Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • The Encroaching Oligarchy

    Posted by Lexington Green on January 2nd, 2011 (All posts by )

    A double movement will assure the advancement of human history. The developing world is heading toward democracy — pushed by the movement toward full literacy that tends to create culturally more homogeneous societies. As for the industrialized world, it is being encroached on to varying degrees by a tendency toward oligarchy — a phenomenon that has emerged with the development of educational stratification that has divided societies into layers of “higher,” “lower,” and various kinds of “middle” classes.
     
    However, we must not exaggerate the antidemocratic effects of this unegalitarian educational stratification. Developed countries, even if they become more oligarchical, remain literate countries and will have to deal with the contradictions and conflicts that could arise between a democratically leaning literate mass and university-driven stratification that favors oligarchical elites.

    Emmanuel Todd,After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (2002):

    Todd’s book, despite its flaws, is full of good insights. This passage was prescient. The Tea Party (“a democratically leaning literate mass”) and its opponents, the “Ruling Class” described by Angelo Codevilla, (“oligarchical elites”) are well-delineated by Todd, several years before other people were focused on this phenomenon.

     

    35 Responses to “The Encroaching Oligarchy”

    1. David Foster Says:

      I would note that the vast expansion of university education, keynoted by the GI Bill, was based largely on the premise that it would improve social mobility and make society *less* oligarchical.

      The reason it hasn’t turned out this way is…Not sure, but it’s *not* that society has become so “knowledge-based” that only a few elite institutions can impart an adequate level of learning…

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      David, correct on both points. The increased social mobility was real, and opportunity based on talent (or at least on doing well on IQ tests like the SAT) was enhanced by the greater access to education. The creation of an oligarchy was, however, not based on superior competence, but on the creation of a self-serving network making its money off of rent-seeking rather than productive activities. The tendency of any society to decay into a mandarinate, or an ancien regime is well established. See, e.g. the first chapter to the Prof. Macfarlane’s short book on F.W. Maitland and the Making of the Modern World, to pick just one example. The drafters of the GI Bill were small-d democrats (from either party) did not intend to create a new mandarinate or aristocracy based on pre-pubescent resume building and admission to a handful of leafy, self-congratulatory undergraduate institutions which purvey a stultifying ideological monoculture.

    3. Joseph Fouche Says:

      The fundamental problem is threefold:

      This nation is accursed with two feuding oligarchies and faces a two-front war
      Both grow ever more efficient at co-opting talent rising from below without being infected by ideational adaption from anywhere
      Both are increasingly useless to the remainder of American society. Earlier versions of the American oligarchy at least had some utility to the polity they purported to lead

    4. Lexington Green Says:

      Joseph Fouche, please give me the Cliff Notes version, or better yet the “one killer slide” version of who the two oligarchies are. I see about three, but see them all as linked: New Class (purported) intellectuals and word-mongers, corporatist business people, public sector union employees.

      Let’s hear yours.

    5. Bruno Behrend Says:

      I don’t know that I agree with David’s take on the GI bill or that we lack the number of institutions that can effectively impart knowledge.

      If anything, the REAL problem is that our civilization has gotten so good at throwing off obscene amounts of wealth for so little effort, that 20% of us have gotten stupid and lazy 20% have gotten so wealthy they can buy and game the system, and the rest of us are all well enough off that we aren’t mad enough to do anything about it.

      As for knowledge, I bought the wife an Ipad for Christmas, and upgraded to ITunes 10. ITunes U is loaded with content, and knowledge is falling out of the sky.

      All we need is a huge push to cut the size of the government workforce (Federal, teachers, university professors, and other classes of drones, and the cost of government will drop down to where it should be. A 25-30% cut in all governments jobs, and we are home free for about a generation.

      As it is, we are probably all too fat and happy to make the effort.

    6. Bruno Behrend Says:

      As a side suggestion, Chicagoboyz needs to get an Amazon associates account and start posting banner ads (not links) for the books it touts.

