The New Versailles

My daughter actually suggested this line of thought; that the current ruling class (or those who think themselves to be so) in the United States are perilously akin to the French nobility – those who were termed the ancient regime, of pre-revolutionary France. The ruling class were gathered together deliberately at Versailles, where all was all as far as the nobles and ruling class were concerned for at least a hundred years.

There, amid the squalid splendors of Versailles, they were gathered together, under the eye of the King, to frivol their lives away, distracted by spectacles and the vicious grasp for and fall from power within a very small realm. Only instead of a vast palace, outbuildings, gardens and minor palaces, our ruling class disports in a slightly larger venue, that of Washington, DC and the surrounding suburbs.

But the airs and graces, the privilege and entitlements, the mind-set of a ruling and a ruled class is plain to see. There is ‘us, the noble and entitled to rule’ and ‘all those grubby, smelly, Walmart-shopping peasants’ out there, beyond the Beltway and the boardrooms, beneath the notice or consideration of the grandees … except when our presence is required, say when there is an election, a war, there are taxes to be paid, or whenever one of the highest ruling nobles need a suitable (and racially/sexually diverse) background crowd for a photo op.

The result is the same, though; an out-of-touch elite, amusing themselves by playing at governing, diverting themselves with award ceremonies, cavorting in front of any handy camera for whatever purpose, dressing up in the latest exaggerated fashions and trend-of-the-moment causes, and issuing the occasional royal decree. These decrees are deployed in the confident and hasty assumption that such will solve whatever has the peasantry restive and resentful; invariably when the royal decree makes the problem infinitely worse, it’s the fault of the peasantry for not properly appreciating the benefits and those good intentions of the ruling class so generously bestowed upon them. It’s not just the royal environmental decrees, which I wrote about last week, which make things worse – it’s the other decrees; the one which limited free-lance contractors in California comes to my mind almost at once, as well as the New York no-bail law, and the whole Obama Administration Title Nine fiasco, which enabled campus kangaroo courts to investigate and rule on sexual offenses among college students.

The nobles diverted themselves at Versailles, serenely out of touch but convinced that they weren’t, not a bit of it indeed! while outside the palace precincts, matters got worse and worse, and not only the laborers and peasantry became increasingly disaffected – but the middle class as well. Unlike the laborers and peasantry, who were almost always unhappy and with damned good reason, the middle class had the means, ability and confidence to make their unhappiness with incompetent misrule made known in such a manner that the nobles couldn’t brush them away.
And that was when things got … interesting. For a certain value of interesting. Discuss as you wish.

44 thoughts on “The New Versailles”

  1. One might think so, Jonathan …
    It’s the air of lordly detachment which tends to irritate. The reaction of that awful CA rep who initiated the bill essentially outlawing gig jobs is especially galling. Her response was – “You peasants just aren’t appreciating that this is for your own good!”
    I’ve eked out some lean times, providing content for pay as an independent contractor, and yes – as a writer. At one point, I was working about four different part-time jobs for four different enterprises, (having a pension in addition to all of them) and medical care covered as a military retiree. Sales, data entry, and retail figured among them, also delivering a local print publication. The nerve of that woman, presuming that her prescription superseded knowledge of every gig-workers’ perception and judgment …
    An awful woman. Arrogant, and a union activist – which figures.

  2. Real estate prices in the DC area are certainly Versailles-like.

    According to the Census, the richest five counties are all in the DC area:

    The five richest counties in the United States when measured by median household income are all still suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to American Community Survey data released today by the Census Bureau. In fact, ten of the top twenty richest counties in the country are suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to this new data.”

  3. Ancien academics are teaching the latest generation to buy their way into the new aristocracy by going into debt for what amounts to minor titles of the new nobility with little other utility.

  4. I think the swamp is going to find soon that Trump is not nearly as radical as he could be. The next GOP president will have a base that wants to pretty much shut down the FBI and CIA and clean out the stables at the Pentagon, amazingly enough. Basically everyone at every national security agency will be asked to resign on day one.
    The GOP can still save Virginia if they put in policies that agencies can’t give more than a certain fraction of contracts to companies in any given state, and disperse agency personnel across the country.
    It’s too bad Ryan was allowed to sabotage Trump so badly. I still have hope that part of Trump’s reelection campaign will be overtly anti-DC stuff like term limits, etc.

