The Email Caste’s Last Stand

The Email Caste’s Last Stand. By Malcolm Kyeyune.

Musk paid $44 billion to acquire Twitter, and all indications are that the platform isn’t worth anything close to that. Once he got access to the company’s finances, the Tesla boss realized it was losing millions of dollars every day, and that many of its employees weren’t doing much work at all. So he proceeded to do what most executives would do in this situation: He laid off some of his workers.
“Tech companies ran off the cliff long ago.”

The abrupt firing of thousands of employees solicited a new wave of outrage from Musk’s haters. But even if you remove him from the equation, Twitter couldn’t have gone much longer without massive layoffs. The same thing is happening across Silicon Valley. Last week, the online-payments company Stripe announced it would cut 14 percent of its workforce, as did the rideshare giant Lyft; Facebook parent company Meta looks poised to do the same. Like Wile E. Coyote, tech companies ran off the cliff long ago; only now is economic gravity starting to assert itself.

Many “unicorn” tech startups began with a few engineers and a product they wanted to sell, but over the past decade-plus, they have accrued a bloated bureaucracy of “equity”-minded h.r. activists, ESG-savvy consultants, affinity-group mavens, climate-change specialists, and many other email-caste hangers-on. Now that times are turning bad, tech companies can no longer afford to sustain a massive “court” of professional-class nobility, paying sinecures to sons and daughters of the good and the great who don’t know how to code or crunch numbers, but know how to write emails, hold useless meetings, and talk about diversity and inclusion. …

Climate change is driven by midwits. No skill necessary, and you get to be seen as “smart” by “believing” it. They use their numbers to overrule and scare off the talent that points out that the central idea is exaggerated and that their solutions are impractical. Seen COP27 on tv? It’s a swarming of the mediocre.

Here, one is reminded of a social dynamic that took hold in the leadup to the French Revolution. In the latter half of the 18th century, France was trying to reform its increasingly dysfunctional army, and some of the reformers made an issue of the fact that commoners couldn’t get promoted to higher positions.

Surely, a properly meritocratic army would be more efficient than one that saw itself as a place to park the listless, and often talentless, sons of the nobility. But all attempts to make the army accept non-nobles in commanding positions were defeated. The problem was that France now had a large class of impoverished nobles, for which some sort of exclusive jobs program was absolutely necessary. They didn’t have diversified business interests like the court nobility at Versailles; all they had was their noble privilege, and if the French state abolished the last areas where that privilege meant something, they would truly be lost.

A similar dynamic is operative in America today. The people who worked “on climate” at Twitter, now being given the ax by the perfidious Elon Musk, are openly complaining that they won’t be able to find jobs anywhere else in this economy. They are, of course, right to worry. One of the biggest and least-talked-about social questions in the West is how to economically provide for our own modern version of France’s impecunious nobles: that is, how to prop up high-status people who can’t really do much economically productive work.