      Any that sell get you 4%. My tiny extreme wisdom site had someone buy a book. They then stayed on Amazon and bought a projector and other hardware. I make $50 bucks that day.

    7. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Every regime produces winners and losers. The current regime, instituted in the 1930s, after the previous one crashed and burned, has its winners too. Who are they?

      The “health-care” business. They have increased their share of the GDP dramatically, and their demands will break us if not resisted. The only big construction projects around here are new hospitals to expand existing complexes.

      Another big winner is the financial business. Do not believe anyone when they claim that the banks caused the Great Recession by their bad acts. Contrary wise, they were following government policy.

      The legal profession has metastasized, aided and abetted by their judicial allies, and financed by an insurance business that would be a third the size if the country were not being ravaged by zombie lawyers.

      The education business must also be counted as winners. Between the time I entered the U of C and my son’s graduation last spring, the cost of private college education had gone up by a factor of 26. But even the lower grades have become far to expensive.

      Unions are a creation of the regime. Version 1.0, the industrial union has just about killed itself by killing its hosts, but V 2.0, the public employee unions is still thriving, and threatening democracy and the solvency of the Republic.

      It is not winners that are the problem, it is the institutional bases of their power. Cut the cash flow of the institutions and the winners will be losers.

    8. Miss Thistlebottom Says:

      One small error can undermine everything you are trying to say. You refer to “[t]he Tea Party . . . and it’s opponents. . . .”

      Oh, dear. The possessive of the a third-person, singular neuter pronoun is its. The word it’s is a contraction of it is.

      Please memorize this rule for the future. Thank you.

      Class dismissed.

    9. jgreene Says:

      The Democratic Oligarchy suffers from a narrow view of the society in which it exists and is not necessaryily “wise”.

      The elitists of academic and political life have more than a tendency to be socialist-Marxists in their thinking, the exception being the Conservative, Constitutional-Republic thinkers

      While there is probably not the same possibility that our socialist “elites” will turn into the National Socialists of Nazi Germany or the Communists of Stalin’s Soviet Tyranny they still bear watching closely by intelligent citizens who want nothng more than to FREELY exercize their God-given rights under our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

      There will always be “elites” in our society. We must howeveer restrain them from their inclination that “they” know what is best for all of us.

    10. jgreene Says:

      The Democratic Oligarchy suffers from a narrow view of the society in which it exists and is not necessarily “wise”.

      The elitists of academic and political life have more than a tendency to be socialist-Marxists in their thinking, the exception being the Conservative, Constitutional-Republic thinkers

      While there is probably not the same possibility that our socialist “elites” will turn into the National Socialists of Nazi Germany or the Communists of Stalin’s Soviet Tyranny they still bear watching closely by intelligent citizens who want nothng more than to FREELY exercize their God-given rights under our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

      There will always be “elites” in our society. We must howeveer restrain them from their inclination that “they” know what is best for all of us.

    11. Kev Says:

      All we need is a huge push to cut the size of the government workforce (Federal, teachers, university professors, and other classes of drones, and the cost of government will drop down to where it should be. A 25-30% cut in all governments jobs, and we are home free for about a generation.

      Bruno, I’m in complete agreement with you except for the part about teachers. Schools lost their way when their administrators were no longer required to teach; give each of them one class per day in addition to whatever else it is that they do, and we’d go a long way towards dismantling the proverbial ivory tower.

      And goes without saying that education should not be unionized, for two reasons:

      1) Public employee unions should be outlawed, period; when tax dollars are being spent, salaries should be based only on accomplishment and excellence. Also, nobody should ever have the opportunity to go on strike against “we the people.”

      2)Education is a profession, not a blue-collar trade, and its practitioners should act accordingly. When’s the last time you saw doctors or lawyers going on strike?

