Progressives take lessons from ‘Downton Abbey’Posted: February 14, 2014
George Will writes: Many “Downton Abbey” watchers are nostalgia gluttons who grieved when Lord Grantham lost his fortune in Canadian railroad shares. There are, however, a discerning few whose admirable American sensibilities caused them to rejoice at Grantham’s loss: “Now perhaps this amiable but dilettantish toff will get off his duff and get a job.”
“It is fitting that PBS offers “Downton Abbey” to its disproportionately progressive audience. This series is a languid appreciation of a class structure supposedly tempered by the paternalism of the privileged. And if progressivism prevails, the United States will be Downton Abbey: Upstairs, the administrators of the regulatory state will, with a feudal sense of noblesse oblige, assume responsibility for the lower orders downstairs, gently protecting them…”
This drama’s verisimilitude extends to emphasizing that his lordship had a fortune to squander only because he married an American heiress. By battening on what they disdained, this republic’s commercial culture, many British aristocrats could live beyond their inherited means — actual work being, of course, unthinkable.
The deserved decline of Downton’s finances demonstrates why estate taxes are unnecessary: Even when Balzac’s axiom is accurate (“At the bottom of every great fortune without apparent source, there’s always some crime”) and fortunes are ill-gotten, subsequent generations often soon fritter them away. Call this Darwinian redistribution.
Americans have an unslakable appetite for British artistic syrup. Charles Dickens, although a noble spirit and literary genius, could be so insufferably saccharine that his flinty Mr. Gradgrind in “Hard Times” (“The Good Samaritan was a Bad Economist”) seemed like a breath of fresh air. In 1841, when Dickens was serializing “The Old Curiosity Shop,” the ship arriving in America carrying the latest installment reportedly was greeted by dockworkers shouting, “Is Nell still alive?”
But Oscar Wilde was right: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.” And one must have a head of stone to enjoy the “Downton Abbey” scene where Matthew, a fragment of the upper crust whose war wound has left him in a wheel chair, sees that Lavinia, another chip off the old crust, is about to trip while carrying a heavy tray. Gallantry propels Matthew up from his chair and he is ambulatory once again and ever more…
- George Will: Upstairs and on their way down (yakimaherald.com)
- Progressives take lessons from ‘Downton Abbey’ (conservativeread.com)
- Why progressives love ‘Downton Abbey’ (bostonherald.com)
- Lessons from the abbey (triblive.com)
- George Will: An unhealthy longing to know one’s place (azstarnet.com)
- Lessons from the Abbey (rep-am.com)
- Can You Watch Downton Abbey Online? Watch Downton Abbey Online With Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV and via a Computer (thestreamingadvisor.com)