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  • The New “Nomenklatura”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on August 5th, 2009 (All posts by )

    Recently in Illinois a scandal broke out regarding preferential admissions at Illinois public universities, notably the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Politicians were forwarding lists of applicants (who otherwise would not have been allowed to attend because they lacked the requisite credentials) and these “connected” applicants were accepted ahead of more qualified but “unconnected” residents.

    The scandal has now moved on to other educational institutions, notably the “magnet” high schools such as this Walter Payton High School on Wells street in the River North area of Chicago (it is actually halfway between River North and Old Town). Here is a link to a Chicago Tribune article on the subject. Here is a more recent article… now the Federal authorities are getting involved.

    The real issue, however, aren’t the specific instances of corruption. The broader picture is what our country will look like in the future as the government controls more institutions due to economic failure (car manufactures like GM, financial institutions like Citicorp, AIG and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) or due to encroaching powers (perhaps the entire medical industry).

    In my study of the Soviet Union under communism (or for the more critically minded, the dictatorship that lasted until 1991, since “true” communism was never implemented) one word continually popped up – “Nomenklatura“. I couldn’t spell it off the top of my head until I found some research papers and then of course there was a solid definition at Wikipedia, from which I quote:

    Milovan Djilas wrote of the nomenklatura as the new class in his book New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System, and that it was widely seen (and resented) by ordinary citizens as a bureaucratic élite that enjoyed special privileges and had simply supplanted the earlier wealthy capitalist élites.

    It is important that people realize that these government institutions will not be transparent nor will they be fair. A new, parallel system of privileges and favors will arise that will supplant our current system, which is largely cash based. As the government owns and controls more of society, it will be more important than ever to covet the friendship and favor of the Nomenklatura that will control access to queues and prestigious posts.

    Luckily we have an entire body of knowledge of how the US will fare as government control increases – our study of the former Communist countries (which was largely done as a response to their military threat, since it was important to understand the “enemy” at the time). For example you can go here and see an interesting research paper related to the topic.

    The occasional articles we see on corruption in the system are missing the point; the ENTIRE system will eventually be riven with corruption, because that is essentially how these sorts of socialistic enterprises all end up being run. It isn’t the spots on the dog, but the dog itself.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    9 Responses to “The New “Nomenklatura””

    1. Gina Says:

      I have been recently thinking that if I had a liberal friend who wanted to explore the unintended consequences with me, I would posit them as concentrated as opposed to diffuse corruption.

      I see Chicago as an example of concentrated corruption: schools, housing, transportation, business licensing, courts, welfare, public safety, public works, city taxes. Is there a single aspect of an individual’s life in Chicago that is not made worse by the profound corruption from top to bottom in every agency and governing body in the city, including the mayor and the endless trough eaters on the councils and bogus boards? And are not all these connected people connected? Is that any different in Detroit, Newark, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and DC now?

      Is there corruption in the private sector? Of course there is. But it’s diffuse. There may be corrupt individuals or companies, but I know of no web of corruption that can possibly encompass all aspects of life in the private sector that approaches the concentrated corruption in government.

      For example, I’m sure there are lots of people who have individual complaints against Blue Cross, Cigna, Kaiser, MetLife, etc.etc.etc. But these are independent companies that depend for their existence on their customer’s satisfaction and in my experience, they work for it.

      I don’t want to live in a country ruled by Chicago style concentrated corruption. As corruptions go, I like the diffuse sort.

    2. tehag Says:

      Off-topic,but:

      “In my study of the Soviet Union under communism (or for the more critically minded, the dictatorship that lasted until 1991, since “true” communism was never implemented).”

      To the contrary, the real meaning of a thing is its consequences in real life, not the imaginary lands where everyone acts as they are supposed to. True communism is brutality, mass murder, corruption; and personal, political, environment degradation. False communism, the communism with a human face is as real as Conan Doyle’s fairies.

      * * *

      That America could be governed as his homeland Kenya could be “governed,” by a powerful, self-interested, corrupt elite is Obama’s great insight and hoped-for changed. America cannot be remade into a place where EU-African-UN-style corruption is minimized without abolishing most of the government.

    3. david foster Says:

      Carl–Good post. I’m once again reminded of something Benjamin Franklin said:

      “There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice–the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects.”

      The nature of a nomenklatura is to tie avarice and ambition inextricably together.

      Gina–excellent point about concentrated vs diffused corruption.

    4. tdaxp Says:

      “To the contrary, the real meaning of a thing is its consequences in real life, not the imaginary lands where everyone acts as they are supposed to”

      Do you hold Christianity to the same standard?

    5. Ned Ludd Says:

      [Comment deleted by Jonathan.]

    6. onparkstreet Says:

      “(a) In General- There is hereby established, as an independent agency in the executive branch of the Government, a Health Choices Administration (in this division referred to as the `Administration’)” – H.R. 3200

      I’ve posted the above a number of times at my place, because I think it is important and the most worrying part of that whole bill. The head of the agency is politically appointed and will direct all aspects of health care, so long as it enforces states to comply by certain standards. I can’t understand how this does not worry some people. It is absolutely setting up a system for corruption.

    7. Brett_McS Says:

      When money is debased (or disconnected with reality, as under socialism) political influence becomes the currency.

      Just about anything can become a currency (Milton Friedman wrote a book on the subject), and some odd things can actually be reasonable stand-ins for the usual notes and coins. But political influence must be one of the worst forms of currency.

    8. Ellen K Says:

      As a teacher, I am concerned by younger teachers who are so steeped ideology that they really miss the boat when it comes to teaching content. I teach high school art, and I bet that I teach more in regards to history, concepts and reasoning than some of my younger peers in math.

      That being said, the system we have where some people get props for education based on who they know has to go. My kids were good students. They graduated from a local state school with high honors. But their peers who had much less going for them acadmically were able because of social connections to state schools where even with a less than stellar career they get more network access to higher paying jobs. It is also annoying to see kids recruited from “underserved populations” just because they are underserved. In my kids’ college, these kids got preference on classes, scheduling plus full tuition. Many times these same kids would skip classes and get dismissed from school but by then the damage had been done-other students denied a space in class or financial aid missed out on a chance. We have to start returning to a merit based system and stop giving kids rich and poor an excuse to do less than their best.

    9. Mike H Says:

      Its funny …. with all the outrage and calls for the resignation of the U of I trustees, I haven’t heard the same level of indignation at the politicians who put the muscle on them in the first place.