Why are the rich such patsies for utopian fantasies of all kinds, for snake oil in politics, engineering, and science? If there is a foolish, half-baked proposal to “change the world” why does it find so many supporters amongst the rich, and proportionately so few amongst the middle classes and the poor?

Because the rich believe the world to be infinitely plastic, and they believe this because that is the substance of their daily experience; the world bends to their will, food drops into their mouths on demand, they move across the surface of the earth with little resistance as if gravity and friction were all but completely absent. They want for nothing, and fear little.

The rest of us, by contrast, are pessimistic; we see the world as inflexible, because that is our experience. We move in a viscous and obstructive environment in which, like small flies in air, treacle to them, we must struggle to make progress. But like those flies, we are also supported by the stable conditions that impede us. Hence the paradox that the poor are often very conservative as well as bitterly realistic. What little advantage we have is threatened by change, for change is, in our experience, driven by others, frequently rich others, and for their own advantage not ours.