When I used to read newspapers from the 1930s, I was struck by the strong bias against the lower classes. I suppose it was even worse a few hundred years earlier, when the aristocrats viewed peasants as little better than livestock.
Things are better today, but a recent piece of legislation reminded me that the problem has not entirely gone away.
SaVE instructs colleges and universities to provide programming for students and employees addressing the issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Education programs shall include:
Primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees
Safe and positive options for bystander intervention
Information on risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior
Ongoing prevention and awareness programs for students and faculty
So here’s my hypothesis, and I want you to tell me if I am wrong. Most policymakers come from the upper classes. Therefore they care about their own class more than the lower classes. That’s not to say they don’t care about the lower classes at all, indeed many are so rich they are willing to favor programs that redistribute a modest amount of income. But nonetheless, they care about their own class more than others. This is not a radical claim; I suppose it might even be in some sense hardwired into our brains that we should care more about people who are similar to us.
My specific claim is that this campus anti-rape program reflects class bias, as it doesn’t apply to young people who are not in college. Possible counterarguments:
1. Maybe the rape problem is more severe on campus. But I recall reading that it’s more severe among non-college students.
2. Maybe it would be hard to require non-college students to take the classes. But couldn’t you require the completion of the program at various “checkpoints”—renewing a driver’s license (or getting a similar ID for drinking), getting government benefits such as food stamps, unemployment compensation, etc.? That would not catch everyone, but it would include a very large share of the population.
So which is it? Class bias, or am I missing something? My claim is that the ruling class doesn’t care as much about poor people being raped.
PS. In a weird way I see this campus safety act as being subtly linked to the recent racist comments by Maine’s governor, although I wouldn’t blame others for seeing that as a stretch.
PPS. You might argue that these programs are ineffective, but even if that were true, it would have no bearing on this post. I’m pretty confident that the proponents believe they are at least slightly effective.
PPPS. Off topic, but I highly recommend Kevin Drum’s excellent essay on the right to die. And I wish him well, he’s one of the best bloggers out there, and also one of the most honest.