Will we be better off ruled by the 1%?

Summary: This post asks if the project to reform America is not just futile but misguided. Yesterday’s post explained how American’s political system has become dysfunctional from the conflict for control between the upper middle class (the professional and managerial classes I call the “outer party”) and the 1% and its allies (especially the wealthy and leadership classes I call the “inner party”). Today we follow this reasoning to its surprising but logical conclusions. Leave your reaction in the comments. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. … The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

— Peter Thiel (Silicon Valley billionaire) in “The Education of a Libertarian“, CATO Unbound, 13 April 2009. You’ll seldom here the voice of the 1% more clearly.

We are the future

(1)  What happens if the 1% wins?

The great challenge of the 1% will be maintaining social cohesion under their rule. We must feel that their rule is legitimate even if runs against our interests. Medieval kings did this with the support of the Church, convincing the people of the divine right of kings.

I suspect they will rely on two pillars of popular support. The social conservatives are the equivalent of the European right-wing parties’ “throne and altar” alliance, who give their support in exchange for mostly symbolic support. Libertarians provide a second pillar, who will cheer as the 1% strip mine America and social mobility declines from its already low level — and give their support to the 1% in exchange for almost nothing.

Life will continue under their rule, with few changes. It will be more difficult and insecure for us; it will be more fun for the 1% (i.e., they’ll have more power). We of the outer party will still read the news, cheering our tribe and booing the others — staying well-informed, although eventually we’ll no longer remember why we bother.

They will eliminate much of the regulations on people’s behavior, for good or ill, because they don’t care what the masses do. Their rule could be stable for a long term.

 

Walking into the Future
© Saniphoto | Dreamstime.

(2)  Results of their rule: three scenarios for our future

“Nothing is written.”
— Lawrence of Arabia, in the movie.

Yesterday’s post ended another series about ways to reform America. I also revised the Reforming America references page (with links to all 53 posts on this subject), improving its organization. When doing so I realized that the assumption on which the entire project rests might be wrong, and it might eventually deserve to go on the Smackdowns Page.

I assume that we — the America’s people and our political regime (the Second Republic, founded on the Constitution) — would do better if we roused ourselves from our torpor and reasserted control over the nation’s governmental machinery. What if I’m wrong?

There is a second scenario. The 1% believes that they are better suited to rule than us. Perhaps we have decayed so much that they are correct. What if a nation run by and for the 1% will be more secure, stable, and prosperous than one ruled by the rabble they believe us to be? I explored this theory in 2011: Our fears are unwarranted.  America is in fact well-governed and The good news: America’s politics are neither polarized nor dysfunctional. That’s also the bad news.

Let’s take this one step further. What if deep in our hearts we believe this to be true? That would explain our passivity during the past 30 years as the 1% gained strength. Perhaps we have accepted rule by the 1% as inevitable. If this theory is correct we will continue to devolve from citizens into subjects, freeing ourselves from responsibility for America’s deeds and its future. I wonder how many Americans have already made that transition. Many? Most?

Eventually a future generation will take the next stage of adaptation to the new regime. They’ll abandon the pretense of being a Republic and frankly embrace the plutocracy.

There is a third scenario, that our children or grandchildren will take up the burden we’ve dropped and struggle to regain control of America. Their task will be more difficult after our years of dereliction, but victory is likely if they’re willing to pay for it. That will be an adaptation, showing the vitality of our society.

We will be what we want to be.  The coming years will reveal what that is.

Future Scenarios

(3)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the decay of the Second Republic and those about ways to reform America — paths to a new politics. See these posts about how the 1% see us:

We see the rise of the 1% and the new political regime they’re building:

  1. Why Americans should love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – we live there.
  2. We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!
  3. Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation).
  4. Glimpses of the New America being born now.
  5. An Independence Day special report: I have seen the New America!
  6. Billionaires mold our schools to produce better help in a New America.
  7. Another view of New America: inequality, low social mobility, rising heroin use. Fun, but not for all.
  8. Why don’t we see the New America being built around us?

17 thoughts on “Will we be better off ruled by the 1%?

  1. “They will eliminate much of the regulations on people’s behavior […] because they don’t care what the masses do.”