  5. Every single leftist movement ever has been led by overeducated disaffected sons of the upper middle class.

    There’s no better example of the decadence of contemporary America than the trash the two major political parties are putting forward as prospective leaders. Heck, even the “left” is so pitiful that they have no one better than a 70+ year old geezer who loved the USSR. Pathetic.

  6. well there is the Capitol, which is set somewhere in the Rockies, district 12 is somewhere in the Appalachians,

    fidel was the illegitimate son of a Spanish land owner, che was similar of argentine gentry, his uncle was an admiral, mao’s father eventually became a prominent land owner, and ho chi minh, was of the mandarin class,

  7. A comprehensive listing of the Ruling Class counter-productive stupidities inflicted on us in the last year alone would be … long, and possibly would wreak havoc on my blood-pressure, so I limited myself to just whose which sprung immediately to mind.
    But yes, basically decriminalizing retail theft is going to have some interesting and unforeseen results.

  8. It’s amazing to me that Adam Schiff is continuing to brazenly lie on the Senate floor the same way he lied his way through his farcical hearings in the House, and none of the GOP is calling him out on it. You’ve got a GOP president that 90% of “his” own party (elected officials at least) apparently are unwilling to lift a finger to defend. I have to say that I think Nixon’s choice to resign was perhaps the worst political decision of the past 50 years because it gave generations of media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) the example that they can force a GOP president out of office. What the GOP needs to do is make this as painful as possible for the Democrats to make sure this sort of farce never happens again. The Dems ran things their way, the Senate needs to call the Bidens, Schiff, Ciaramella, etc., and humiliate the Dems, or else this is the new normal. It’s a wonder that the GOP Senators don’t look at each other, look twice at the junior senator from Utah, and realize that they need to demonstrate that they have spines or else the base is going to break out the pitchforks.

  9. Brian, I think the rules forbid the senators from speaking at all during the two stretches of 24 hours total each that the House team gets to present its case and the GOP team then gets to present a rebuttal. They can call a time out, get the spectators and cameras away, then, in closed session, talk among themselves. They can talk among themselves outside the Senate. But even when it gets to the 16 hours long step where the senators get to ask questions, they won’t do so by speaking.

    During all these first three steps the public may watch except if a closed session is called.

    Having said that, I’m guessing the GOP majority Senate figured they had to at least go thru the motions in order to destroy any claim of the Senate having done what the House just did: a choice made on the basis of political bias with no basis in fact. I think/hope/yearn that the GOP leaders will do just as you suggest: call and cross examine those you mentioned including et al, utterly demolishing their credibility to the point of mockery.

  10. ps: in the meantime, while waiting for what I hope will develop, I’m all for that pitchforks thing you mentioned, Brian. I’d love to see people showing up with pitchforks, tar, and feathers. Of course I mean that in the sense that they’d NOT defy restrictions or act ugly. Instead I have in mind their making a show of what they think about Schiff et al.

  11. “Only instead of a vast palace, outbuildings, gardens and minor palaces, our ruling class disports in a slightly larger venue, that of Washington, DC and the surrounding suburbs.”

    Very true! I live in one of the surrounding suburbs so have a front row seat. Charles Murray focuses in even closer than the county level in his “Coming Apart,” to zip codes within counties. He notes an even greater degree of isolation in what he calls “super zips.” People in them tend to be wealthy, highly educated, and generally, but not always liberal. He notes the ways these enclaves are isolated from their surroundings, almost like gated communities. For example, in Montgomery County, MD, where I live, the Potomac zip is walled in by Rock Creek Park on the north, the Potomac River on the south, and zips that are nearly as expensive and exclusive on its other borders. This is typical of “super zips” nationwide. There are other areas in the county I wouldn’t even want to walk around in, far less live in. We’re now in the midst of a 60’s style busing controversy, in which the usual “equalist” suspects are trying to gerrymander the school districts to promote “diversity.” Of course, the otherwise reliably liberal occupants of the wealthier districts are furiously opposed to this.

