The latest proof of the extent to which an aristocratic, ruling-class mindset has permeated the political left and its cultural allies is Ellen Ruppel Shell's new bestseller, "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture", which might as well be subtitled, "Let Them Eat Cake". It should no longer surprise anyone that a magazine writer with impeccable liberal credentials would casually accuse ordinary price-conscious shoppers of political ignorance, social irresponsibility and cultural philistinism, although I admit I would never have expected her to denounce, of all things, IKEA, the savior of many an impecunious urban snob--the Trader Joe's of furniture, if you will. (Perhaps the secret of IKEA has finally gotten out to the masses, ruining its cachet.)
What does surprise me, though, is the timing of this broadside against middle-class frugality. Sure, Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation could ooze contempt for the unwashed peasantry and their appalling affinity for inexpensive, convenient, tasty food--in 2001, when even those who'd dropped a bundle in the tech crash had little reason to feel particularly vulnerable. But in these difficult economic times, is there really still such a large cohort of readers so insulated from financial concerns that they feel no discomfort while sharing Shell's snooty disdain for ordinary folks and their crude habit of saving money by shopping for the best deal?