The Ruling Class and America’s New Mandarins

Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.

Milton Friedman


Term limits increase the power of unelected professional staff.

The real conflict in political theory … is not between individualism and community. It’s between voluntary association and coerced association.

David Boaz

[T]he Mandarinization of America.

The Chinese imperial bureaucracy was immensely powerful. Entrance was theoretically open to anyone, from any walk of society–as long as they could pass a very tough examination. The number of passes was tightly restricted to keep the bureaucracy at optimal size.

Passing the tests and becoming a “scholar official” was a ticket to a very good, very secure life. And there is something to like about a system like this . . . especially if you happen to be good at exams. Of course, once you gave the imperial bureaucracy a lot of power, and made entrance into said bureaucracy conditional on passing a tough exam, what you have is . . . a country run by people who think that being good at exams is the most important thing on earth. Sound familiar?

The people who pass these sorts of admissions tests are very clever. But they’re also, as time goes on, increasingly narrow. The way to pass a series of highly competitive exams is to focus every fiber of your being on learning what the authorities want, and giving it to them. To the extent that the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon is actually real, it’s arguably the cultural legacy of the Mandarin system.

That system produced many benefits, but some of those benefits were also costs. A single elite taking a single exam means a single way of thinking:

I think that to some extent, the current political wars are a culture war not between social liberals and social conservatives, but between the values of the mandarin system, and the values of those who compete in the very different culture of ordinary businesses–ones outside glamor industries like tech or design.
. . .
I’m hinting at the final problem, which is that this ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it–as I believe it also did in Imperial China.

And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should. Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time. They may think that machine operators should have more power and money in the workplace, and salesmen and accountants should have less. But if they think there’s anything wrong with the balance of power in the system we all live under, it is that clever mandarins do not have enough power to bend that system to their will. For the good of everyone else, of course.

America’s New Mandarins

America’s ruling class, America’s “New Mandarins,” includes most journalists, “public intellectuals”, academics, bankers, big business executives, union leaders, bureaucrats, politicians (The “Permanent Political Class“), plutocrats, crony capitalists, and pundits.

[House of Cards] is a story about the Beltway as a magnet for bad actors.

This show goes after the false belief in democracy as somehow above the greed and selfish interests of human nature that Hollywood typically reserves for corrupt and evil businessmen.

“House of Cards”: A Tribute to James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock?


public choice

Republican leaders become less significant with every passing year because they have no way of reversing the intellectual trends from above or the popular pressure from below. Recent Presidential elections have shown that contemporary Establishment Republicans elicit scarce, unenthusiastic support even from longtime Republican voters because they are out of synch with their flock. In short, the Republican leadership finds itself in a position analogous to that of Episcopal bishops: They own an august label and increasingly empty churches because they have been chasing off the faithful priests and congregations.

This of course is what happened to the Whig party after 1850. After it became undeniable that party leader Henry Clay’s latest great compromise had sold the party’s principles cheap, the most vigorous Whigs, e.g. New York governor William Seward and national hero John C. Fremont – joined by an obscure Illinois ex-congressman named Abraham Lincoln whose only asset was that he reasoned well – looked for another vehicle for their cause. In 1854, together with representatives of other groups, they founded the Republican Party. Today the majority of Republican congressmen plus a minority of senators – dissidents from the Party but solid with their voters – are the natural core of a new party. The name it might bear is irrelevant. Very relevant are sectors of America’s population increasingly represented by groups that sprang up to represent them when the Republican leadership did not.

This representation is happening by default. It is aided by the internet, which makes it possible to spread ideas to which the educational Establishment gives short shrift and which the ruling class media shun. In short, the internet helps undermine the ruling class’ near-homogenization of American intellectual life, its closing of the American mind. Not by reason but by bureaucratic force majeure had America’s educational Establishment isolated persons who deviate from it, cutting access to a sustaining flow of ideas that legitimize their way of life. But the internet allows marginalized dissenters to reason with audiences of millions. Ideas have consequences. No surprise then that more and more of Republican elected officials seem to think less like their leaders and more like their voters.

A new party is likely to arise because the public holds both Republicans and Democrats responsible for the nation’s unsustainable course. Indebtedness cannot increase endlessly. Nor can regulations pile on top of regulations while the officials who promulgate them – and their pensions – continue to grow, without crushing those beneath. Nor can the population’s rush to disability status and other forms of public assistance, or the no-win wars that have resulted in “open season” on Americans around the world, continue without catharsis. One half of the population cannot continue passively to absorb insults without pushing back. When – sooner rather than later – events collapse this house of cards, it will be hard to credibly advocate a better future while bearing a label that advertises responsibility for the present. Why trust any Republican qua Republican?

Diversity is not a natural barrier to pursuing common interests. Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic party included every unreconstructed segregationist in the South, as well as nearly all Progressives in university towns like Hyde Park, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin – people who despised not only the segregationists but also the Catholic Poles, Italians, and Irish from Milwaukee to Boston whose faith and habits were as foreign to them as they were to Southerners. Yet all understood that being mutually supportive of Democrats was the key to getting what they wanted.

The common, unifying element of the several country class’ sectors is the ruling class’ insistence, founded on force rather than reason, that their concerns are illegitimate, that they are illegitimate. The ruling class demonizes the country class piece by piece.

As Country Club Republicans Link Up With The Democratic Ruling Class, Millions Of Voters Are Orphaned, by Angelo Codevilla

Ozymandias

Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. We also need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT) and to prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.

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