  12. The is absolutely no reason every Senator from the GOP couldn’t and shouldn’t have stood together in front of the press last night to say “We have gathered here to perform our solemn duty as prescribed in the Constitution to hear the serious allegations the House Democrats have made against the President. Instead we were subjected to several hours of discredited and delusional rantings about Russian collusion, allegations proven to be false by the most intrusive special investigation into a president in our nation’s history. This is a disgrace to the President, to the Senate, to the House, quite frankly, to the Constitution, and to the American people.”

    Then they could either say:
    “We will be unanimously moving tomorrow morning to dismiss these absurd charges and put an end to this farce.” (I know they can’t do that quite yet because of their rules.)
    or, ideally,
    “We will in a few days demonstrate the corrupt and seditious way in which we have gotten to this case, calling for testimony under oath from Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, Eric Ciaramella, and anyone else involved in this disgraceful episode, to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.”

    But instead we will get silence from them, and pretend that this is all something serious and worthy of respect and after it’s done the pitiful weasels will make statements like “The President’s actions were disturbing and unacceptable, but we do not feel that removal from office is warranted, given the closeness to the next election where the American people can decide for themselves.” Because they are all pathetic hollow creatures.

  13. > campus … kangaroo courts

    What they brought to my mind were the ad-hoc “peoples’ courts” of Mao China, where any group of randos could declare itself a court and operate as it pleased.

    No, it didn’t work out there, either…

  14. That, Brian, they could and should have done. Thank you for your significant improvement on what I wrote.

    I continue to hope that something along that line will eventually percolate out. Put another way, I entertain hope that your third paragraph will take place. I do so despite my cynical (because experienced)concurrence with your last paragraph as an (unfortunately) likely outcome.

  15. Muguel Cervantes
    che was similar of argentine gentry, his uncle was an admiral,

    I was aware of Che’s gentry background, though in the context of his father’s repeated business failure, he might more accurately be called of fallen gentry background. Like out of a Faulkner novel. Neither Jon Lee Anderson’s nor Humberto Fontova’s biographies of Che mention the admiral. Wikipedia to the rescue.Patrick Lynch (Argentina)

    Patrick Lynch (born 1715, died 1789) was an Irish emigrant who became a significant landowner in Rio de la Plata, which is now part of Argentina.[1] …The Lynches had been leaving Ireland since their defeat at the hands of Cromwell’s forces and later those of William of Orange, Patrick left in the 1740s for Bilbao, Spain, and travelled from there to Rio de la Plata, where he settled and was a “regidor” (royal representative ) and captain in the “Milicias”.[3] In 1749, in Buenos Aires, he married Rosa de Galayn y de la Camara, a wealthy heiress. He was successful enough to pass on substantial lands to his eldest surviving son, Justo Pastor Lynch who was a customs official under Viceroy Cisneros, also a captain and regidor. He was confirmed in his post by the revolutionary government on account of his well-known probity.

    Patricio Lynch, (great-grandson), a rear-admiral in the Chilean Navy, who served in China in HMS Calliope, son of Estanislao, above…
    Adolfo Bioy Casares, (great-great-great-great-grandson), Argentine writer
    Ernesto Guevara Lynch, (great-great-great-grandson) father of Che Guevara
    Che Guevara, (great-great-great-great-grandson), Argentine revolutionary

    So Che is a distant cousin of the author Adolfo Bioy Casares. I am reminded of another cousin connection: singer Linda Ronstadt is a first cousin first removed of Roque Dalton , Salvadorean poet and revolutionary who was killed in a FMLN power struggle- one more case of the Revolution devouring its own.

  16. The daughter is very, very right. The aristocracy of the Euro-American Peoples’ Republic does have absolute contempt for the peasantry throughout the E-APR. They have no problem issuing decrees AT them, but cannot talk WITH them about anything. Because to them that is like a human talking to cattle. Cattle have a certain use, are edible and tasty when prepared properly and consumed by the real people, but they are consumer goods and not real people to the aristocracy.