    I am skeptical about this. Maintaining social cohesion implies some sort of ideology or shared vision of the world, which itself entails a number of taboos and rules of conduct. It is interesting that, at the same time society is moving towards toleration or indifference towards homosexuality and getting high on cannabinoids, it is becoming ever harsher on “sex offenses” (sexting between teens? Bang, sex offenders), and “unhealthy eating” (which is largely considered as a moral failing of the underclass, ignoring every economic context).

    In this perspective, I expect issues such as identified resource scarcity or environmental degradation to serve as arguments to justify and enforce ostensibly modest and frugal behaviors amongst the masses, basically justifying their destitution under the guise of necessary austerity, but not for direct macroeconomic reasons, as argued nowadays. In a similar way, the Ancien Regime strictly enforced specific dress codes: depending on one’s class, one was forced, upon harsh punishment, to wear modest accoutrements made out of rough fabrics of specific colors and no jewelry. Nobility was allowed to waste as much gold, silk and laces as it wanted in extravagant costumes, of course.

    “Their rule could be stable for a long term.”

    This would be a return to the norm. After all, the kind of democratic society we are (still) living in, with a large middle class and extensive rights for everybody is a relatively short-term occurrence in the history of complex societies. Historically speaking, the anomaly is having a political system that is not in the hands of an oligarchy or monarchy, not excluding a large fraction of the population as non-citizens because they are not wealthy enough, cannot fulfil some military obligations, etc, and not giving judicial and political privileges to the upper classes. This state of affairs is not that far away: for a long time, blacks, women and even people without enough income (till about 1860) did not have voting rights in the USA. In the UK, till 1948 peers had the privilege of being judged by other peers and avoid juries staffed by commoners, and people owning business premises or members of a University had additional voting rights (some posh brits could vote three times!)

    But whether we would be better ruled by the 1% is doubtful; better measured by what?

    1. guest,

      (1) “it is becoming ever harsher on “sex offenses””

      That is coming from the Left, not the Right. That’s exactly the sort of government policy initiative that 1% have little interest in.

      (2) ” to justify and enforce ostensibly modest and frugal behaviors amongst the masses, basically justifying their destitution under the guise of necessary austerity”

      First, we already know in outline what they will do. Can you cite some examples of this? My point is that the 1% have been winning for over 30 years.

      Second, the kind of intrusive behavioral control you describe (e.g., rationing, mandated recycling) com from the Left, not the Right. There is no need for regulations to impose austerity. Under a regime of monetary tightness and falling real wages.

      “This would be a return to the norm.”
      Exactly.

      “whether we would be better ruled by the 1% is doubtful; better measured by what?”

      From the post: “What if a nation run for their benefit will be more secure, stable, and prosperous than one ruled by the rabble they believe us to be”. The question is whether we are fit to rule, capable of self-rule. Perhaps we have lost confidence in ourselves.

      This goes to the great question of our time, whose significance is evidence by our reluctance to ask it: why have we become so apathetic and passive? I wonder if reform is possible without an operationally effective answer.

  2. Posted on Facebook by Duncan Kinder

    The basis for my disagreement with Editor-Fabius Maximus. He thinks the 1% is a F5 tornado that will overwhelm everything.

    I think it is a F5 tornado that will dissipate and go away.

    1. Reply to Duncan’s comment

      (1) Only time will tell who is correct. However, the 1% has been winning since 1980, so I wonder at the basis for his optimism. That’s a long “tornado”. Too long for the “tornado” analogy to work. Better would be an analogy with a transient but long-lived weather event, like a megadrought.

      (2) Which goes to the significance of his analogy. One hides from a tornado, out-waiting it. Longer duration events require a response from us. As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1923: “Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestuous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.” He believed we should look for ways to mitigate such events, or even control them.

      But we’re not. Duncan’s comment — like the hundreds of similar comments to the scores of posts on the FM website about this problem — shows why we’re losing. We’re passive and apathetic. it’s so much easier to just say it’s a tornado, eventually it will go away. Pass the chips.

