THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING POWER IN A FAILED STATE
E.J. Dionne writes today:
The American ruling class is failing us -- and itself.
At other moments in our history, the informal networks of the wealthy and powerful who often wield at least as much influence as our elected politicians accepted that their good fortune imposed an obligation: to reform and thus preserve the system that allowed them to do so well. They advocated social decency out of self-interest (reasonably fair societies are more stable) but also from an old-fashioned sense of civic duty. "Noblesse oblige" sounds bad until it doesn't exist anymore.
An enlightened ruling class understands that it can get richer and its riches will be more secure if prosperity is broadly shared, if government is investing in productive projects that lift the whole society and if social mobility allows some circulation of the elites. A ruling class closed to new talent doesn’t remain a ruling class for long.
But a funny thing happened to the American ruling class: It stopped being concerned with the health of society as a whole and became almost entirely obsessed with money....
DougJ thinks, understandably, that the elites simply think we're contemptible:
I believe that the health of the American economy depends on the health of the American middle-class. I don't mean this philosophically, I believe that historical data shows this to be true in reality.
The American ruling class does not believe this. They believe that the American middle-class are lazy, worthless rubes, strapping young bucks buying big screen tvs with their ill-begotten union wages and gubmint hand-outs.
A few thoughts occur to me. I think the ruling class sees this as a zero-sum game, a Hobbesian war of each against all. It's not that the elitists have contempt for us, it's that they think every time we win, they lose. (In fact, I think if they'd just take their boots off our necks, we might have a thriving middle-class economy as a result sooner or later, and they'd make a killing from what we had to spend.)
It also seems to me -- as I think I've said before -- that the rich see America the way drug dealers see an impoverished neighborhood: whatever damage they seem to be doing to their surroundings, they thrive, so they come to believe they're thriving, at least in part, because they've turned the neighborhood into a hellhole.
A "failed state" analogy seems to apply as well. In the 1990s, Al Qaeda thrived not where governmental institutions functioned well, but where they didn't -- in Somalia, in Afghanistan. It's good to have no rivals for power.
That's America now. That's how we're living.