Victor Davis Hanson: Every Man a King

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

As the year in politics closed, Congress and President Obama were arguing over maintaining the Bush-era income-tax rates. Conservatives insisted that the top 5 percent of households already accounted for nearly 60 percent of the aggregate tax revenue and that it was suicidal to hike taxes on the job-creating classes.

Liberals countered that the wages of the middle class have become stagnant over the last decade, and it is time for the wealthy to pay more so that others can pay less. Meanwhile, both sides talked of American decline and assumed that the federal government was either the problem or the solution.

These debates were predicated on ossified notions of relative wealth and poverty as calibrated in money, and ignored the fact that such methods of measurement are archaic in our brave new world. Imagine if just 30 years ago we had dreamed that soon most Americans would have small mobile phones that let users talk or send text messages and photos to anyone in the world for mere pennies per minute — a veritable revolution in daily life brought about without the aid of a massive Manhattan Project–like federal effort. We have gone from “a chicken in every pot” to “a cell phone in every hand.”

Could yesteryear’s Great Society have promised nearly all Americans that they would soon have instant information at their fingertips on almost any topic imaginable, from treating migraines to wiring a house to understanding Dante’s Inferno? Surely the kings, corporate magnates, and Wall Street fat-cats of earlier times would have paid fortunes for the knowledge that is now accorded to almost anyone with a computer at home, work, school, or a library, without the need of expensive specialists, scholars, or books....

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Tim Matthewson - 12/24/2010

I hate cell phones and I also hate people who like cell phones! Now we are enslaved more than ever before!