by Charles Hugh Smith
September 25, 2014
The incestuous embrace
of privilege and power
by entrenched, socially
characterizes failed states
and brittle, doomed regimes
Every system is
optimized to serve a specific purpose.
As noted in my
recent essay 'What
Metric Are We Optimizing For?,' what the system optimizes is
rarely explicitly stated.
Sometimes this results from not understanding the metric that the
system is designed to optimize; but in other cases, explicitly
describing what the system optimizes would trigger social
around the world - from France to China to the U.S. -
is optimized to protect
its Elites and the sprawling Upper-Caste of,
lackeys and apologists,
...who serve the
Elites, and are well-paid for enforcing the Status Quo on the
disenfranchised castes below.
Demographer Joel Kotkin, author of the new book The
New Class Conflict, has coined the word Clerisy to
describe what I have been calling the Upper Caste:
America's new class system.
assisted in their control by what Kotkin calls the "clerisy"
class - an amalgam of academics, media and government employees
who play the role that medieval clergy once played in
legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies
while quelling resistance from the masses.
isn't as rich as the oligarchs, but it does pretty well for
itself and is compensated in part by status, its positions
allowing even its lower-paid members to feel superior to the hoi
Because it doesn't have to work in competitive industries, the
clerisy favors regulations, land-use rules and environmental
restrictions that make things worse for businesses - especially
the small "yeoman" businesses that traditionally sustained much
of the middle class - thus further hollowing out the middle of
the income distribution.
But the lower
classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from
the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running,
at least for a while.
This describes the
Savior State perfectly: a
centrally planned and controlled
government that enforces its absolute control via force, legal
regulations and the blandishments of complicity:
of dollars in free money social welfare to buy the
loyalty (or at least the passivity) of the disenfranchised and
I have often written
about the stagnation of social mobility and the rise of a neo-feudal
arrangement of social-economic strata:
corporate/financial and National Security State Elites represent a
vanishingly thin layer of the American economy and society.
America today is the
nightmare scenario feared by James Madison and other Federalists:
covertly created monarchical (what I term neo-feudal) empire
like the Roman Empire - a republic in name but in reality a highly
centralized Empire operated for the benefit of tiny Elites who buy
complicity of the masses with free bread and circuses.
The "Monarchical Federalists" Madison and Jefferson feared have
indeed established a neo-feudal, neocolonialist Empire.
In this context, it is interesting to note that fully 20% of all
entitlements (tax credits, Medicare, Social Security, etc.) flows to
the top 10%, 58% goes to middle-income households and 32% goes to
the bottom 20%.
The swag of bread and circuses is remarkably
well-distributed, buying off every sector of the populace.
Behind the PR facade of democracy and free-market capitalism, a
parasitic Aristocracy extracts income and wealth from a financially
indentured class of serfs.
This Aristocracy is composed of
Elites which are served by the Upper Caste of technocrats.
These Elites and the
Upper Caste serve each others interests, a social hierarchy that
Hilton Root characterized as a,
"society divided into closed,
The slow trickle of
the "best and brightest" into the Upper Caste via Ivy League
university admission is also a propaganda facade, as Ron Unz ably
and exhaustively proves in 'The
Myth of American Meritocracy - How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?'
The trick is enable just enough meritocracy to support the PR
Ivy League has mastered that balancing act.
These Elites have few if any links to the social layers
Charles Murray spoke to some aspects of this trend of
financial/social Elitist isolation from the debt-serfs and
worker-bee class below in Coming
Apart - The State of White America, 1960-2010, but the key
dynamic that is outside Murray's sociological purview is the stark
reality that the Elite class is devoid of any real feeling for or
interest in the common good or public weal.
That is, not only have the key institutions of American governance
and power lost the memory and mechanics of good governance, the
Elites running the institutions have become an inbred neo-feudal
Aristocracy characterized by an unexamined (and thus deeply
adolescent) sense of entitlement to the reins of power and control
of the national income.
It's not just the institutions that have lost any conception of good
governance - the Aristocracy ruling the nation has lost all
interest or recognition of the common good.
This is of course not
unique to America; the same disregard for the common good is at the
root of all developed-world and developing-world failed states.
The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched,
socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle,
doomed regimes throughout history.
This is what
Status Quo everywhere is optimized for:
protecting those who have
secured the wealth, perquisites and power by strangling competition,
democracy and social mobility.
If you want to pinpoint the one dynamic pushing the global economy
into not just a prolonged recession but a parallel period of massive
social instability, look no farther than the social and financial
stagnation that results from optimizing the system to benefit the
Elites and the entrenched incumbents who protect them from
competition and the dispossessed debt-serf classes below.