    12. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Charles Murray went into the problem of the network of elites in The Bell Curve. Part of his concern was the coeducational conversion of elite universities that had been all male. He postulated that graduates would marry each other and have children with higher average IQs due to the heredity of that quality. His book was savaged because of the IQ issue but it was much more about the problem of creation of an elite. I think the networking aspect has been much more powerful but the inherited IQ issue may still apply.

      Of course, there is an interesting social experiment going on as high IQ couples have their children raised by average or low IQ nannies when mommy goes back to work 4 to 6 weeks post partum. Somebody should do a study of the children of stay-at-home high IQ mothers vs working high IQ mothers. I think the recent increased interest in staying home to raise the children suggests that I am not the only one interested. The furious attacks on the stay-at-home mother and even home schooling suggest that the professional feminists are afraid they are losing this argument.

    13. Mike M. Says:

      Lexington Green, I’m not Monsieur Fouche, but I also see two groups.

      The first are the people who have inherited wealth and power. They went to the “right” schools, took the “right” subjects, have the “right” connections.

      The second are the scientists, engineers, and highly skilled workers who went to hard schools, studied hard subjects, and have no connections – but have the knowledge required to keep the whole of our civilization from reverting to a pre-industrial standard of living.

      And these two groups despise each other.

    14. Milwaukee Says:

      So, how do we plan to go against the grain so that when the SHTF moment comes, there are pieces ready to pick up and keep going? I’ll volunteer with education: get rid of teacher unions, school districts tied to geographic locations and property tax. Get rid of affirmative action: the need for credentials has pushed more people into college, which has watered down the college experience, and caused shortages in non-college areas requiring expertise.

    15. David R. Graham Says:

      Fascinating post and comments. Strikes me most that agreement exists on phenomenon and presence of oligarchy but not on its/their specifics. I too wish Fouche would be specific regarding his two. And I see the reasons Todd, Green and Schwartz specify or imply the oligarchies they do. Finally, I’m going to take it, hoping I’m right, that by New Class and word-mongers Green means an academic oligarchy, perhaps extruded into media and other wordy pursuits but fundamentally sourced in academe.

      Venn Diagramming the identification of oligarchies made in post and comments, then, it appears Todd, Green and Schwartz coincide in pointing to an academic oligarchy. My 2c goes into agreement on that. However, I would urge consideration of a broadening view of what comprises the academic oligarchy as well as the depth and authority of its power.

      Teaching is an element of the function of religion. Indeed modern academe’s “stultifying ideological monoculture” is commonly remarked as comparable to religious zealotry. Phenomenologically and even etiologically it is just that. Every great private university and most private colleges operating today, on all continents, exist as expressions of the function of religion. This, as is known, includes Ivies.

      The archetypal oligarchy is a religious priesthood. The modern academic faculty is such a priesthood. All other oligarchic structures, such as those identified in this post and comments, derive from this archetypal one.

      Now, neither religion nor its sub-function, education, is going away, ever. So, if one wants to break an oligarchic monopoly (which is the essence of an oligarchy), perhaps cognizing how predecessors (such as 16-18th Century Reformers of various kinds) faced down the tyranny of priests and teachers (and their tools in government, industry and communications) in their times would foster constructive results.

    16. Ritchie The Riveter Says:

      IMO, the reason we have moved towards oligarchy since WWII is because we have turned our respect for achievement based upon education and science into a secular religion that venerates anyone who participates in these pursuits — unless they commit the heresy of applying them to commerce without sufficient homage and financial tribute to those who have maintained their “purity” outside that system — as a priesthood supposedly more wise and virtuous than the ordinary man.

      The rest of us have consigned ourselves to the laity of this religion … and submitted (“outsourced” ???) our decision-making authority and resources, more and more, to the priesthood, because we were told they were better able to make our decisions for us … and as we have seen recently, many did so without leaving themselves adequate recourse to avoid calamity when their priests, being no better humans than the laity, inevitably let them down.

