They’re not as smart as they think they are.
If you draw your sustenance from the government—as an employee, contractor, or beneficiary of redistributed funds—the money you receive comes from someone who had no choice whether or not you got paid. Except for those jobs the government mandates, private sector workers’ compensation comes from employers who have freely chosen to pay it. The jobs they perform are worth more to their employers than what they’re paid, or the jobs wouldn’t exist.
Here’s a new definition of aristocrat: a person legally entitled to take money from other people without their consent. This definition focuses on what aristocrats do and have done throughout the centuries, regardless of their labels.
If you’re an aristocrat, the thought that you’re living on somebody else’s dime may cause psychological stress. All sorts of rationales have been concocted to justify this privileged position. The most straightforward is the protection racket. In exchange for their subjects’ money, aristocrats protect them from external invasion and preserve domestic order. It’s not a voluntary trade—the subjects can’t say no—but at least both sides get something from it.
However, “protection racket” doesn’t have quite the moral gloss aristocrats crave. Deities may not have been an aristocratic invention, but they jumped on the concept of divine favor to justify their position. It makes it harder to oppose the rulers if authority is bestowed by the gods or the government is a theocracy. Ultimately, regardless of rationale, the ideology always come down to: The aristocracy is superior to those they rule. The aristocrats have no trouble believing it; they have to psychologically justify their positions to themselves. The trick is to get the subjects to buy in.
In America, the myth is that the aristocracy is a meritocracy. Merit, in this formulation, means degrees from top academic institutions, and employment with government-aligned private sector firms, nonprofit organizations, and the government itself. Those who emerge from these backgrounds and worm their way to the top are the cream…or so the aristocrats like to believe. It can’t be labelled exclusionary, they claim, because many who make it came from modest beginnings: Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama.
The best and brightest notion crested with John F. Kennedy’s administration, stacked with Ivy Leaguers and whiz kids. David Halberstam, in his book The Best and the Brightest, asked how all that brain power managed to get us into the Vietnam mess. Hubris was the easy answer: they were smart but too cocky. However, another explanation surfaced, one the aristocracy resisted. In 2016 and 2017 it exploded into the popular consciousness.
These last two years have revealed a simple truth: regardless of résumés, the aristocrats are nowhere near as bright as they think they are. For instance, the identity politics so many have fecklessly pushed completely undermines their own meritocracy myth.
Barack Obama became president because he was black, not because of anything he had done in academia, as a community organizer, or in politics. Hillary Clinton was next in line because she was a woman. Without her husband, the world would have never heard of her. How, as an aristocrat, can you argue for your own special merit when you’ve replaced the idea of merit with race, gender, and ethnicity? An aristocracy that no longer has its mythical basis is left with the blandishments of power and treasure—and the armed might of the state—and is on its way out. The Divine Right of Kings notion died before Europe’s absolute monarchies crumbled.
In their self-congratulatory isolation, enjoying only the support which they had bought and paid for (with other people’s money), America’s aristocrats had no idea that millions of America’s had rejected their pompous posturing. Hillary Clinton couldn’t convincingly answer why she was running for president, yet she was presented as an exemplar of merit and ability. Even many of her own supporters didn’t buy it, but the aristocrats shut their eyes and foisted her on the voters.
Donald Trump’s greatest achievement has been his exposure of the hypocrisy, corruption, and stupidity of America’s aristocrats. Even as he mowed down Republican contenders and it was clear his message was resonating with substantial numbers of voters, they dismissed him. November 8, 2016 shattered for good the myth—in force since Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal whiz kids—of the exceptional aristocracy.
If the aristocracy is unexceptional, it has no basis for its pretension and condescension. It takes smarts to graduate from Harvard Law School. But it also takes smarts—which the aristocrats either don’t recognize or disparage—to run a business, operate complicated machine tools, fly a jet, harvest crops, design a semiconductor, or build office towers.
The elite don’t even acknowledge that their sustenance comes from the entrepreneurs, builders, and doers they deride. Nothing could have been more symbolically appropriate than the aristocracy’s take down by a businessman who had never held a government job. Most of the aristocracy knows very little about actual business and the world of real work. (Cocktail parties with Silicon Valley CEOs don’t count.) Trump, on the other hand, has had extensive dealings with politicians, bureaucrats, and the government.
Compounding stupidity, the aristocracy bet on Russiagate in a vain attempt to drive out the interloper and preserve its position. The story was so transparently thin that nobody really believed it, but it was all they had and they were desperate. It has boomeranged disastrously, giving Trump ample ammunition for counterattack. It has also destroyed the credibility of the FBI and the Department of Justice.
Even if the aristocracy recovers and drives Trump from office, there’s no going back. The aristocratic illusion has been shattered. Their claims of superiority are nothing more than self-serving screeches of denial. Contempt has replaced whatever respect Americans once had for their rulers. The bought-and-paid-for’s loyalty extends only to the next payday. When the payola ends, chaos begins. Funded as it is by debt and taxes on increasingly restive producers, the payola will end.
A ruling class that has lost its last vestige of legitimacy has nothing but force and fear to perpetuate its rule. The nation will grow more bitterly fractured as the skims and scams fall apart. The American aristocracy had better be sure its surveillance apparatus is in order, that it has the wherewithal to pay the military and police, and that it has infiltrated the populace with trustworthy informants and quislings, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.
Even with all those “assets,” the aristocracy is vastly outnumbered and has no moral force against the disgusted and the enraged, who every year have less to lose. Force and fear are the last refuges of doomed regimes. It all may collapse of its own unsustainable weight or there may be chaos and bloodshed, but regardless of the ultimate outcome, the aristocracy’s days are numbered.
And after the downfall, mercy will be in short supply.