Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Modern Intellectual Aristocracy

I like Charles Kadiec’s article in Forbes because it states an argument frequently repeated in this space.

Kadiec writes:
the American Revolution’s defining premise [is] that a free people are capable of ruling themselves. The declaration that "all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," turned the known political world of monarchy, hierarchy and privilege in which subjects existed to serve the state upside down[, destroying] aristocracy as it had been understood in the Western world for at least two millennia[, bringing] respect to the dignity of the individual, and honor[ing] their work, no matter how menial.

In this context, the modern liberal and the progressive movements can be considered a counter-revolutionary force. The leaders of these movements have pursued the use of government power to protect individuals from poor decisions and to intermediate between them and businesses. . . The result has been to recreate the hierarchal order of old, but one in which the role of the ancient aristocrat is assumed by the modern intellectual.
Kadiec is the first I’ve known to brand the “modern intellectual” a descendant of the “ancient aristocrat.” The charge slanders the middle class products who dominate today’s elite—they know aristocracy, and it isn’t them. Yet the most successful enjoy material wealth any 18th Century English nobleman would envy.

And of course Kadiec is right about intellectuals being our “New Elite.” Those who founded America were anti-aristocrats who vested political power in the American people, whatever their faults. Progressives, however, believe some group is bound to rule over the majority, and it’s better for the American people if the ruling elite is based upon intellectual success not money, and particularly not inherited wealth, as was the case in much of post-Civil War America.

A bright, intellectual elite dedicated to governing on behalf of America’s less fortunate, holding power (theoretically) only as long as achievements justify doing so, is far better than a corrupt system controlled by ill-begotten gains. Given “A” (politics controlled by venal capitalists), we must have “B” (politics controlled by superior intellectuals).

But “C”, rule by the majority, the people, not some ruling class based upon wealth (ancient aristocracy) or supposed achievement (modern intellectuals) is America’s preferred system. We like democracy best because it releases the full talents of our entire population, encouraging everyone to reach their full potential. Decentralization of both economic and political decisionmaking has made America great, and will do so again.

Like the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, like me, and others, Kadiec deplores the “aristocratic arrogance” of Obama offered in his view that “our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning” because the people are “scared." Kadiec adds:
I am sure that kings, queens, dukes and earls down through the ages have shared the president's sentiments when, looking down on the unwashed masses from their respective castles, they felt misunderstood and unappreciated by their subjects.
And as I have suggested, Kadiec thinks separating the “New Elite” from their current positions of power is no easy task:
The progressive movement's successful efforts to breach the constitutional restraints on the federal government have been underway for a century. Restoration of the liberty the Founders sought to protect with the Constitution will not be realized in two years, or even two decades, and perhaps it will take 100 years.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get going.

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