      This, IMO, is the 800-lb gorilla in the room … all the debate over size/scope of government and social policy comes down to this question … do we take back responsibility for our own lives, or continue to outsource that responsibility to the oligarchy?

    17. Anonymous Says:

      I would be worried about educational oligarchy if modern schools with limited enrollment provided useful skills. Since they provide only indoctrination into falsehoods, and failed policies, the fewer with such a mis-education the better.

      Example: In Eastern Europe the Communists had tons of people with certificates and diplomas, and noone knew how to run a business. Enterpreneurs from the US had to travel there, fire the diplomas, and put together some working business on the ruins of the communist utopia.

    18. Ritchie The Riveter Says:

      Interesting … as I was writing my comment, David comes in with a similar take on things. Maybe we ARE onto something here?

    19. Andrea Says:

      Don’t discount mere fashion. When we boomers were graduating back in the late 70’s, The Preppy Handbook explained to us that our degrees from good ol’ State U. were declasse. That book upped the ante for an entire generation.

    20. mike Says:

      2)Education is a profession, not a blue-collar trade, and its practitioners should act accordingly. When’s the last time you saw doctors or lawyers going on strike?

      -I think you have a romanticized view of education. To get a degree in Education, in my opinion, is a LOT easier than becoming licensed to be an electrician or a plumber. And to get by (keep your mouth closed and be nice to parents) in these immense urban school systems is not as tough as getting through law or medical school.

    21. Alice Finkel Says:

      Oligarchies form out of rent-seeking laziness. Members of oligarchy understand that individually each is too slow-witted to compete and excel. Therefore they seek protection — and tyranny — in numbers.

      The alliance of public sector unions with Democratic Party politicians and officials has created a most fruitful oligarchy — the massive and growing voting government bureaucracies. Not only do the legions of bureaucrat – union members vote, but bureaucrat-unions run powerful “get out the vote” machines which act as a force multiplier on election days.

      Traditionally, organised crime has linked with labour unions in a most profitable manner. As to the nature of such links between criminal groups and public sector unions — that remains to be defined and delineated.

    22. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Milwaukee, our problems have piled up because a long series of crises have been papered over. Our social and political problems have not been corrected because we have not had a long deflation where the government has had little ability to fund its self. I believe that this deflation is coming.

      All will be revealed as soon as our financial house of cards falls apart. We have seen the rise of the teachers unions and other social institutions because money has been there to afford their excesses. These excesses are due to easy money going to groups with oligarchic powers. Will the money be there when the SHTF? I think not.

      Overpowering government has lead to corruption. Our national debt has increased under both political parties. Big Business and Big Labor were corrected through market actions in the 80s and 90s, but Big Government must be repaired through politics. The Progressives of both parties are preventing that. Their interference in the financial markets are leading to their downfall. Hard times lie ahead.

      We seem to be on the verge of a hyper inflationary depression where the value of the dollar will go to zero.

      The Treasury cannot afford high interest rates on the national debt. That would take an ever increasing portion of its tax receipts, so the government must repudiate its treasury bonds. But then, our deficit financing house of cards falls apart when there is no credit. Local, state and federal governments must eke out a living on what they can tax from us. Those earnings will be small, because the economy will be devastated until it is freed from onerous taxes and regulations.

      The Federal Reserve Bank is slowly inflating away its debts through Quantitive Easing 1, QE Lite and QE2. No doubt QE3, 4 and 5 are in the works every six months. Part of the stimulus packages under Bush and Obama were used as a hidden means to monetize our deficits. The Treasury gave money to the banks who used it to buy Treasury bonds. The FED is hoping that the public will not catch on and dump its US Treasuries. When this happens, those bonds, and the dollar, become worthless.

