The only thing necessary for the triumph
of good is for good people to cooperate
The Trap of Noblesse Oblige
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Of all the traps a culture can fall into, the fact that Americans tend to fall into Noblesse Oblige traps says very good things about us. It also doesn’t make the trap any less dangerous.
Noblesse Oblige, aka “nobility obligates” was a way that the excesses of a hierarchical society was kept in check. While the peasants were obligated to obey the nobleman, the nobleman was obligated to look after them/not put extreme demands on them/behave in certain paternalistic ways. (One of these days I need to do a post on paternalistic versus patriarchal. remind me.)
It is what is notably lacking from ideologically driven totalitarianisms and hierarchies, probably because their basis being atheistic they don’t seem the humans they have power over as being worth anything or commanding any duty from them. This is why in places like Cuba, Venezuela or China, the officials of the “democratic” government give themselves airs as long-suffering public servants while treating the people under their power worse than any of us would treat a stray animal (let alone a pet.)
In the US—where the citizen is king!—we have evolved a form of noblesse oblige best described as “Them who can, do what they can for those who can’t.”
It is part of our cohesive response to disasters. The neighbors who can/are less hit will go out of their way to help others. It is also why that guy who tried to write a book about how the poor stayed poor forever found that moving to a new city with his girlfriend and $5, he had trouble STAYING poor.
The problem is that it’s exploitable. To a great extent the homeless invading our big cities and camping on our sidewalks are a perversion of this. Yes, the mayors of those city are lefties, but they’re still actuated by a feeling they should “help the needy” and of course buying into the narrative that capitalism inherently creates a lot of needy, and therefore they have to mitigate it.
I don’t need to tell you how that gets weaponized against the common citizen of these cities, who find themselves confronted with unimaginable inconvenience or even danger around the corner, without warning.
I should probably point out it’s also getting weaponized against the governors and mayors. They might be too stupid to notice it, but mostly instead of thinking “look at the terrible results of capitalism” people are starting to suspect their local government is against them and FOR indigent drug addicted and aggressive grifters. (And they aren’t wrong.) A lot of the anger boiling over in our society is from being inconvenienced by the “elites” ideas of noblesse oblige.
But the noblesse oblige that affects the common individual in America is the foundation of worse traps.
Most of the idiotic compliance with ridiculous Winnie the Flu rules and restrictions hooked directly into Noblesse Oblige. For instance, the brilliant idea that you should wear masks to show you care even though we pretty much know they are completely ineffective and quite deleterious for a vast swath of people.
The idea that our kids should be forced to perform “volunteer” labor to graduate school, to “teach them to care for others.” The idea that you can always do a little more/sacrifice a little more for “those worse off” (Who often aren’t.)
When Noblesse Oblige turns into toxic altruism, it can take society apart.
Much of the “Green” mania is part of the noblesse oblige trap. They’re trying to convince us that if we just do these little things—most of them counterproductive, like, say recycling, which uses more resources and causes more issues than just using stuff—we’ll make it better for everyone.
In a bigger sense, they’re trying to make it so that we commit polite suicide so that “others live better.”
It can result in truly horrible racism, too. A great part of the left’s being convinced, say, that meritocracy is white supremacy comes from the fact that, being white, (and racist) they assume that they’re more competent than any other race, and therefore following “merit” causes white people to rise to the top.
When this spreads into society wide rules and our education, it results in minorities being indoctrinated with helplessness, and white people subconsciously absorbing the racism of low expectations (of others.)
All of this is completely crazy and distorting.
Noblesse Oblige is a great sentiment for your circle of friends and among people you know. Sure, if you can do. For your friends, for your family, for those you know are in true need.
But if you start extending that to strangers, you can commit some absolutely horrible injustices.
For instance, if you try to be kind to addicted/aggressive homeless, you end up being unkind to those who have to walk or live in the same area. You destroy real estate value.
In the same way, if you ditch meritocracy you’re going to hurt the most capable to favor the less capable, and you’ll also end up hurting society because the less capable also don’t run things in a way that is best.
Noblesse Oblige should have limits. And you should always make sure you’re not hurting others with it.
Yes, if you can DO but don’t do too much. Respect others’ ability and their noblesse oblige.
Don’t fall into the trap.
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