Friday, April 29, 2011

Educated Youth and Educated Elite

Our era is the Age of the Educated Elite. It is this elite that constitutes the Ruling Class, as Angelo Codevilla has argued. Its interests, its visions, its prejudices are what drive the culture, drive politics, and channel the economic sector.

This Educated Elite sits on high, in groves of Academe, in the judge's seat in our courtrooms, in the throbbing pulse of media, and the compulsive images of movies and TV.

Today we have a vast centralized administrative state because the Educated Elite wanted it. We have a cruel racial divide because the Educated Elite willed it and deepened it. We live in subjection to minute and pervasive government regulation because the Educated Elite has legislated its morality upon us.

The rule of the Educated Elite could never have succeeded without its alter ego, the angry and idealistic young people we may call Educated Youth. Beginning, let us say, with Marx and Engels in the 1840s, Educated Youth has played a critical role in the political project of the Educated Elite. It is Educated Youth that plays the "idealism" card. It is Educated Youth that runs the street protest action. It is Educated Youth that gets in the faces of the middle class and demands "change." In Emile Zola's Germinal it is the Educated Youth Etienne that provokes the miners into strikes and violence--and then abandons them to their fate and heads off to his next gig. In the Sixties it was Educated Youth that ran the big anti-war demonstrations and that demanded "change" from the academic establishment in the universities. What could the Educated Elite do but accede to the idealistic demands of Educated Youth?

By the time that the young Barack Obama came up through the system the role of Educated Youth had been formalized into the practice of "community organizing," with Educated Youth descending from on high into, say, the South Side of Chicago to organize the laid-off steelworkers.

In other words, the key active ingredient in the over-under coalition of the Educated Elite and the Helpless Victims is the organizing power of Educated Youth to whom falls the task of organizing and radicalizing the Helpless Victims for which government must supply pensions, health care, education, and welfare.

We may think of the modern education system, particularly the modern university, as a training system designed to produce Educated Youth, with the capstone being the highly rated selective college. The whole operation is rather like the Jesuit education system of old which was designed to indoctrinate the children of the faithful early and often and to identify and induct into the priesthood the best of the best.

It is obvious that any successful effort to dispatch the modern Ruling Class, the Educated Elite, onto the dust-heap of history must split the Educated Youth off from the Educated Elite. It must deny the officer class its supply of eager young subalterns ready and willing to die for the cause.

Central to this effort has to be a transformation of education. It must start with a large expansion of school choice, charter schools and vouchers. But the goal must be to get the government out of schooling altogether, on the principle that government education is a violation of the separation of church and state. Education is, in part, a cultural and religious thing. For sure, education is needed to make youngsters literate and numerate, but that is just a part of its social role. Education is also the business of creating adults in accordance with some moral/cultural vision of the good. Government should not do this, for if it does it acts as an establishment of secular religion, and the constitution forbids an establishment of religion.

The remarkable modern phenomenon of home-schooled children--from spelling bee winners to Tea Party activists--that easily out-shine the products of conventional schools are a living witness to the possibilities of a transformation of the education system. It is a witness to the difference between raising up a child and confining a child in a custodial facility.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Liberalism: Crony Capitalism and Skewed Scholarship

What do you call the research-on-demand work of the climate science community? They are the chaps who have obediently produced the end-of-the-world global warming scenarios for their political paymasters, proving that global temperature is increasing at an unprecedented rate in the past century: the fabled hockey stick, and that CO2 is the main driver of climate change.

That's not to say that the Michael Manns and the Phil Joneses and the Keith Briffas don't believe in their science. Of course they do. That's what makes Climategate so sad.

In one word, as Marx would say, for noble, honest, independent scholarship, we have naked, brutal, direct, "skewed scholarship."

That is the nature of the academy in the liberal patrimonial state. Educators and scholars and moralists and researchers get to realize what side their bread is buttered on. When education or scholarship or morality or research is funded by the government, the educator's, scholar's, moralist's or researcher's bread is buttered on the side that delivers research that makes the case for more government power.

In this sense we may say that Skewed Scholarship is closely related to another feature of the modern state, the state run as a patrimonial estate by the educated elite: in a word, Crony Capitalism.

Crony Capitalism is the market economy dominated by the patrimonial state. CEOs and capitalists learn that the way to make easy profits is by getting aligned with major government objectives. It used to be public electric power in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s it was aerospace. In the 1970s it was energy conservation and environment. Now it is clean energy and very fast trains. (Did you know that the Chinese are slowing down their very fast empty trains so they can lower the ticket prices?)