    That is, reflexively, why they hate Trump, Boris Johnson, and some few other politicians who can and do talk WITH the peasants. At least on some subjects. For the aristocracy, that is both a degrading social perversion AND a threat because the peasantry might get ideas above their station, which terrifies those that rule us.

    There are certain common factors for the governments and Apparatchniki of the Euro-American Peoples’ Republic.

    1. The constitutions of each government and subdivision, the faith in which being what gives them popular legitimacy, are totally optional for those governments and Apparatchniki. They violate those constitutions at will for personal privilege and profit.

    2. The laws passed under those constitutions are just as optional for the same reasons.

    The aristocracy believes it can do anything to anyone without let leave, or hindrance, regardless of putative party. Which explains the actions of both parties against the President Trump, and in Britain both parties against Prime Minister Johnson.

    3. The mass media in each of those subdivisions is wholly owned and controlled by the local Apparatchniki. The control being local, it is still possible to carefully and skeptically read the media of another subdivision to get some unfiltered true information. To get some true political information about this country, for interest, the British media which has contempt for our Apparatchniki will actually tell some truth about them that you will never see in American mass media.

    4. One of the main goals of all branches of the aristocracy is to render the peasantry unarmed and helpless against deadly force attacks by the aristocracy.

    5. As someone who spent some time studying political science, before it became entirely Dialectical Materialism, I do note that revolutions do not break out in the worst of times. When things are desperately bad, people are too busy trying to just get by to revolt unless there is an immediate life or death choice being forced [and an aristocracy is most of the time smart enough not to force that condition]. It is when they have seen that an alternative is possible in their day to day life, AND they are presented with nothing but blatant examples of incompetence and corruption from the aristocracy that they try to force the alternative.

    6. In the United States, in Britain, and some few other places for the last few years things have been seen to get better, engendering hope and resistance. Noting that Americans are a strange and dangerous lot, functionally made up of a distillation of pioneers and hard-a**es. We don’t do the submission thing as well as Europeans, and we are armed. In passing, South Chinese are also a pioneering stock more than a little bit different than the Mandarin class in the rest of China. q.v. Hong Kong for the last few months.

    There have been enough collaborators amongst the Republicans that the current political culture not stable. I suspect that there will be a new culture and structure developing soon. Said development will not necessarily be peaceful nor is freedom assured at the end.

    “They will do what they will do. We will do what we will do. And only the Great Blue Sky Tengri Nor knows what the outcome will be.

  17. Thank you, SB – for your thoughts. Indeed, the Ruling Class seems to think of the rest of us as cattle … to be exploited, and never to be conversed with, and have our concerns honestly considered.

  18. Another vision of how it will end is Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, in which the sturdiest castle provided no protection. My 7th grade English class read it during the 1960’s. Do the kids still read him today, I wonder?

  19. […] the current ruling class (or those who think themselves to be so) […]

    Whatever the current American ruling class think of themselves, they certainly do not claim that they are a ruling class: they claim that they are the party of the people. They claim that the ruling class is, basically, Republican billionaires like the Kochs and Trump!
    Their voters, or most of them, lap it up.
    Which is why I think that calling them “the left” is a strategic mistake.

    (To be fair, all billionaires and elected politicians are ruling-class — but so are top bureaucrats in DC and State capitals, as well as top people in the media and academia: most of them Democrats.)

  20. Hmmm. An analogy, seemingly out of left field (not leftist field), that couldn’t be closer to an exact bullseye. Well seen by your daughter!

  21. The Masque of Red Death is a perfect segue to say that the current news out of China makes zero sense–you don’t “quarantine” tens of millions of people based on the sickness numbers they’re talking about. Nor do you have people walking around in biohazard suits, or see people collapsing in the streets. Are those videos real? It’d be nice to have a media that was competent and trustworthy to try to clear things up, but instead we have multiple layers of deceit and lies to try to see through, with the ChiCom government and the online and Western media.

  22. “But yes, basically decriminalizing retail theft is going to have some interesting and unforeseen results.”

    Oh, they were completely foreseeable….. since that policy has been implemented via prosecutorial and judicial discretion for 50 years. CA simply dropped the mask.

