The Dying Citizen Book Summary - The Dying Citizen Book explained in key points
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The Dying Citizen summary

Victor Davis Hanson

How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America

2.7 (650 ratings)
18 mins
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    The Dying Citizen
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    The destruction of the middle classes spells disaster for democracy.

    You might know that the roots of Western democracy lie in ancient Greece. But have you ever thought about which ancient Greeks we have to thank for our political system?

    In ancient Greece, society was split into three economic groups: the very rich, the very poor, and the people in the middle. Philosophers of the time felt that only the middle classes could be trusted to uphold democratic notions of legal equality, property rights, and fair political representation. In contrast, the rich tended to be idle and were concerned only with generating more wealth for themselves. On the other hand, the very poor were so hungry that they were easily manipulated by political zealots – who told them to hate the rich.

    Why did the political philosophers of ancient Greece feel the middle classes were trustworthy? Well, first, such people were not easily manipulated; they tended to be self-sufficient landowners who produced olives and wine in abundance, and so they had resources at their discretion. Released from the drudgery of the daily grind, they had more time to spend on political thought. Unlike the rich, though, the middle classes could not afford to be idle. Instead, these landowners set about improving the legal and political systems around them, so that they could pass their hard-won land on to their children. Essentially, the middle classes were the only group that combined hard work, independent thought, and an interest in political stability.

    Today’s Western middle classes still retain these valuable characteristics.

    But, worryingly, the United States is witnessing the hollowing out of its middle classes – and the reemergence of a class that has more in common with the medieval peasantry of Europe. These are impoverished Americans who don’t own their own homes, who are always one paycheck away from destitution, and who are financially exploited by the rich. These modern American peasants now make up around 46 percent of the population.

    This decline of the middle class leaves us with a sharp dichotomy between the rich and the poor. For an illustration of this, consider the beautiful campus of Stanford University. You’ll find its wealthy students’ Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs in the college’s parking lot. But if you leave the campus and take a look at nearby streets, you’ll see hundreds of people living in trailers parked on the curb. This is a problem for all of us, because a society without a middle class is not conducive to a functioning democracy. 

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    What is The Dying Citizen about?

    The Dying Citizen (2021) explores the ways in which modern American democracy is being weakened. Touching on issues like globalization and identity politics, it discusses how left-wing progressives are damaging the foundations of the United States. 

    Who should read The Dying Citizen?

    • Conservatives looking for fresh insights
    • Fans of Donald Trump 
    • Anyone interested in politics and current affairs

    About the Author

    Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University. He is also a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. Hanson has authored over 20 books, including The Case for Trump.

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