A while back a friend of mine who runs a comic book store in Virginia said of the managerial class, “they don’t matter.” And by and large, in a positive sense that’s become absolutely true. Just listen to them:
In response to China and whether they have a debt problem the retort was : “China doesn’t have a debt problem – they have a stock problem.”
In response to the “audit” issue: “It’s The Fed. that has saved this economy, and just look at the $Billions it recently paid to the treasury.”
In response to the consumer: “Consumers are doing quite well.” “Gas (prices) is a boon to retail.”
In response to employment and the economy: “Jobs are doing great, people just aren’t spending.” “GDP is on the right track.”
It’s all too easy to ask what planet they are on. Unfortunately that planet is ours and they are making decisions that effect all of us and promulgating policy based on stuff like this. Policy the rest of us has to live with. Then they wonder why the rest of the country is pissed off at them.
Trump is not tapping into anger. He’s tapping into the sensibility of the great majority. The people look up and see an endless parade of frivolous parasites who defend nothing but their own prerogatives at the expense of everyone else. What’s the point of voting for one party or the other when both sides are colluding against your interests? Why do we have these parties?
You don’t throw way something because it makes you angry. You discard that which you see has no value. That’s where the managerial class finds itself today. The people over whom they rule increasingly see no reason for that class to exist. Supporting a guy like Trump is not an act of anger. It is an act of disrespect. The Trump vote is the peasant who refuses to bow to his king. It’s the slave refusing an order from the master. The act is symbolic, not practical.
The fact is that “We The People” are not slaves. We are people with our own needs and ambitions. What’s happened is that the managerial class has gotten so absorbed in it’s own little cliquish universe that it’s forgotten that there’s a real world out here and that while they are supposed be in charge, they don’t own the world.
The fact is that the managerial class is failing, badly. By any stretch of the imagination, the people in charge over the last 20 years or so have failed on a scale that’s unimaginable. Can anybody point to just about any aspect of society and say that it works better than it did fifty years ago? Are we culturally, or financially better off for all the money we’ve spent on the managerial class’s ideas and programs? Have ANY of those programs given us anything other than a kick in the rear?
What’s rather hilarious about the whole things is that the elites don’t seem to see what’s happening. They beat on Trump without understanding that Trump is and effect and not a cause. People are supporting Trump because they are truly pissed off at the ruling class and think that Trump will give the ruling class a beatdown. I think that Trump’s supporters are wrong, that Trump will betray them, just like Trump has done to almost everyone else that he’s done business with, but that doesn’t mean that the supporter anger is unjustified. The HUGE problem with the “hope and change” politics of the last twenty years is that it’s all too many people without hope and they’ve had even the change taken out of their pockets.
A few years ago I was at Yale visiting with someone doing work there and I had the chance to spend a long weekend on campus. I don’t do this very often so I come to campus life as a stranger. Most of what the students and professors take for granted jumps out to me as new and different. For them it is just daily life. For me it is a trip to the zoo to see exotic animals.
One night, my friend took me to what I think was a grad student/faculty mixer. I’m not really sure what it was exactly, but that’s what it seemed like. I fell into conversation with some people doing post doc work and I flattered them by appearing interested in their studies. It’s the thing a guest should do and I’m pretty good at it. Sometimes I even learn a few things. One of them was working on currency issues, a subject I enjoy a great deal so I got to pick his brain a bit.
Anyway, one of the things that I found astonishing was just how naive they were about the world outside the campus. One guy was in his early thirties and had never held a job off-campus. The other guy had never held a job at all and he was about to turn thirty. He was expecting to land in a teaching position either at Yale or Princeton. To them, I was a visitor from another planet. They were far more curious about me than I was about them.
We had a good time swilling beer and talking about ourselves, but I came away feeling like John the Savage in Brave New World. These were not my people. They could never be my people. I’m sure they felt the same way about me as they pretty much said it to me. The guy without a job said, “I have no idea how you make it out there. I never could do. I’d never want to do it.”
This is common and why so many end up in fields that are similar to college life. Think tanks in and around DC are pretty much just privately funded faculty lounges. Rich people get tax breaks for funding people to write papers that extol the virtues of rich people. Government, and the companies that live off government, have gone from dreary bureaucracies to self-actualizing, nurturing workplaces, where everyone feels safe.
What the ruling class seems clueless about is the fact that the American people do NOT want open borders and cleaner air if the jobs go away. The issues that matter to the bubble around Washington are irrelevant in flyover country. Those people in that mixer won’t even see what’s happening in New Haven, a few blocks away. I’ve seen them in action. The disaster that is New Haven and Bridgeport as well.
The big difference is that if they can’t imagine how people make it out here we don’t have a choice. We can’t run from the problems, we have to deal with them. The problem is that the managerial class won’t let us and won’t do it themselves. They are protected from the consequences of the massive issues are responsible for and somehow think that everybody is.
The reality is that most of us aren’t protected by the bubble. Whatever crap comes down the pipe, we are stuck with it. Quite frankly we, the people are tired of dealing with the crap that our elites have been dumping on us. It’s at the point now, that dirty and covered in crud we are going to grab our shovels, crawl out of the midden, walk into the great hall and start breaking heads. Or we might just take our tools and quit. “Going Galt” starts to look more and more attractive. Or we might just take the high tables and great halls away from our “elites.”