  3. Atomization of persons. Passivity in most things. Isolation within a city. Lack of community in almost any sense of the word. Symptoms or Causes? I surmise they are both.Sociology could offer us some answers if it were still progressing as a social science of some sort. Someone called it “alchemy” recently.

    “Our modern myths give us wrong models. Action adventure heroes like the Lone Ranger and Batman are opiates for subjects. Only through collective action can citizens rule themselves.”

    A few keys are right here in this quote. The myths of the U.S. Are its greatest weakness and an impediment to collective action.But, oh, how we love these silly Myths.

    What a long road up ahead; and clearly the current Group has no interest in even starting the first few steps.

    Breton

    1. breton,

      “The myths of the U.S. Are its greatest weakness and an impediment to collective action.”

      I only sort of agree, and have written much about this. We have a strong tradition of heroic organizations, with government agencies defending us — such as the Space Patrol (from Robert Heinlein’s books, made into several TV shows), UNCLE, GI Joe, and SHIELD. The signal here is that these have gone out of favor. The GI Joe organization was wiped out in its last movie, with the nation saved by a few heroic individuals. SHIELD was revealed to be infiltrated by HYDRA from its beginning. And so forth.

      I only slowly developed a theory why this is so. We are apathetic and passive, which creates cognitive dissonance — since we know our responsibilities and compare ourselves with the deeds of previous generations. We excuse ourselves by imagining the world to be so dark that action is futile. This was the response of the people of Rome to the fall of the Republic and its replacement by the Empire.

      For more about this:

  4. Who said, “Never attribute to venality that which can easily be explained by incompetence. “?
    I thoroughly believe this.
    Our problem isn’t that we suffer at the hands of a hyper competent cadre of ruling elites. Our problem is that our ruling elites are as bewildered at what is going on as the rest of us. I am perplexed by the lack of any serious public debate in response to this reality. It has something to do with preserving a status quo against all evidence that the old ways are clearly failing us. Instead of the public hearings and debates centered in the Great Depression featuring Giants like Mariner Eccles stating openly that things needed changing we get Larry Summers widging that we may be simply trapped in an ineluctable secular stagnation and no one shows up to argue an alternative view. Fear of change seems to motivate our elites to suppress debate. Ironically this is the most fearsome path of all.

    1. Peter,

      I cannot make dreads or tails of your comment.

      (1) “hyper competent cadre of ruling elites”

      Who says such a thing? It would be helpful if you would reply to quotes, instead of making stuff up for rebuttal.

      (2) “Our problem is that our ruling elites are as bewildered at what is going on as the rest of us. … response to this reality.”

      What is your basis for saying this?

      (3) “It has something to do with preserving a status quo against all evidence that the old ways are clearly failing us.”

      Perhaps there is no action on this because others don’t see it. I don’t. Life is a process of adaption to a changing world, always requiring changes in us as individuals and a society.

      (4) “Instead … we get Larry Summers widging that we may be simply trapped in an ineluctable secular stagnation”

      Every era finds economic trends difficult to see and more difficult to understand. Plus, there are periods of rapid advance and periods of no growth. That hardly is justification for your theory that “the old ways are failing us”.

  5. “We excuse ourselves by imagining the world to be so dark that action is futile.”
    Perhaps that is the case. We cannot seem to even affectively “govern” our children! Bringing satisfaction into our home life can seem fleeting.
    But that is also a description of a pervasive mental depression. And that is buttressed by the ever present sense of “fear ” we are bombarded by

    I think it was Paul Goodman or his brother who opined, “…people only wish to raise their children and have green grass to do so upon…” And not deal with these ever present large Questions.

    Will read the links
    Thx

    Breton

  6. We’re back to Voltaire and the argument that we already live in this, the most perfect of all possible worlds because it is His creation. Only this time the status quo is the best we can do because it’s … I forget why is this the best of all possible worlds again?
    Steve Keen challenges Paul Krugman to a debate and Krugman answers that Keen proposes no economic model he understands so no, no debate.
    Is economic inequality growing exponentially? Hard to say. Data is sparse. Picketty says yes. If true how long until the 1% own everything? About ten years. So how long until they own 200% of everything? Oh wait…
    Maybe the status quo is intrinsically unstable. Mathematically doomed. Nah. It’s been up and running forever. That can’t possibly be it. It must be our national character. We’re not worthy.
    We know this because we live in this, the best of all possible worlds? There is no alternative?
    What are you saying? Lack of debate is not our problem? I dissagree.