Crony capitalists cozy up to political actors and get favorable terms written into legislation. They figure out how absurd pipe-dreams like goals for renewable energy, wind and solar, can be turned into subsidies and guarantees and sweetheart deals for their companies.

So we may say that when you have a overweening patrimonial state that has money and power and a desire to dominate the economic and moral-cultural sectors, you get, as a law of nature, Crony Capitalism and Skewed Scholarship. Jonah Goldberg has called this political system Liberal Fascism. By whatever name we are talking about the tendency of the modern political system to tip more and more in the direction of political primacy, where the political system gets more and more power over the rest of society (to deal with its bigger and bigger failures) and makes bigger and bigger toadies of the crony capitalists and the skewed scholars.

The joke is, of course, that eventually, when the politicians run out of other peoples' money they blame the crony capitalists and the skewed scholars. Speculators, they cry! Speculators are driving up the cost of gasoline! The skewed scholars, of course, suffer a less dramatic fate. They just end up testifying before an unfriendly Congress that is suddenly shocked, shocked, by the mistakes in their research. And then their grants dry up.

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Should that include crony capitalists and skewed scholars? Well, yes. They are living from the crumbs that fall from the table of government, the patrimonial state of the educated liberal elite. And government is force; politics is power.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hopes and Fears

As President Obama begins his billion-dollar journey towards reelection there are two things he will want to remind us that really matter. First, there is the fear of another Republican presidency. We don't want to go back to that. Second, the hope for the future, to "pass on to our children a country that we believe in." He made all this clear in his April 13 speech at George Washington University. He attacks Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for the pessimism of the Ryan Budget Plan.

I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them.

Who wouldn't fear an America like that? But there is hope.

The America I know is generous and compassionate. It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share... We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.

Let us think a little about how this business of hope and fear works. There is political hope and fear, economic hope and fear, and religious hope and fear. In China we would talk about the Three Hopes and the Three Fears.

At the political level, we talk about our fear of enemies. If you are a conservative, you fear Islamic extremism. If you are a liberal, you fear right-wing militias. Politicians are eager to lead us, to battle against the forces of darkness and lead us to the Promised Land. For conservatives that would be America, the last best hope of mankind on Earth. For liberals, it would be Peace and Justice.

At the economic level, we fear deprivation: hunger, homelessness, the Homeric horror of the man who is clanless, lawless, hearthless. But we hope for prosperity: a good job, successful career, and a nice little nest egg to ease the declining years.

In the soul, the depths of the ego, the fear is loneliness, the slough of despond, meaninglessness. We hope for salvation, for meaning, for a fullness of heart.

In the simple community all these hopes and fears are mixed together: we do not differentiate between the political, the economic, and the religious. They are all integrated in our minds. Thus is it that the modern politician, tugging at the ancient chords of memory, frightens us with hobgoblins that threaten our safety, our economic wellbeing, and our sense of meaning, and promises to lead us to peace, to prosperity, and make sense of the meaning of it all.

But the question is: what business has the politicians to talk about prosperity, when that is an economic function? And what business has he to talk about the meaning of life, or even the meaning of America? That is for moralists, for writers, for preachers.

Here we have the Great Question. In our articulated, differentiated world the politician seeks to enfold all of life into the political. But we know that when the political is folded into the religious the result is holy war. And we know that when the political is folded into the economic the result is, at best, crony capitalism and, at worst, the economic disaster of Maoist China.

Thus the Great Hope. We believe in the Greater Separation of Powers, to keep political power out of the economy and economic power out of politics. We believe in keeping moralism out of government and government out of morality.

We believe in an America where a politician that promises prosperity would be laughed out of court. What, after all, does a politician know about creating a business, and building prosperity? He knows nothing except shilling after votes. What does a politician know about morality, who taxes Peter so he can pay Paul for his vote?

Let the politicians stick to politics, defending us from enemies, foreign and domestic. Let the businessmen and the workers stick to products and services. Let the writers and the moralists stick to their appealing entertainments and their glorious visions. Let the moralists criticize the politicians and the businessmen. Let the politicians curb the businessmen when they cheat and steal. And let the rest of us keep the politicians on a very short leash and stop them short when the affect to moralize and imagine that they can manage the economy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wisconsin and Multitude

The response of our Democratic friends to the 2010 midterm elections has not been good. Democratic legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana fled the state rather than allow Republicans a quorum to pass legislation they didn't like. Now we have reports of union leaders threatening Main Street businessmen with boycotts. That's when they are not trying to stop the legislation with friendly judges and attempts to pack the state Supreme Court.

