Replacing the aristocracy of money by the aristocracy of pull

Ayn Rand is an extremely verbose author, but she could be very concise and to the point when she put her mind to it. Witness this scene from ‘Atlas Shrugged’: the crony-capitalist James Taggart starts on a familiar rant and suddenly gets cut off:

We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by–

“the aristocracy of pull,” interjects d’Anconia.

Bingo. Had she been writing today, she might have said “the aristocracy of clout” or “the aristocracy of connections” or in Israel or Russia “the aristocracy of protektziya“.

Make no mistake: there is no such thing as a purely equal society. As George Orwell had his fictitious Emmanuel Goldstein put it: every society in human history has had a High, a Middle, and a Low. In a capitalist society, the High tend to be those with the most money. In a society of the type envisioned by the ‘social justice’ crowd (a term like “People’s Democratic Republic” in which every word actually means the opposite of its plain meaning) all that will happen is that who is part of the ‘High’ gets determined no longer by one’s net worth, but by the number and quality of one’s connections.

I have seen this first-hand in socialized medicine systems, where indeed money could not buy you access to gold-plated treatment — but being connected to the right people could. As an Israeli friend told me: “I’d go to the hospital and say my name is Yossi Cohen and get one type of treatment; I’d go back and say my name is Prof. Joseph Cohen from [name of famous research university] and get the red carpet. It ought not to be like this but this is reality.” (Or it was, until private medicine started making significant inroads.)

Now guess what kind of people figure they would be the High in such a system? Yes indeed, the New Class. This is what ‘social justice’ is really about: a disaffected group from the (upper) Middle trying to set itself up as the new High, using the Low as mascots or (electoral) cannon fodder.

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Why wordsmith (pseudo)intellectuals tend to favor 0bama and big government

Neo-neocon attempts to answer this question. She argues that wordsmiths (that is, people who earn a living by pushing words around, suc as journalists, lawyers, most bureaucrats… all New Class professions) often tend to fall prey to the delusion that only words are real, and that anybody who speaks and writes well will be a good thinker or policy maker. In other words, wordsmiths tend to confuse articulateness and intelligence.

Those of us in the hard sciences know (or should know) better. I know scientists that speak like truck drivers and need major editorial help to turn their papers into something publishable — but that have stratospheric numerical and visuospatial IQs and have had very successful careers in academia or industrial research.

Conversely, I know all too many “wordsmiths” (especially journalists) that may be very articulate (and thus presumably have verbal IQs in the gifted, or at least the upper bright normal range) but that are shockingly innumerate and/or lack the visuospatial skills to understand simple scientific or technical problems even when broken down devoid of jargon. Often these people think of themselves and each other as “the best and the brightest”, when in fact their general IQ (averaged over verbal, numerical, and visuospatial) may be in the bright-normal (IQ 115-129) range at best.

These are also the people that go on and on about how ‘stupid’ Bush 43 was; yes, Bush had major articulacy problems, but somebody who was a skilled pilot on a pretty unforgiving jet fighter plane as well as tutored his fellow pilots on math problems cannot possibly be a moron. (In fact, analysis of his SAT and Air Force Officer Qualification Test scores suggests an IQ of about 125 — in the upper tier of bright-normal.) But, of course, his mental profile would be the exact inverse of the average wordsmith: average verbally, bright normal to gifted otherwise.

Robert Nozick wondered earlier if there is a reason why so many ‘intellectuals’ favor big-government solutions to scoietal problems, and ascribes it to their fallacious beliefs that the same factors that garnered them praise in the classroom should be the ones that determine material prosperity and prestige in the wider world. “OMG! He was hopeless in class and now sells cardboard boxes — yet got filthy rich and is even running for Congress. IT. IS. NOT. FAIR.”

One of my rabbis — who grew up in a Muslim country — used to say that the tragedy of the Arab world was its language being so beautiful that people get intoxicated on words and lose sight of more concrete matters, thus ending up going nowhere, and being envious of those who do succeed (like their ‘cousins’). The mind wonders if this explains the strange, and counterintuitive, tolerance so much of our ‘liberal’ intelligentsia has for the ultra-reactionary ideologies of Islamism.

Has the preference cascade reached the media? Romney leading in newspaper endorsements

Ann Althouse notes that, most unlike McCain in 2008, Romney is currently leading 0bama in newspaper endorsements by a sizeable margin — and that no less than 28 papers switched from 0bama to Romney this election cycle. Via the comments, here is a detailed list of endorsements., from which we learn that only six papers made the reverse switch.

Does this mean that the “preference cascade” has now spread to a quintessential bulwark of the New Class, the legacy media? (To be sure, the Pravda-on-the-Hudson and the Izvestia-on-the=Potomac are still endorsing the Naked Emperor, the NYT orgasmically so, the WaPo less enthusiastically.)

