Middle Class Destruction: The emergence of a cognitive elite that has converged with the financial elite

Middle Class Destruction: The emergence of a cognitive elite that has converged with the financial elite. By Edward Ring.

Nearly 30 years ago, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published “The Bell Curve,” which became notorious for its chapter that highlighted differences in IQ test results by race. But that controversy overshadowed the primary focus of the book, which was that the human race is dividing into a cognitive elite and everyone else.

In the book, the authors argue that for the first time in history, humans are far more likely to marry their intellectual equals. “As the century progressed,” they write, “the historical mix of intellectual abilities at all levels of American society thinned as intelligence rose to the top. The upper end of the cognitive ability distribution has been increasingly channeled into higher education, especially the top colleges and professional schools, thence into high-IQ occupations and senior managerial positions. The scattered brightest of the early twentieth century have congregated, forming a new class.”

Herrnstein and Murray went on to predict an alliance between the cognitive elite and the affluent, writing, “For most of the century, intellectuals and the affluent have been antagonists,” but that now, “the very bright have become much more uniformly affluent than they used to be while, at the same time, the universe of affluent people has become more densely populated by the very bright. Not surprisingly, the interests of affluence and the cognitive elite have begun to blend.”

Although parts of The Bell Curve have been hotly debated, these two predictions — the formation of a cognitive elite, and the alliance of the cognitive elite with the affluent — resonate strongly today. They explain one of the root causes of globalism. Herrnstein and Murray even predict the rise of “the custodial state,” which they define as “a high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nation’s population, while the rest of America goes about its business.” …

Appealing to those elites who retain a shred of common sense and common decency is not impossible. Protecting the planet and promoting fairness does not require rationing and racism. Elaborating on those basic facts may yet convince a critical mass of elites to change the course we’re on. …

Meanwhile, to try to fully understand the reason America’s elites are distancing themselves from everyone else, and engineering the destruction of the middle class, another curve has explanatory value: the curve of population growth in the world. …

 

 

Herrnstein and Murray … didn’t anticipate the rise of the green movement as a moral pretext for the destruction of the middle class. The elitist argument for destroying the middle class is simple.

If everyone on earth used as much energy as Americans use, global energy production would have to more than quadruple. That fact roughly applies to all natural resources. We might argue — and we should argue — that innovation can deliver a middle-class lifestyle to 8 billion people without catastrophically depleting critical natural resources or causing unacceptable harm to the earth’s biosphere, but apparently that’s not a choice the elites want to make. And they don’t have to. …

The consensus among today’s elites is that broadly distributed intelligence in a population is no longer necessary. The logic for this is sound, even though it dismisses the aspirations of billions of people. People in jobs of moderate responsibility, or less, won’t need to know as much or think as much as they once did. Even doctors and airline pilots will rely increasingly on algorithms to make their diagnoses and fly their planes. If the plane crashes, as we saw a few years ago with two grisly 737 incidents, that is an inevitable byproduct of working out the bugs in the software. …

What is coming is a ruthless meritocracy that will admit only those individuals with the skills to do work that can’t be replaced by algorithms and robots. There won’t be many openings. In most professions and trades, to the extent human involvement is still necessary, competence will be secondary to affirmative action because automated procedures and artificial intelligence prompts will tell workers what to do.

By blending and flattening the population of the world’s cognitively normal, the cognitive elite will be able to pacify and manage them, distance themselves, and have exclusive access to whatever property and privileges they consider not sustainable or desirable for everyone to enjoy.

For example, even if it becomes possible to deliver a middle-class lifestyle to the entire global population of aging billions, the elites may ask, “Is it desirable?”

And if it becomes possible to deliver life extension therapies inexpensively with nothing more than a gene modifying injection, the elites may also ask, “Is it desirable?”

Why should elites care about any of this if an underclass of machines that do not require these things can do all the work for far less bother than an underclass of humans? …

The controversy over one chapter in Herrnstein and Murray’s book should not diminish the fact that, way back in 1994, their work anticipated two of the most decisive trends in the world today: The emergence of a cognitive elite, and, for the first time in history, the almost total convergence of intellectuals with the financial elite. The consequence, an apparent consensus among the two groups to destroy the middle class to protect their own interests while claiming they’re saving the planet and promoting “equity,” should surprise nobody.

If you’re reading this blog you’re in the cognitive elite (you’d have to be, to have an appetite for this many words and ideas), but presumably disagree with the way the converged elites above are running the world.