that was the American Dream). Now, the majority of the populace are wage-slaves, state-dependents, or some combination of the two, and those that aren’t live in fear of joining that group.