Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Problem with our Elites

What's the matter with our elites? How could they be making such a mess of things, from immigration to finance to climate change?

The answer, I believe, lies in the fundamental divide our rulers face between getting elected and doing the right thing.

To get elected, the elected politician must lay out bubba bait. On the left, the politician must promise pension and health care programs; on the right, the politician must kiss the ring of the nation.

But what the politicians really want to do is save the world.

What our elites really want to do is create a happy world beyond the petty squabblings of nations and tribes. What they really want to do is make the environment into a nice shrubbery where Jane Austen heroines can take a pleasant walk. What they really want to do is save the world from the sin of grubby people driving around needlessly in fossil-fueled pickup trucks.

I suppose political leaders have always been like this. Does not Shakespeare have his Henry IV long to go rescue the Holy Land after he has dealt with his troublesome marcher lords?
And were these inward wars once out of hand,
We would, dear lords, unto the Holy Land.
Of course he would. Who doesn't long to get beyond the grubby business of day-to-day politics? Thus does the ordinary politician Al Gore puff himself up by inventing the Internet and fighting climate change.

But there is one thing about bubba-bait politics. It is much more respectable in our elite to advocate for left-wing bubba bait than right-wing bubba bait. Nobody is ashamed to advocate for more spending on workers, women, blacks, or any other certified victim. But plenty of people are ashamed by the idea of nationhood, of national traditions, of middle-class culture.

In reality, of course, the administrative state with its government handouts has been shown by settled science to be a mistake, and a cause of economic distress. We really need to dial back on the entitlement state. Whereas the national idea is the best idea yet to get bubbas to buy into a larger identity than family and tribe.

We know why this is so. The administrative state has been supported and advocated by most of the elite enthusiasms of the past century or so: Marxism, Fabianism, Progressivism, and now environmentalism and political correctness. Nationalism, at least since 1945, has been an embarrassment to our elites, because of the H-word.

Well, now we are in a bit of a pickle, because the elite suppport for government handouts has put the public finances of the western world in a mess, and ruined the lives and culture of those that rely on the handouts, while the neglect of nationhood has created a problem of unassimilated immigrants from Germany to California that has got the bubbas in a rage. Now our ruling class is looking at their angry peoples and wondering what went wrong.

It's really not that hard. The problem is you, ruling class, your grubby pursuit of power and your elite conceits and enthusiasms.

But what is to be done? It's not that hard. Ease up on the pension promises, and move national finance towards the idea that most people most of the time should take care of their own pensions and their own health care. And bulk up on the nation state and the idea of protecting the German people, the American people, right here at home, rather than running around, like Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House, taking care of poor benighted souls in foreign lands while neglecting their own children.

See? Things are not as bad as we think. If only our ruling class would get a clue.

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