      The FED keeps expecting that the economy will reassert itself and pull them out of their dilemma. They cannot see that they have introduced so much political risk into the economy that no sane person will invest now; we are hunkered down. The FED cannot pull a Volcker and raise interest rates above 12 percent to squeeze out inflation. The interest on the national debt would then exceed the government’s tax receipts. So, it must default on its obligations.

      No doubt, the Progressives will attempt to use this crisis to gain dictatorial powers, but where will it get the money to do that? Its welfare and other social institutions will fall apart as it trims back to support the military which will protect them. The question is whether the military, which is sworn to support the Constitution, will protect the government from the wrath of the people.

    23. veryretired Says:

      I’m afraid my main impression of this discussion is that people are looking at things in too short a time frame, and in too narrow a definition of elites in the oligarchical sense.

      The American and French revolutions in the late 18th century, for all their many flaws and failings, began the decline and eventual collapse of the concept of hereditary aristocracy that finally culminated in WW1, and the destruction of several major world empires.

      The 19th century was an intense competition between the practical, innovative, commercial mentality that carried out the industrial revolution, and the political, ideological, cultural status mentality that revels in dense academic speculations, political machinations, and the kind of self-serving moral superiority that looks down on any one who doesn’t follow all the latest, fashionable opinions that all the right-thinking people just have to have.

      Several of the previous commenters have mentioned various elements of these elites, i.e., the academics, the lawyers guild, the political types, the media operatives, etc. All in all, the sum total of the “articulate intellectuals” group that Shannon Love has described so well.

      The dawn of the 20th century saw a truly all encompassing set of theories that were mostly variations on a single theme—that society was made up of helpless, exploited, atomized, victimized peasants who desperately needed the guidance of a new aristocracy.

      This new class was to be self-selected by their devotion to whatever ideological school was ascendent in their particular environment, and, as the old world expired in the trenches of WW1, the various theories and their devotees came to power across the world.

      The resulting world war, and world-wide cold war, were the contests which determined who would survive, and whose ideology would prevail. As the world itself became more and more a global culture, the groups that vied for political power became intertwined, almost interchangeably, into the trans-national “chattering class” that jets around the world, from one conference to another, rotating from jobs in academia to government to politically connected business in a dizzying merry-go-round of influence peddling and favor trading.

      We could see this very clearly in the recent shuttling of experts of one form or another from these various segments in and out of the government agencies charged with working through the economic collapse, which was, in fact, a political collapse with economic consequences, as most recessions of a higher magnitude ussually are.

      We are now witnessing, and living through, the end results of a century and more of theorizing about the role of the “vanguard”, and who should populate it. That’s how long, at the least, it takes for major ideas to workd their way through our civilization in its current, global, scale.

      Make no mistake—the intense hostility to the Tea Party phenomenon is not just peevishness, or the result of elites out of touch with the common citizen, although those factors are certainly present. The current elites can see very plainly that the fiscal stringency and sharply diminsihed power of government action advocated by the Tea activists is a knife to the jugular of their very existence, influence, and legitimacy.

      The current situation cannot persist. As Lincoln once said, a house divided against itself cannot stand, half slave and half free. It must become all one or all the other.

      This is the choice that our children and grandchildren will face on a global, as well as national, scale. Via con Dios.

    24. Brett_McS Says:

      Where both parents have high IQs, the children tend to have IQs lower than that of their parents. (I’m guessing this is a statistical property of a variable with a significant random content). The danger of “exponential elitism” due to co-ed schools (suggested by Charles Murray) doesn’t seem to be real.

    25. CJ Says:

      The developing world is heading toward democracy — pushed by the movement toward full literacy that tends to create culturally more homogeneous societies.

      Really? Africa, Pakistan, the Arab Middle East — they’re headed toward democracy? Is the ex-communist world of Russia and China really headed toward democracy? Is Latin America actually moving onward and upward?

      It’s hard to give much credence to anything in that passage when it starts out like this.

