Consolations of Philosophy: The Stages of Paris Hilton

hiltontears.jpgThe recent contretemps over Paris Hilton’s reincarceration strikes me as a classic struggle between executive and judicial power. How much interpretive leeway does the sheriff have in the face of a clear order from the judge? How ill would she have to be before that veritable judicial Javert relents? Law, politics, and medical science clash.

I have finally worked my way through denial of her celebrity, anger at it, depression at an electorate far more interested in her every move than, say, trade policy. I’ve moved on to acceptance, thanks in part to this tidbit from the notes of an article on wealth taxes:

One might find a corrosive wealth tax worrisome because it would prevent the super-rich from living ostentatiously luxurious lives and serving as objects of envious curiosity to people who struggle with much less. For example, Thomas Nagel believes that even in a more egalitarian society than ours, “it would be desirable to permit … the enjoyment of life at its upper boundaries by a few” because “vicarious pleasure in contemplating the enjoyment by others of beautifully landscaped estates, grand houses, high fashion, exquisite furnishings, private art collections, and so on is an undeniable and widespread fact of life which has survived the disappearance of aristocratic societies” and which ought to be made available to the masses by allowing at least some people to live as lords.

Us Magazine meets the Oxford high table. But there is a flip side to such a Durkheimian analysis: that Hilton has become one of the few figures all Americans, rich or poor, can find contemptuous. There is a certain collective effervescence, a frisson of delight, at seeing the justice system work its course here. We can even hope her recent brush with the law will inspire a life of noblesse oblige as devoted as that envisioned in a recent leave for an amicus brief in the Libby Case.

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