  7. So besides Eddie Lampert,who are the nebulous 1% and elites that are spoken so much about? What defines these people exactly and exactly who are they? Would Hillary or Jeb or both be a 1% elitist or a puppet for a 1% elitist and if so,for whom? Define and name them and bring light.

    “We’re passive and apathetic” Yep!! Get used to that idea and drive on. Sniveling about passive\bored\WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!\distracted Americans won’t change it.Most will be happy to live in ignorance or sit on the fence until the issues are settled and then resume passivity if they ever left it.

    Sam Adams never had more than 3% active support and maybe 10% passive support.By the end of the Revolutionary War there were more Americans in the field against the Revolutionaries than there were fighting for the Revolution.

    The rest of Americans during the Revolutionary war? Passive and apathetic.Didn’t stop Sam.

    1. Elle,

      (1) “who are the nebulous 1% … What defines these people exactly and exactly who are they? … Define and name them and bring light.”

      You must be kidding. You don’t understand the concept of the 1%? Read a newspaper.

      As for who they are, if I write about doctors — should I list them all? And what would you do with this information if I provided it? Perhaps you have a good reason for asking for this information. My guess is that you’re posturing for yourself, using rhetoric without meaning.

      (2) “Sam Adams never had more than 3% active support and maybe 10% passive support.”

      Such precision would be impressive today using modern polling methods. It’s absurd to give such numbers for the 1770s. The first public opinion poll was in 1824; they weren’t reliable until the work of George Gallup in the 1930s.

      (3) “By the end of the Revolutionary War there were more Americans in the field against the Revolutionaries than there were fighting for the Revolution.”

      I don’t understand what you’re attempting to say. Comments #2 & #3 read as if you believe we lost the Revolution. We didn’t.

      (4) “The rest of Americans during the Revolutionary war? Passive and apathetic.”

      Considering the size of the war — the forces engaged on both sides, which had to be supported — there was obviously relatively little apathy or passivity in the colonial era. As for your theory, you set the bar quite high. There is quite a gap between “willing to enlist in the army and fight” and “passive and apathetic.”

      (5) “Sniveling about passive\bored\WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!\distracted Americans won’t change it”

      Rebuttal by description as “sniveling”. Eager to give up; no explanation or reasoning why. Pretending that you can predict the future. I replied because that’s SOP here, but it’s a waste of time to do so.

  8. No,I just know you are an individual of precision and research and wanted a better definition than the 1% are the top 1% of taxpayers,or individuals making over x amount of dollars.Same with elites,is someone considered elite because he is a 1%er.

    Have any complaints about apathetic Americans changed those Americans?

    The point of Sam Adams and the Revolutionary war was that he didn’t worry about apathetic Americans,he just went forward like you do.I know that he had numerous failures and setbacks,I don’t know if he had the bits to admit it publicly,but I do admire you for that.

    Compared to you,I am nothing when it comes to facts and figures and unfortunately I tend to have a more emotional response than a logical one.I apologize for wasting your time.

    1. Mistresselle,

      That is a very handsome apology. It’s quite rare in my experience (most of the apologies here are mine).

      “1% are the top 1% of taxpayers”

      That’s a precise definition, much more so than most class indicators. Better yet, we have high quality and timely data for it, going back generations for income — also quite rare for class indicators. It’s an operationally excellent definition.

      “Have any complaints about apathetic Americans changed those Americans?”

      I don’t understand your point. If your child is sick, would you like the doctor to give up so easily?

  9. Wow! I don’t know about the handsomeness of my apology but I do know graciousness,character and integrity in a response when I see it,thank you highly!

    “If your child is sick, would you like the doctor to give up so easily?” I would find a different more motivated doctor and forget about the apathetic one.The point being I have to do what I have to do-thinking or worrying about apathetic Americans or apathetic doctors serves no purpose and offers no solutions to the child.

    Thank you again!

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