    26. wumhenry Says:

      Why lose sleep over an “oligarchy” that’s self-destructing? This country’s elite is under-breeding itself into extinction. According to reliable data cited in *Bell Curve*, there’s a strong reverse correlation between educational achievement and lifetime child-bearing. Women with postgraduate degrees bear fewer children per capita than women with bachelor’s degrees only, who in turn bear fewer than female high-school grads who didn’t go to college. The only group reproducing above the replacement rate are female high-school dropouts. Since this is a problem that is never publicly acknowleged by people in any position to do something about it, we can be sure that it won’t be fixed any time soon.

    27. David Foster Says:

      Brett McS…”Where both parents have high IQs, the children tend to have IQs lower than that of their parents”…to the extent this is true, it might explain some of the desperation seen in some highly-successful parents who try to micromanage and even rig their kids’ educational and career tracks.

    28. David Foster Says:

      Bruno..”I don’t know that I agree with David’s take on the GI bill or that we lack the number of institutions that can effectively impart knowledge”….to clarify, I’m NOT saying that only a few elite institutions can impart adequate knowledge; I’m saying that this line will be used as an excuse for excessive dominance of various professions by graduates of such elite institutions.

    29. wumhenry Says:

      >>Where both parents have high IQs, the children tend to have IQs lower than that of their parents. (I’m guessing this is a statistical property of a variable with a significant random content). The danger of “exponential elitism” due to co-ed schools (suggested by Charles Murray) doesn’t seem to be real.<<

      There's a name for this statistical tendency: regression to the mean. It doesn't cut against Murray's concern. Yes, the chances are that a child's IQ will be lower than the average of its parents' if both parents have unusually high IQ. That's only to be expected. The fact remains that there's a strong positive correlation between parental IQ and childrens' IQ.

    30. jWarrior Says:

      Re: High IQ inbreeders. Check this out – Idiocracy

    31. Robert Winkler Burke Says:

      See Bill Whittle’s “The Narrative”…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrtDmknIjhI&feature=related

      Regarding the Frankfurt School of, well, Lies….

    32. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “it might explain some of the desperation seen in some highly-successful parents”

      Status anxiety. In the pre-modern world, land was wealth and land ownership, which would confer wealth and status, could be passed on to children. The children had only to obey and play their ascribed role in society. Beyond that there was nothing to worry about. (Other than the frailty of life itself — but that is why you had religion)

      In 21st century America, the things that confer wealth and power are mostly positions in institutions that cannot, by their nature, be devised nor descended. A tenured faculty position, a law firm firm partnership, political office (even for Kennedys) are all will-o’-the-wisps.

    33. Miriam Says:

      A while back I read (but did not retain the reference, unfortunately) that the factor most closely correlated with IQ in children is the educational attainment of the mother. Not her IQ, not the father’s IQ, but the mother’s educational level.

      Go figure. This may be due to the influence of child-rearing(being reared by an educated, accomplished mother), as opposed to the genetic influence of innate IQ.

      Thoughts?

    34. Brett_McS Says:

      Miriam, from my own observations, facility in mathematics (and probably other IQ-related endeavours) has more to do with the way the subject is learnt in the very early years. It’s like high-IQ people have the same brain, but have been given early access to a special kind of language which other people don’t learn, or at least not as well. This ‘language’, or method of thinking, makes them more able to manipulate abstract concepts. A fictionalized discussion of this issue is in The Black Cloud by the great British scientist, Fred Hoyle.

      So, yes, that would support the idea that child rearing by well-educated mothers is especially useful.

    35. David Foster Says:

      Miriam/Brett…for the “early inculcation of facility in abstract thinking” theory to be true, it seems like the mother’s superior educational level would have to be in a field that *really does* have something to do with abstract thinking. There are so many squishy-soft “disciplines” being taught these days that probably someone could get a masters or even a PhD in many places without having much serious abstract-thinking ability at all.

      It would be interesting to see how the correlation works out when you look not just at the mother’s educational level, but at what specific field it was in.