  23. The so-called Elites are going to find that the average person in the remnant Republic are furious for having squandered our future on their stupid schemes. They will be lucky to get a guillotine… I prefer a good old English tradition of being drawn and quartered.

  24. Fred Says: January 21st, 2020 at 7:58 pm
    Exactly. It’s not really an aristocracy so much as a technocracy, based on your credentials rather than any accident of birth.

    Bill Brandt Says: January 22nd, 2020 at 12:51 am

    Where is the guillotine?
    In San Juan, Puerto Rico, evidently.

    Subotai Bahadur Says: January 23rd, 2020 at 6:08 pm
    Well said.

  25. Brian re China: “… you don’t “quarantine” tens of millions of people based on the sickness numbers they’re talking about. Nor do you have people walking around in biohazard suits, or see people collapsing in the streets.”

    Brian’s observation may be very germane to the current topic. Nothing better for the Ruling Class than to blow up a little health scare out of all proportion, to keep us peons in fear and believing we need the Ruling Class to take care of things. And let’s face it — the ‘Climate Change” scam is getting rather threadbare. Maybe a nice new epidemic scam would work nicely?

    Related but off-topic, the situation reminds me of another of my unwritten books — the one in which some retired military personnel look at the unpayable National Debt and the even more unpayable Social Security commitments and decide they have to make the final sacrifice for their country. They deliberately infect themselves with a deadly weaponized virus, knowing that the old, the sick, the incompetent will be more likely to die than the young, fit, healthy, and capable. Their hope is that the resulting changed demographic profile will enable the survivors to reboot society with tighter controls to prevent the re-emergence of a Political Class.

  26. “…..It’d be nice to have a media that was competent and trustworthy …”

    I just told my wife that everything I know about the Wuhan flu I read in the Daily Mail. The stories this morning in the Daily Mail and the absolute silence of our CDC is compelling my wife and I to do some shopping today for items for a hunker-down if needs be.

    I can’t recall seeing anything from the CDC in the past few days apart from some handwashing videos. The video out of China suggests to me that far more people are sick and dying than the Chinese are saying. I would take any numbers the Chinese provide and multiply them by a factor of 50 to 100 for better results. I’m not a virologist. but I suspect the doctors are terrified by how fast the virus seems to be able to mutate and just how contagious it is. The Chinese government seems especially concerned. I also suspect their efforts at quarantine are all in vain, and are designed as window-dressing for the Chinese populace than anything else. Again, I’m not a virologist, but given the long incubation period of the virus I suspect that the confirmed cases represent what the disease vectors looked like a week ago, and not how they look today. It’s a bit like Alpha Centauri going nova; we wouldn’t know about it for nearly four years after the fact.

    Our media is committing journalistic malpractice by not doing more reporting on this story.

  27. The CCP cares about one thing only–maintaining their rule over China. That’s it. They don’t care about some minor respiratory disease that might kill a few thousand people. SARS killed 800 people–that’s 1% of their annual flu deaths. Yet they’re acting like this is a threat to the regime.
    Why? What the heck is actually going on?

  28. I wish it were as simple as that.

    The French aristocracy of the ancien régime were by and large useless parasites. Their status was hereditary and their ranks were closed.

    The modern intellectual elite are different. They are, to a substantial degree, a meritocracy. A lot of these people really are smart. Silicon Valley votes overwhelmingly Democrat. At major universities, even in the hard-science faculties leftist views predominate. A lot of smart kids from centrist or even conservative backgrounds get admitted to elite colleges and are assimilated.

    And they are much more functional than the old aristos. Not the swarms of diversity bureaucrats and “performance artists”, but (as noted) Silicon Valley, for instance.

    This makes the crisis all the more dangerous. The population segment which collects, compiles, and propagates information are all going off the rails. Not obviously, yet – pretty much everything still works – but all of them. And how can one see things going wrong when it is the very organs of perception that are corrupted?

    The rot may continue until there is catastrophic breakdown. Or what I fear even more is that the system will adapt to moderate the effects and suppress dissent, so conditions remain livable and reform impossible.

    The wealth and security we have today provides a massive cushion. Society can afford the cost of a lot of parasites; technology protects us from many follies.

    The Crash could be slow and last for generations – boiling the frog slowly.

