The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.How might subsidies of the markers of status "undermine" the character traits that produce them? Among other possible explanations, by sending the message that deferring gratification is unnecessary, or at least undesirable, and that a purpose of government is to relieve us of that awful burden.