The winner in the “don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel” category must surely be the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Benghazi blunder: Obama unworthy commander-in-chief“. These lines deserve being shouted out to the world:

This administration is an embarrassment on foreign policy and incompetent at best on the economy – though a more careful analysis shows what can only be a perverse and willful attempt to destroy our prosperity. […]

[Mr. Obama’s] behaviors go far beyond “spin.” They amount to a pack of lies. To return to office a narcissistic amateur who seeks to ride this nation’s economy and international esteem to oblivion, like Slim Pickens riding the nuclear bomb to its target at the end of the movie “Dr. Strangelove,” would be disastrous.

Candidate Obama said if he couldn’t fix the economy in four years, his would be a one-term presidency.

Mitt Romney is [a] moral, capable and responsible man. Just this once, it’s time to hold Barack Obama to his word. Maybe we can all do something about that, come Tuesday.

Indeed.

A gentry, not an elite

Instapundit has been riffing for a few days now on the theme of the American ruling class being a credentialed gentry, not an elite — as well as being “credentialed, not educated”.

Angelo Codevilla’s article and book entitled “The Ruling Class” make a similar point. Let me illustrate this by comparing the USA with France.

At least as much as the USA, in fact even moreso, France is being ruled by the New Class. Not just are very few of its elected officials outsiders to the elite, but arguably the greater part of executive power is vested in a permanent, unelected, civil service bureaucracy. Not only are most of the “elite” politicians, and essentially all of the senior bureaucrats, just graduates of a few top tertiary institutions, but the lion’s share of those not in a technical or medical specialty are graduate of just a single institution: the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration/National School for [Public] Administration).The French refer to this system as “l’ENArchie” and to the members as “les enarques” — and indeed, “enarchy”  would seem to be an appropriate name for such a closed “insider” government.

However, arrogant as this elite may be, and unbecoming as intellectual arrogance is in general, at least these people have something to be arrogant about. Admission to the ENA, and admission to the upper ranks of the civil service, are strictly by competitive exams graded anonymously. The end result is not only much more meritocratic than the US system, but (despite a certain homogeneity imposed by the common education) France’s New Class is ideologically more diverse than its US counterpart. All parts of the political spectrum can be found in its ranks.

In comparison, the US “ruling class” is increasingly becoming, as both Codevilla and Reynolds argue, a clique that admits newcomers based not on raw talent, but on how well they fit in with the existing members in terms of social backgrounds and sensitivities. Once upon a time, an Ivy League honors degree may have guaranteed an education as broad and deep as anything one can (still, albeit with more difficulty than yesteryear) gain in Europe. Exchanges with recent graduates of “elite” journalism schools or “studies” programs at Ivy League schools will very quickly disabuse you of that notion. Nowadays, once admitted to such a program, students are notoriously underworked and undereducated.

This “credentialed gentry” (Reynolds’ term), aside from being every bit as shallow as the current resident of 1600 Penn Ave, through self-selection and peer pressure has become an intellectual echo chamber and “mutual admiration society” (less family-friendly bloggers would use a word starting with “circle”) that is not only becoming ever more alienated from the “country class” but increasingly detached from objective reality.

In the real world, if you have an impressive marketing campaign for dogfood yet sales lag because the dogs don’t like the food, this is a business failure. In the rarified world of postmodern academia, the marketing campaign is all that counts, and the dogs that refuse to eat the food must surely be suffering from a ‘false consciousness’. A country being ruled by such people would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

Let us tell them loudly, a week from now, that the joke has become stale and we are tired of being its props.

Robin of Berkeley: Will the real racist please stand up?

“Robin of Berkeley” reflects on the aftermath of the Oakland riots,. Read the whole thing, but this passage is particularly salient:

A colleague said this to me the other day. “That police officer should be found guilty. But if he’s not, they have every a right to riot.”

She was simply expressing the typical liberal view. But let’s pick this apart.

If thousands of Jews or Chinese or white males looted stores and burned cars, would the public be so tolerant? I don’t think so. Are we really talking tolerance here, or something else entirely — a colonialist, superior attitude?

Put bluntly, when liberals say that “they” have a right to riot, what’s the implication here? Is it that blacks are primitive, out-of-control Neanderthals? Those Jews, Chinese, and white males are expected to have self-control. No such expectations exist for designated victim groups like blacks and Latinos.
By treating blacks as a special class, liberals marginalize and infantilize. Liberals also set the bar insultingly low.

Obama and his handlers knew that white liberal guilt could be exploited to their advantage. They realized that Obama would be insulated from scrutiny.

But it’s not just guilt; it’s also a white feeling of superiority. Because you have to see yourself as on top to offer special treatment to those on bottom.

Obama has been the Teflon President because of the color of his skin. Liberals are giving him a free ride.

We see it every day when criticism of Obama evokes cries of racism. But who are the real racists here?
Are the racists those conservatives who hold everyone accountable to the same standards? Who believe that people should be judged by their character and their behavior, not their race, creed, or color?

Or are the racists those white liberals who treat Obama like some delicate flower? While liberals still eviscerate George W. Bush, any judgment of Obama is off limits.