  29. “Yet they’re acting like this is a threat to the regime. Why? What the heck is actually going on?”

    I’m thinking that the government has to appear as if it’s in charge. I hear their economy isn’t doing so well at the moment, partly as a result of Trump’s trade policies. So the CCP needs to be seen as strong, competent, and proactive (and even more so if the spread and mortality are worse than they’re saying).

  30. They are, to a substantial degree, a meritocracy. A lot of these people really are smart. Silicon Valley votes overwhelmingly Democrat.

    It has been a rule for me for many years to NOT assume that people who are bright and knowledgeable in one topic, especially technology, are knowledgeable about history and politics. It’s a variation of the Murray Gell-Mann amnesia theory.

    “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    Michael Crichton was a rare guy who was very informed about a lot of subjects. Most PhDs know nothing aside from the topic of their dissertation.

  31. “The French aristocracy of the ancien régime were by and large useless parasites. Their status was hereditary and their ranks were closed.

    The modern intellectual elite are different. They are, to a substantial degree, a meritocracy. A lot of these people really are smart. Silicon Valley votes overwhelmingly Democrat. At major universities, even in the hard-science faculties leftist views predominate. A lot of smart kids from centrist or even conservative backgrounds get admitted to elite colleges and are assimilated.”

    Yeah. No. Not at all.

    A meritocracy has one key and essential feature: It must actually demonstrate merit. No merit, no meritocracy.

    What we have is something else, a self-perpetuating fraud. Look around you–Is there anything in modern society that actually works as promised by all these geniuses? Anything at all?

    Look at their works, and know them: Seattle has a coterie of socialist wannabe lightworkers running everything now, and has had the same sort of crew for decades. What has been the net benefit for the city? Does it work better? Do we have fewer homeless, even though we’re now spending over a billion dollars a year on them?

    Examine the education system in this country, if you can stomach it. We’re spending trillions of dollars on it, since the light-brights were put in charge of it all back in the late 1960s. Are we producing better-educated citizens? Hell, can all the kids even read and do arithmetic at age 18, when they should have graduated high school?

    No, we emphatically do not have a “meritocracy”. What we have is, instead, an aristocracy of dunces, men and women who tell the rest of us how smart they are, and then screw up the entirety of civilization based on fantasies they’ve come up with.

    The rest of us need to start recognizing that the emperor not only isn’t wearing any clothes, he’s drunk off his ass and waving his wing-wang in our faces. The people who’ve flim-flammed their way into power are all dangerously inept and terminally deluded.

    If you doubt me, open your eyes and look around yourself: Is there anything, anything at all that these soi-disant “elites” have gotten right in the last century? Anything at all?

    I would suggest eliminating anything you think of which tends to benefit them, and their fellows. Those things weren’t done out of interest for the mass, just selfish self-interest for their own kind.

  32. If students don’t read “Masque of the Red Death” in school, they can watch the Corman-Price movie, which seems to be shown annually on Swenghoollie.

  33. It seems The New Republic is getting a hint.

    For those of us cut off from the white working class, it is easy to think the answer to inequality is: Imitate us. Why can’t they be like we are? I borrow this idea from The Light That Failed by Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev (2019), a book that explains why newly liberated ex-Communist countries turned away from liberal democracies to authoritarian or illiberal ones. Imitate us—be like we are—turns out to be one of the most grating forms of foreign policy on offer in a world of such great income inequality. But imitate us is also grating within a country with income inequality on the scale even of France’s, much less that of the United States. There are other geopolitical reasons beyond my ken for the rise of Vladimir Putin in Russia and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, but there is something about imitate us that helps account both for the rise of these forms of illiberal democracy and for the one that’s been hatched here.

    The center left and progressive left—or the postgraduates who control both sides in the party’s debate—have a similar answer to inequality. Higher taxes? Yes. More welfare? Yes. And what else?

    I wonder how many will read this and understand?

  34. I noticed that the Daily Mirror toted up Prince Chucks air miles on the way to tell the rest of us how to fight climate change at Davos. I suppose it’s a sign of changing times that neither the reporter or his editor is in the Tower awaiting a date with the hangman.

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