The Managerial class had a dream.
They had a dream. For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces. Above all, they would counter the greed of the merchants, the limited views of the business community, and the ignorance of the conformist and dim middle class.
Out of sorts and out of office after 1828, when power passed from the Adamses to the children of burghers and immigrants, they had begun to strike back by the 1920s, led by the likes of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, H. L. Mencken, Herbert Croly, and Sinclair Lewis. Their stock in trade was their belief in themselves, and their contempt for the way the middle class thought, lived, and made and spent money: Commerce was crude, consumption was vulgar, and industry, which employed millions and improved the lives of many more people, too gross and/or grubby for words. “For the American critics of mass culture, it was the good times of the 1920s, not the depression of the 1930s, that proved terrifying,” says Fred Siegel, whose book The Revolt Against the Masses describes and eviscerates this group and its aspirations. In their dream world, “intellectuals, as well as poet-leaders, experts, and social scientists such as themselves would lead the regime,” as Siegel tells us. “It was thus a crucial imperative to constrain the conventional and often corrupt politics of middle-class capitalists so that these far-seeing leaders might obtain the recognition and power that was only their due.”
The problem is that dream had responsibilities attached to it. And responsibilities are not something that the managerial class has a great deal experience with in their lives.
The “war for talent” has been a business watchword for almost two decades. The imperative to hire the very best is used to justify paying big bucks to top executives. It’s an argument for offering more visas to highly educated immigrants. It explains why technology company recruiters swarm schools such as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon. Nothing is more important than attracting and retaining the right personnel. And we’re told that it’s getting harder to do so.
“Talent shortages are fast going from bad to worse,” wrote George Klemp, a partner at Cambria Consulting, for Fast Company. “As companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and Apple make a modern-day land grab for talent, it leaves the ‘little guy’ fighting for whatever scraps fall from the talent table of the ‘big boys,’” recruiting executive Josh Bearwarned in a medley of metaphors on TechCrunch.
One response is to simply try to out-bid the competition. Offer more money, a lavish array of perks or, if you can’t afford those, provide more satisfying work or more interesting colleagues.
This strategy assumes that everyone is going after the same small group of well-known, pre-qualified candidates — the equivalent of first-round draft picks. It’s a reasonable approach if you’re trying to economize on recruiters’ time and attention. But it won’t necessarily bring in the best.
Right now the country doesn’t need credentialed fools from the Ivy Covered Snob Factories running it. the country needs innovative and creative thinkers that are capable of taking action exhibiting true leadership. Which is something that our “elites” are in short supply of. Even the best of them has come up short when it mattered.
There’s a reason for that. The very system that gets the “best of the best” into the Ivy Covered Snob Factories ensures that they are bubbled off from the slings and arrows of the real world practically from birth. And their education does nothing, nothing to change that for the most part. And after graduation the member of the elect gets pushed up through white shoe firm to cushy government job to hedge fund to think tank to government without ever having contact with reality.
It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject), they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though with their peers (as snatches of passing conversation reveal), easygoing if crude. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting who will run America and the world.
But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian war? What was at stake at the Battle of Salamis? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?
Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? What happened to Charles I? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What happened at Yorktown in 1781? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? Who can tell me one or two of the arguments that are made in Federalist 10? Who has read Federalist 10? What are the Federalist Papers?
Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students will not know many of them, or vast numbers like them, because they have not been educated to know them. At best they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. They are not to be blamed for their pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. It is the hallmark of their education. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.
Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.
During my lifetime, lamentation over student ignorance has been sounded by the likes of E.D. Hirsch, Allan Bloom, Mark Bauerlein and Jay Leno, among many others. But these lamentations have been leavened with the hope that appeal to our and their better angels might reverse the trend (that’s an allusion to one of Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, by the way). E.D. Hirsch even worked up a self-help curriculum, a do-it yourself guide on how to become culturally literate, imbued with the can-do American spirit that cultural defenestration could be reversed by a good reading list in the appendix. Broadly missing is sufficient appreciation that this ignorance is the intended consequence of our educational system, a sign of its robust health and success.
The problem is that all those big thinkers and managers in Washington have drunk their own Koolaid for too long. They’ve managed to convince themselves that only they matter. That will have terrible consequences if they don’t wake up and smell the smoke and flames in flyover country. The American people have had enough. We’ve been sending that message to the elites since 2009 and the Tea Party rallies over and over and all we have gotten back is insults and condescention.
The American people have tried the soap box and had the thuggish hand of the IRS applied for our troubles. We’ve tried the ballot box and nothing seems to change in Washington except for the apparent insularity only increases. The elites see the rise of Trump as a threat to their enlightened management of the country. That may be actually be correct.
Even more important is the message that the elites don’t seem to understand. The managerial class may have gotten to the point they are incapable of understanding this simple fact; that nobody can escape the consequences of their actions forever.
That is why the revolt of the elites will fail. More than likely it will fail sooner rather than later as the structures the elites have built up around themselves fall apart under the weight of their own fallacies and the fact that nobody believes in them anymore other than the elites and we the people don’t need what the elites offer and won’t pay for their parties anymore.