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Green Economics

Downton Abbey and the kinder, gentler 1 percent

Downton Abbey's Lord Grantham is a kind father figure to his large working class staff. Should we introduce legislation to encourage the upper class to behave as they do in Downton Abbey?

By Guest blogger / February 20, 2012

In this image released by PBS, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, left, and Hugh Boneville as Lord Grantham are shown in a scene from the second season on "Downton Abbey," a drama about life in an English country estate. Kahn wonders, should America's wealthy take after Lord Grantham's benevolent example?

Nick Briggs/AP/PBS/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE/File


If you were the Earl of Grantham would you be a benevolent daddy to your large staff of serfs and house maids?  The NY Times has a very funny piece focused on altruism  and class at Downton Abbey.   Is Robert Crawley a special case?  We don't see him interacting with other members of his class and these other fat cats making fun of him for his progressive views.  He certainly didn't inherit his worldview from his mother (Maggie Smith).   In the first season, there is some discussion that he fought in a war with Mr. Bates.  Did this experience of being in combat with other men humble him? Did he learn that he was "no better" than other men who are not part of his 1%?

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Mathew is an economics professor at UCLA and has written three books: Green Cities (Brookings Institution Press); Heroes and Cowards (Princeton University Press, jointly with Dora L. Costa); and in fall 2010, Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter World (Basic Books).

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It doesn't appear that Robert Cawley believes in buying loyalty through paying efficiency wages.  

Is one of the goals of this show to nudge successful people into being more altruistic towards others?    In 2012, who is a gentleman for "altruistic reasons" versus to lower your taxes through deductions or to shine in the volunteer scene?   How many successful people give away $ anonymously and what types of people do this?

The Earl inherited his title and his American wife's daddy provided the cash.  In the U.S, more of the 1% have earned their $ themselves.  If we had known that Bill Gates would give away roughly 90% of his  fortune for his Gates Foundation, would we have rooted for the Federal government to break up Microsoft?  Put differently, if we can identify the "good billionaires" should we help them to thrive so that they maximize their income (through using their skills and muscle) and then wait for the later payout to society as they give their fortune away.  If billionaires could pre-commit to give away their fortune should this affect anti-trust policy?

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