It’s not just whites who are enabling Obama by acting like his protectors. Blacks voted en masse for Obama. Sadly, what has he offered them?

From the start, it was obvious that Obama, though half-black, had never done anything for the black community. In Chicago, his actions hurt blacks.

Obama was a huge supporter of Tony Rezko, a notorious slumlord, now a felon. When Obama served in the state senate, black residents picketed Rezko’s offices to protest their rat-infested, unheated apartments.

And what has Obama done to help blacks since he’s been president? One of Obama’s first actions as president was eliminating the DC school voucher program that offered poor black kids the chance for a better life.

Obama and the Democrats have created record debt and crushed the economy. A depressed economy hits minority groups especially hard.

And then there is Obama’s push for amnesty for illegals. How is giving jobs to millions of illegals going to help blacks, who have unconscionably high unemployment rates?

But there is one perk Obama has afforded the black underclass — the right to behave brutally. Obama’s Justice Department dropped charges for those New Black Panthers who allegedly threatened and harassed people at election sites.

This encouragement to act out is deeply cynical and manipulative. It’s designed to control racial minorities and promote social unrest.

Although Obama has only agitated, not uplifted, Americans, most liberals regard him as their icon. To them, Obama is the Great Black Hope.

Liberals handle Obama with kid gloves. In the meantime, they turn a blind eye to his dangerous policies, like flirting with radical Islam. Liberals make excuses for the plummeting economy, blaming their usual bogeyman: conservatives.

They refuse to see Obama without the rose-colored glasses. Why? Because when it comes to Obama, liberals see a black man deserving of special treatment.

Will the real racist please stand up?

One black intellectual, Thomas Sowell, saw through this liberal conceit decades ago. He refers to the minorities on which these extremely dubious (for ultimately toxic) blessings are bestowed as “mascots of the anointed”.

Modern leftism as a secular/Pagan neo-Calvinism

Glenn Reynolds links his spouse and Ann Althouse in this hits it out of the park with this one:

THOUGHTS ON FREE WILL, SCIENCE, AND POLITICS, from the Insta-Wife.

Related: “Another manifestation of that trendy liberal theme: Choice won’t make you happy.” Unless it’s, you know, choice-choice, in which case it’s sacred.

UPDATE: Reader Donald Gately writes: “I’ve also noticed that AP has been running a series of ‘Americans are medically over-treated’ stories.” I question the timing.

Posted at 10:29 pm by Glenn Reynolds

Glenn’s inimitable snark aside, this post confirms something I have been suspected for a while: that the New Class’s doctrine of eco-friendly left-liberalism has a deeply rooted Calvinist streak. I am not thinking of John Calvin’s faith, but of a humanity irredeemably tainted with sin (against Gaia); of predestination rather than free will; of a humanity composed of elect (the New Class), lesser elect (those belonging to identity groups with grievances), and the damned; and of what the Dutch of an older generation would refer to as “that which is fun is sinful”. Except the sins now consist not of sex, booze, and rock ‘n roll but of having a large carbon footprint (except for the Elect, who are elect no matter what they do), of eating non-organic food, and of being insensitive towards the historically disadvantaged.

Others have already pointed out amusing parallels between the obsession with organic foods and Jewish dietary laws (which I myself observe in moderation, for reasons of faith). The new idea that “free will is overrated”, however, is not amusing at all to me but the harbinger of something quite sinister.

As for myself:

“You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill/I will choose a path that’s clear: I will choose free will”

0bamacare: not “for the children” after all? + Word of the day: 0bamaklatura

Oops: Deemocrats [sic] forgot to cover preexisting conditions for children.

But… it’s for the children?!

Yes, apparently only when they can be dragged out for purposes of emotional blackmail.

In related news, James Taranto draws attention to this item in the Chicago Tribune:

[A]nother story, broken yesterday by the Chicago Tribune, illustrates why “equality” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Unlike medicine, elementary and secondary education in the U.S. is already almost completely under political control. Defenders of this arrangement justify it in the name of equality. They do not claim the current system achieves that ideal, but they do insist that efforts to reduce political control via vouchers and other forms of privatization would make inequality worse.

But the Tribune story shows that political control introduces its own kind of inequality, to benefit the political class:

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.
Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.
The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.
This is “the aristocracy of pull,” in Ayn Rand’s memorable phrase. Its existence is probably inevitable inasmuch as government’s is, but its extent can only increase with the power and reach of government.

If you and Larry Summers both get sick and need a treatment that the Medicare Advisory Commission (dysphemistically known as the Death Panel) deems too expensive, what are the odds that you’ll find a way to get it anyway and he won’t? How about the other way around? In the Soviet Union, those privileged by political connections were called the nomenklatura. Here, we can call it the Obamaklatura.

Heh.

1883: Government of the People, by the people, for the people

2010: Government of the people, by the New Class, for the New Class and its clients and mascots