It's the summer of John Kerry's $7-million yacht and Chelsea Clinton's fairy-tale $2-million wedding at a faux-Versailles estate in New York. Throw in the First Family's royal progress from one tony vacation spot to another, and even the Boston Globe mutters about Marie Antoinette.
Well, you wouldn't expect liberals to be writing about $800,000 city manager salaries out in Bell, California.
For conservative readers interested in a bit of the high life, there's The Wall Street Journal's review of Aristocrats by Lawrence James.
No, Aristocrats is not yet another Kennedy hagiography or a scholarly analysis of John Kerry's haughty demeanor. It is not a detailed analysis of Chelsea Clinton's political pedigree. It's not about our modern liberal aristocracy at all. Instead, it's all about the British aristocracy, and it features a luscious color picture of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough and ancestor of the pugnacious Winston Churchill.
For all their sentimental ideology of chivalry, the Brit aristocrats were a nasty lot, writes Ferdinand Mount in the review.
For greed, brutality, quarrelsomeness and shameless treachery, the nobility of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland could, at least until the 19th century, offer strong competition to its noxious European cousins.
In this season of Blago from Chicago and Charlie Rangel from Harlem, what has changed?
The official ideology of our liberal friends is justice and compassion. Give a liberal half an hour and he'll wax sentimental about it all. But for greed, check the Democratic machine in any major city. For quarrelsomeness, check the lefty "progressive" blogosphere. For shameless treachery, check the Democratic majorities in Congress.
All in all, it seems, the British noble lords talked a good line about chivalry and service, but they were "ultimately concerned with self-preservation and material advantage." Anyone heard the one about the Cornhusker Kickback recently? Back in the old days, "Lord Egremont paid £40,000 in 1787 for the Sussex [Parliamentary] seat of Midhurst -- in real terms as much as you might need to pay to run for governor of California today."
The British aristocracy had, at least, a sense of duty, and they believed in a good death. Our modern aristocrats seem to lack even that. They make up for that with a vast sense of entitlement. And why not? If you teach your supporters that they are entitled to all the pensions and health care they can demand from the taxpayers through their government employee unions, it only makes sense that you, their evolved and ethical leaders, are entitled to all the privileges the aristocrats enjoyed under the old regime. Certainly the Obama aristocrats believe in the same exemption from taxation enjoyed by feudal barons. The Clinton crowd believed in applying the ancient droit de seigneur to the modern Oval Office.
Nothing became the British aristocracy more than their way of giving up political power. Unlike the bloody mess of the French Revolution and the century-long French culture war between the Republic and the Church, the British aristocrats gave up power peacefully in the Great Reform Bill of 1832.
How did it happen? It took the leadership of the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords. It was he, the hero of the Napoleonic Wars, who persuaded his fellow land-owning Tory "ultras" to abstain in the final vote on the Reform Bill that marked the end of the landed power.
I wonder how our Obama aristocracy will behave when it is time to give up the liberal power. The prospect is ominous. In the last generation, our Democratic friends reacted to the midterm victory of the Gingrich Republicans with disbelief, and to the victory of George W. Bush with angry denial.
Now we have Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) reacting with outrage last week to Republican opposition to a health care bill for first responders. So we know that the liberal "ultras" will be difficult to handle after the next conservative victory. The liberal country squires, the land-grant college professors, may be easiest to handle. They have done well out of the credentialist enclosures of the 20th century that drove millions off the land to purchase worthless university degrees. But when the higher-education bubble pops due to over-building, spending cuts, and online courses, they may be glad to sue for peace.
The angry-left street fighters of the blogs -- let's call them "blue shirts" -- will need a firm hand from some liberal icon, the lefty equivalent of the Duke of Wellington. Is there a liberal with that level of authority? Has there ever been a liberal who could step up to such a role?
In the end, the Obama aristocracy is just another ruling class, and all ruling classes end up extinct. Like the British aristocracy.