The Diaspora of the Overclass

The Diaspora of the Overclass
The Marfa city offices are seen on Highland Avenue in Marfa, Texas, on Dec. 25, 2012. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

There has been a massive demographic scrambling in the United States—probably true around the world too—in the last four years due to extreme government policies (please don’t tell me it was the pandemic; that was only the excuse).

You know this if you have traveled around a bit: Florida, Texas, and so on. You encounter members of the diasporic overclass in the strangest places. They are fundamentally changing the culture in once-settled communities, and not always for the better.

When the lockdowns happened in March 2020, those with the means left the big cities and whole states like California, looking for greener pastures. By this they meant charming and “authentic” places where they could hide out with their wealth and get away from it all, while trying their best to preserve the finest of what they loved from whence they came without the downside.

One of those places was Marfa, Texas. The tiny town earned its fame as the center of the 1956 movie “Giant,” starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Taylor plays the beautiful and progressive Virginia aristocrat who falls in love with the head of an old ranching family of conservative values and ways. She gradually comes to upgrade the value system of the family and community even as they discover enormous oil reserves on the property.

Now, there’s a story that would appeal to a well-to-do urban member of the overclass looking for a place to find refuge and perhaps get even richer. It’s a perfect legend. In their naivete and preposterous presumption that they can fit in anywhere, many moved to Marfa and places like it all over the state.

The center of the town today is the Hotel Paisano where the cast and crew stayed during filming. No question, the place is completely fabulous in every way. It also costs nearly as much as a midtown Manhattan hotel to stay there.

A view of the historic Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas, on Dec. 24, 2012. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
A view of the historic Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas, on Dec. 24, 2012. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

That aside, it is truly lovely. The decor and infrastructure are idyllic. The big fireplace in the main lobby is a center destination for reading and conversation. Even locals stroll in with their dogs on cold nights and enjoy the setting.

There’s a wonderful bar and celebrated restaurant too. Better get reservations because the place is packed.

There is, however, one major problem. It’s extremely difficult to find workers who can serve, cook, seat people, keep up with reservations, clean dishes, and so on. For that reason, the wait times for food are exorbitantly long. The hours are irregular and they often just have to close because they cannot get anyone to work the place. Many of the people who tend to the duties there are retirees looking for something to do. They are good workers but also their jobs are hardly their first priority.

There is plenty of money flowing through the place. But there are simply not enough people willing to do the work for which the customers are willing to pay. Why is this? Well, it’s in the middle of nowhere: a 7-hour drive from the Dallas airport. (The really well-to-do can take advantage of the airstrip for private aircraft in the neighboring town of Alpine.)

There’s that. A more substantial problem: living there is unbearably expensive for the working classes. This has all happened in only the last several years. Rentals are sky high, if you can find them, and there are no properties for sale.

Sitting around the fireplace, I heard a rumor of a modest house soon coming up for sale. The price: $880,000. Amazing. It seems that the urbanites who have come here to get away from it all have caused a massive change in the economic structures of the town and driven out those who would otherwise be willing to do the work that the rich demand.

All of this was confirmed for me by an old-timer who came in to get out of the cold. He told stories of hordes of “Manhattanites” invading the place from 2020–2022 and buying up every house and property in town. He said you could tell who they were because they dressed in black and snuck around not saying hello to anyone.

I have my doubts about the complete accuracy of this story but it was his impression.

In the morning, the search for a place to eat breakfast was an adventure in itself. The hotel cannot possibly serve it because, again, there are no workers around willing to fry up some eggs and bacon and cook toast. A few blocks away, there is a joint called The Sentinel which was said to have a great breakfast.

It turns out this was not a place anything like we find in the movie “Giant.” It was a locale that screamed woke hipster from the moment you walked in. The exposed brick on the walls, poking out from underneath cracked plaster, was so affected as to be kitsch. On sale on the front table are Tarot cards (what is it with these things?), fire sticks (for bongs?), and various odds and ends for a minimalist lifestyle. Everything was priced so very high that it was less designed to sell than to signal who belonged here and who did not.

The music playing is rather hard to describe though I’m sure you have heard it. The songs are implausibly long, featuring some digital beat with an oozy underlay for vaguely peaceful sounding instruments and the vocals calm and seemingly meaningful though it’s never clear what it means. This stuff doesn’t sound like anything from history. It’s its own thing, as if designed to instantiate some higher and groovier consciousness.

The decor is mostly earthy materials like pottery, raw woods, and terra cotta. I truly do not know what woke hipsters have against stainless steel but there were only plastic forks and knives. Must be some reason. Maybe this place cannot afford dishwashers either. Certainly the gender-ambiguous servers were making a mint but no way are they slaving over a sink.

In various other parts of this tiny town, you could see elements of the old Marfa. People, real people, were loading hay on trucks and moving livestock through town on their way to local ranchers. But the contrast could not have been more stark.

This is only one microcosm of an issue that affects the whole country. Millions have fled California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington from 2020–2022. Stories about this in the media are so absurd because they rarely name the real reason. It’s pretty obvious but unsayable: high taxes, high crime, and crazed lockdown policies that could come back at any time.

It’s true that many of the people fleeing these states for Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas don’t oppose those terrible policies. They just don’t like having to suffer the consequences of the policies they favor. So they bring their ridiculous woke theories to their new places in which they live, while hoping to avoid people unlike themselves. They lived in a bubble previously and now they are working to shrink that bubble even further and make it more impenetrable.

Maybe all of this will work out in the long run. Entrepreneurs will build affordable housing to attract more workers and peasants to serve the overclass with their needs. The market will adjust thanks to business investment and the evolution of market forces. But this does not address a more fundamental problem in the U.S. right now.

The overclass has become a pestilence. Their lack of skills is matched by an excess of credentials valued by bloated management structures of major corporations. The free money policies (from the Fed from 2008 and from the absurdities of the last 4 years) have rewarded their sloth, their snobbery, and their entrenched absence of empathy for others.

Apart from a calamitous mega-depression in the economic realm, it’s hard to see how this will change. Their strange value system will be dragged onto wherever they happen to migrate next, whether in this country or some other.

After all, Jett Rink played by James Dean in the movie “Giant” was right. The woman of the house reminds him that “Money isn’t everything,” He responds: “Not when you’ve got it.”

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
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