On The American Ruling Class And Free Markets
Back on 20 May over at The American Spectator, they published an essay by Tom Bethell that contrasted the ruling class in Britain during the time of the television show Downton Abbey with the one we have in America in the opening years of the Twenty-First Century. It is well worth the read.
[The following are my own thoughts and reflections and do not necessarily represent those of Tom Bethell.]
At one point in the essay, Mr. Bethell remarks:
But in recent decades, both here and in Europe, the intelligentsia have worked hard to restore a non-hereditary form of status and to marginalize free markets. That is the world we live in today. We have a ruling class that despises the free market and does all in its power to restrict its scope. Markets are resented because they leach power from the intelligentsia, who can’t decree what can be sold, nor the price. (With government price controls they can, and that is always destructive.)
Maybe at the start, decades ago, the Intelligentsia-based section of the current ruling class was non-hereditary, but not since around the 1980’s when a nearly quiet movement began among them in collusion with the wealthy [both old and new money, but especially the latter] to groom their offspring to prefer working for non-profit corporations or pursuing careers in politics or taking over the family businesses and running them as ‘enlightened and caring businessmen and women’, willing to cooperate enthusiastically with governments at all levels. No matter which path these offspring went down, they and their parents all worked [and all continue to work] towards maintaining and strengthening the Governing Class, shaping it into a reflection of themselves, of their Ideology.
This is Corporatism [ie: Fascism], where Big Business and Big Government and The Intelligentsia enjoy a ‘special relationship’ that is closed to outsiders. From later in Mr. Bethell’s essay:
In these pages a few years ago, Angelo Codevilla gave us a lengthy analysis of “America’s Ruling Class” (TAS, July/August 2010). The major parties aspired to merge into a governing class, he said: “Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.”
Their tastes amount to “a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints.” They seek to impose a unified orthodoxy about man’s origins and American history. They either insist on the need to expand government or fail to resist its expansion.
Party affiliation, one’s landing space on the Left to Right spectrum does not matter — it is all affectation and show to these people. What matters is that you believe in Pragmatism [ie: Utilitarianism], a system where Power and Control and Idealism are married together in the minds of those who believe they are ‘The Illuminated Ones’ — the Lightgivers who know what’s best for America Society.
The ruling class also supports and is supported by a “client underclass” which receives lavish government benefits and votes reliably Democratic. It is opposed by what Codevilla called the country class, and might now be called the Tea Party.
Between the Client Underclass and the Ruling Class exists a class of people akin to the Outer Party in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four. They are the public and private bureaucrats who handle the day-to-day tasks of running the institutions of government, large corporations and law firms [for-profit and non-profit], the media, and academia. Like the Client Underclass, the Bureaucratic Class is dependent for it’s living standards on the Ruling Class and so they serve them with a pragmatic gusto.
Mr. Bethell concludes his essay with the following remarks:
The old class system as seen at Downton Abbey had its unjust aspects (privilege shouldn’t accompany “birth,” for example), and the market system that replaced it was far more productive. But the old system had its merits. It lasted so long that it was obviously stable. Our own new class system, with its anti-religious overtones and with the institution of marriage teetering, is likely to prove unstable. And once the wobbly, less-than-free market that sustains it begins to topple, there will be hell to pay.
Since it’s birth, our new class system [whether the new-new one TB refers to or to the old-new one that has existed since The Founding] has always had a serious problem: we so throughly rejected aristocracy and then did not work hard enough to replace it with a replacement suitable to the American Character that we allowed for a new Utilitarian class system to take the place of what we had under the rule of Britain.
This was not so awful a situation as long as those who occupied the Ruling Class still tended to see themselves as preservers of Civilization, especially Morality and Virtue. It was they who set the tone for the other classes ‘below’ them. However, since this class was not ultimately based in The Permanent Things — a belief in heeding Experience [as Burke put it: ‘The individual is foolish…but the species is wise’] and acting and proceeding with Prudence, tempered by Morality — it was highly susceptible to the fantastical and brutal teachings/infections of Leftism. And infected it became. One might say it became riddled with the various Leftist viruses.
A free market is essential to the preservation [and flowering] of our God-given natural rights, but it must be married to Morality if it is to not end up promoting and carrying-out destructive things. The attitude, so prevalent in certain quarters of the Right, that ‘you can do what you want to do so long as you don’t prevent anyone else from doing the same’ is an abdication of one’s responsibilities as a guardian of The Permanent Things. With the possession of freedom and liberty comes the responsibility to earn and possess Virtue, for, as been understood for centuries, freedom cannot last if men do not also behave Morally. As John Adams wrote:
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.
The free market is tool that aids man in achieve and maintain freedom and liberty, but, like a chain saw, it can be used to further nefarious ends.
Any restoration of our freedoms and liberties must be accompanied by a recovery of Virtue, and that requires that we rediscover The Permanent Things. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said:
We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.
If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.
It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or to the availability of gasoline. Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism.
Today it would be retrogressive to hold on to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Such social dogmatism leaves us helpless before the trials of our times.
Even if we are spared destruction by war, life will have to change in order not to perish on its own. We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities should be ruled by material expansion above all? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our integral spiritual life?
If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.
The ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.