There is a simple word for this kind of behavior: Injustice, and the liberal playbook says that when the power elite does this it sets up a prerevolutionary situation. When the ruling class games the system so that it can never lose, the people have no choice but to rebel. In other words, if conservatives were doing this, liberals would be screaming about Resistance! and Liberation! and taking to the streets. But liberals seem incapable of understanding that Resistance! and Liberation! could happen to them as they become a corrupt and cynical ruling class.

In my view there are three competing world views in the United States. There is the elite liberal view, which sees the American people as a backward and unevolved people that needs to be organized and assisted by an educated elite. Then there is the conservative view, in which the American people are sturdy, inventive yeomen, building families and businesses with practical Yankee ingenuity. Finally there is the radical view, which sees the American people as an oppressed people that needs to be organized into a movement for resistance and liberation. The point here is that, if you are a liberal, every problem needs to be solved by a government program run by educated experts. If you are a conservative every problem looks like an opportunity to get the government out and return it to the private sector where entrepreneurs and civil society will soon sort it out. But if you are a radical then every problem is an occasion for a resistance movement, in which the radicals will lead the masses to victory over the capitalists and the wealthy.

Obviously, in Wisconsin, it's a bit rich for the lefties to play the radical card and pretend that the overpaid and underworked government employees they lead are in fact helpless victims of a cruel and unjust system. To a conservative it is pretty obvious that the union members we have seen on TV are the paid supporters of the liberal elite. But it's not surprising. For liberals, a problem either requires a paternalistic government program or a resistance movement. When liberals are in charge they play the avuncular and evolved philosopher king; when tossed out of office they play the community organizer.

Some liberals have come to the realization that they need to update their world view. In Multitude Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argues that the left needs to move on from its old unitary categories of "people" "masses" and "working class." They propose the notion of "multitude." With the recent changes in the world economy it doesn't make sense to talk about workers producing things, mere material production. Today we have a more diverse "social production," not only the production of material goods but also the production of communications, relationships, and forms of life." Instead of the working class producing material goods we have the multitude cooperating to produce social goods.

In so far as the multitude is neither an identity (like the people) nor uniform (like the masses), the internal differences of the multitude must discover the common that allows them to communicate and act together. The common we share, in fact, is not so much discovered as produced.

See what is going on here? Hardt and Negri, hacking around in the thicket of their lefty jargon, are finally coming around to the argument that conservatives have been making for 250 years: with Adam Smith that there is an "invisible hand" guiding each individual into serving the whole; and with F.A. Hayek that the market economy is the result of millions of decisions by a multitude of consumers, business people, workers, buyers and sellers that could never by achieved by an administrative bureaucracy in Washington, DC or Madison, WI.

Only guess what! Hardt and Negri think that the multitude will form a new force of resistance, violent resistance that is superseding the old forms of civil unrest, guerrilla bands, and wars of liberation. The new resistance will be not be

a political body of which there is a head that commands, limbs that obey, and organs that function to support the ruler. The concept of the multitude changes this accepted truth of sovereignty. The multitude, although it remains multiple and internally different, is able to act in common and thus rule itself.

But this is exactly what conservatives say. No need for a political administrative elite of liberals--the head--telling the American people what to do. We are competent adults and perfectly capable of acting in common and ruling ourselves.

Hardt and Negri look upon social phenomena like the Seattle rioters of 1999, the anti-Bush "netroots," and the social-media coordinated March 2011 London rioters that spun off the official labor-union Alternative march as the wave of the future.

But I think they are blind to the truth. Their "netroots" are a few spoiled twenty-somethings playing at being the multitude. The real multitude contains the moderate voters that put the Republicans back in charge of the House of Representatives. It is the Tea Party that spontaneously formed a movement of resistance after the election of 2008 and now is putting steel into the spines of elected Republicans in Congress. When the liberal left responds to this movement of resistance with manipulations of the legal and political system using their pals in the government apparatus to thwart the will of the people they are setting up a pre-revolutionary situation.

The reason we have elections, and laws, and rules of procedure is so that we can have peaceful changes of government. The great question in politics for any partisan faction is this. If we defeat the current government at the ballot box will they release their grip on the levers of power and concede defeat? By their actions in Madison, Wisconsin, and their shenanigans over budget cuts in Congress our Democratic friends are telling us that they don't intend to go quietly.

In Multitude Hardt and Negri talk about "biopower" a term coined by French lefty Michel Foucault that refers to the numerous and diverse techniques the modern state have developed "for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations." In lefty discourse this malevolent power is always the corporations and the wealthy. But suppose the American people should come to decide that the malevolent power is composed of the liberals, the lefty academics, the MSM and the government employee unions that exercise "biopower" to tax them, regulate them, and control them in a profoundly unjust system? It wouldn't be the first time that a tired and incompetent dynasty completely misread the sign of the times.