The rise and fall of elites shapes our history and can be predicted

The rise and fall of elites shapes our history and can be predicted. By Michael Vlahos.

Civilization is taught as the history of elites. … Yet leadership gone bad is the oldest story of civilization.

Leadership becomes aristocracy. The authority to govern becomes the right to rule. Law giving becomes law enforcement. Duty to defend becomes license to oppress.

The relationship between elites and people — at least in the Western canon going back to Greece and Rome — is a narrative with a constant theme: Successful elites get less and less successful at passing on the leadership baton. Eventually, elites that cease to lead face a crisis of leadership. Crisis can be triggered by famine, pestilence, or war, driving the people to insurgency and revolution. The rise and fall of elites forms a distinctive narrative pattern. …

A five-generation historical passage from founder, to builder, to renewer, to manager, to parasite-play-actor might last as much as 150 years. Louis XIV to the Revolution was about that long (1643-1789). …

obama thinking

Where are the US elite now?

Our most successful elite — the “Greatest Generation”  — … led us through World War II and transformed the world.

How did the American nation move from successful, if disaggregated, leadership elites, to a failing, if monolithic, tone deaf and tyrannical elite? Today’s woke establishment traces its lineage back to FDR, so it is just hitting its centennial. Mike Mansfield mentored Joe Biden, just as Mansfield was inspired and guided by FDR, whom he personally served in World War II. …

A fifth generation, not yet in power, radiates more venality than authority. Here are five dynamics that have taken the United States from elite leadership in World War II to elite betrayal today.

Elites always seek to grow their status and wealth:

Why do elites always seem to get richer while the poor always get poorer? Your eyes do not deceive here. …

America’s 9+1 percent (the “service gentry” plus high-roller nobility) now have over 50 percent of national wealth. This surpasses our former peak inequality, right before Black Friday in 1929. In contrast, from 1942 to 1982, the average was less than 35 percent.

Elites become disconnected from the people they once led:

All triumphant elites march to victory leading their people in battle. This may sound bad to some, but it is true. It was true of Alexander’s Greece and Caesar’s Rome, Carlos Quinto’s Spain, and Louis XIV’s France; just as it was true for Washington’s, Grant’s, and Eisenhower’s America.

Eisenhower on D-Day

What is inescapable is that war is a ceremonial venue for national transcendence. Leader and people bond in battle. They endure privation together, face the all-or-nothing together, and sacrifice for each other and the nation together. Moreover, it is the epic narrative that follows war that forever weaves elites and people together.

When that narrative empties — when the people no longer fight for their country and the leaders no longer lead the people into battle — the sacred bond is lost. This is America today. …

Today’s military is a glorified SWAT team, which enables both elites and people to go their separate ways in search of fulfilling their abiding narcissism. …

Elites come to believe they have become the nation:

Woke entertainment reveals all. Most of all, it reveals the elites’ unbounded sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. We — the other 90 percent — have a wide window into how elites see themselves, their mission, and their authority.

Elite “solutions” just makes things worse — sometimes by design:

Facing change that threatens their grip on society puts elites in a bind. They are faced, simply, with apparent contradictions between their own interests and needs, on one hand, and maintaining their power and authority on the other. …

Elites are the civilization — in their mind — so they must move toward their destiny (i.e., yet more status and wealth). Yet elites must accommodate the people, just enough, so that they submit to an elite that subverts their own class interests.

These contradictions translate directly into policies that create contradictory effects. Higher tax rates for the rich are offset by special tax breaks for the rich, like deducting state property taxes. Stalin-like giant programs, such as the “Green New Deal,” are a spoils system for sweetheart blue contracts. Cancelling student debt likewise looks like a payout to the yuppie class.

Meanwhile, handouts to the poor, like the famous Cura Annonae or bread ration of the Roman Empire, are deployed to ensure political acquiescence and loyalty to blue. Yet equally, withholding assistance from “deplorable” communities — and indeed, punishing them by criminalizing gun owners and Christian conservatives — represent policy choices deliberately designed to demonize the red other, so as to create a domestic “extremist” threat to bolster blue elite power.

Elites can never see how their path leads to a fall:

Elites like America’s today are in the debased final stage of elite dysfunction. They have lost the spark to lead, nowhere more acutely evident than in their self-serving and self-destructive authoritarian strategy. …

First, as an undifferentiated mass, [the people’s] slide into gig poverty and their civic helplessness becomes a self-justifying and incontestable elite mandate. A dependent mass of citizens clearly legitimates not simply the elite right to rule, but also the moral obligation to rule, noblesse oblige, as guardian and trustee over a citizenry of “children.”

Second, the blue moiety of populares, once they are forever quarantined from any touch of brotherhood with the red other half, can be quickly coopted into cohorts of dependency. Their gig poverty can always be blamed on red greed and perfidy, such as “Jim Crow voter suppression.” Moreover, nearly unchecked immigration will push all American workers into third world status, leashing their dependency as elite beneficium. Thus, as long as elites dole out social perks and welfare, and keep growing loyal electoral cohorts, their lock on power will grow.

Finally, a divide and conquer strategy really works. The shrinking red electorate, painted as the irredeemable domestic enemy of America, should keep the blue populares emotionally mobilized. The more they are alienated from their former fellow citizens, the more they will support elite strategies that criminalize red.

Yet this path yields a bitter harvest. The more blue elites force suppression and submission, the deeper are planted seeds of resistance. Blue’s elegant, third world serfdom will increasingly degrade the very gig-starved victim groups elites pretend to exalt. Suppressing deplorables will only make more redoubtable and relentless enemies.

In other words, the US is now in the unsustainable plummet of a venal and stupid elite that has quite lost touch with reality and the other 90%.

Hopefully not too many other western countries will follow the US into the mess the US elite is creating. But the dynamic is similar elsewhere, so maybe they will.

hat-tip Stephen Neil