good taste abounded in the view of the more sensitive citizens,nbut such violations were in tune with what was commonlyn(though not always openly) accepted. Today we are confrontednwith a different, and «^«admitted, series of assumptions. Racialnand religious politics, which have always existed, have grownnincreasingly obvious. Today the accusation of racism can ruinncareers and create damages that are both unconstitutional andnbeyond the protection of the courts. Yet such accusationsnabound. Religious dissension as deep and fierce as any we havenever before seen is now out in the open again, and the opponentsnof the Moral Majority have taken their place alongsidenthe historic hate groups and—unlike these—menace both civilndebate and reasonable action.nBeyond these growing problems, there is the larger andnseemingly permanent problem of a government that refuses tonlisten to the majority of Americans regarding their traditionsnand opinions. Our courts, which were once held to be unable tonrule on constitutional matters (Theodore Roosevelt ran on anthird-party platform of establishing special means of overrulingnthe Supreme Court) are now so arrogant that even lowly DistrictnCourt judges make “constitutional” rulings. In general, thenJustices consider themselves beyond reach; they glory in theirnuse of power without force—as though force, as an element innhuman affairs, has been made obsolete by their rulings.nOne result of the indifference of government to the actualndesires of the people is that the people are growing increasinglynindifferent to the government. Our black markets grow, thenAmerican people no longer believe in the equity of the systemnso tax evasion is now widespread, and discontent looms on allnsides. Elections, which once settled issues in this land, are nownheld almost irrelevant by the losers and the media alike. If electionsnno longer end arguments, the American system is in trouble.nThis means that the boundaries of taste, which were oncenlimits upon what was politically possible, are now beingnstretched beyond recognition. To trace our civil decline, wenmust look back to the slanderous campaign against HerbertnHoover in the early 1930’s. That campaign—by blaming thenDepression on a President barred by a Democratic Congressnfrom any effective action—started the rise of the theory that thenPresident is responsible for the entire American economicnsystem. From then on, this argument has been used to expandnthe government’s authority to “help” the public. After all, it’snargued, in order to do good one must have the power to dongood. In the 50 years since Hoover was felled by this theory, thenidea that every citizen should be immunized against shock, surprise,nloss, disappointment, and grief has grown into a shibboleth.nInstances where Americans have, through no fault ofntheir own, been forced to suffer are now featured in everynnewspaper and appear nightly on television. The promise thatna government can guarantee everyone against such calamitiesnis, of course, one that no government can meet. Yet such promisesnare made in every campaign by men and women eager fornauthority and heedless of how they attain it.n• POLITICS & GOOD TASTE •nSocial RegisternWhat’s the difference between chic and class? From Sheridannto Proust, many have tried to define it, only to discover thatna lot of illusory pitfalls loom along the way. Success may be innsight, however, now that our epoch of chintzy chic is makingnthe distinction easier. Consider New York magazine—thenorgan of Manhattan arrivistesnwith some money to spend. Wensaw there recently a largenfeature on the famous Dean &nDeLuca delicatessen emporiumnin East Hampton, the Riviera ofnthe Manhattan “in” crowd. The article is written in NY’snroutine sweet-irony-and-sigh-in-jest style, which pretends tonderide, but advertises more than chastises. It informs us thatnthere are people who spend $12 for a pound of rice, $14 for anpound of tomatoes, and $120 for four ounces of caviar. Now,nthat’s nothing new, but is it inngood taste to blast it from thenpages of a large-circulationnmagazine at a time when peoplenin Flint, Michigan arenreceiving their final unemploymentnchecks? Of course, it is nonworse than the sight of Mr. DannRather, multimillionaire anchorman of CBS News, doing anpiece on the plight of the jobless in Pennsylvania. What thenNew York and the CBS people have in common is their ownnsense of ready-to-wear chic. The problem, however, is that theynthink it’s class. •nVvynicism and disgust are the inevitable consequences ofnsuch promises based on such theories. Can a culture endure innthe face of such disillusion? Not very likely.nOnce the bastions of reason as applied to the reasonablenpowers of human beings in office crumble, other and lessernprinciples are bound to give way. These principles are not confinednto the political sphere, but influence all people. Thenboundaries of slander were lowered once the targets were heldnto be “public figures”; the boundaries against perversion werendropped in the name of free speech and human rights; thenboundaries of taste were abandoned when sexual acts appearednon stage and blue movies were packaged into cassettes for familynaudiences. Can anyone actually believe that politics can benconducted in good taste in such an environment? Or that andecline a la Athens is not possible?n—Otto]. ScottnMr. Scott is a longtime observer of the American sociopoliticalnscene. His latest book is The Secret Six.nnnFebruary 1983n