City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Michael Knox Beran
Exposing the Elites « Back to Story

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great article, really spot on. i just wish it wasn't tacitly a defense of the american-conservative view of capitalism which still promotes rampant and insane development strategies like strip malls and in which the billionaire plutocrats are certainly not all progressives.
So this is what a conservative really thinks; let them eat cake! Then down the drain and who will be the last man standing. Who is going to shine your shoes Mr.Beran?
Thank you Vince for clearing up some of the drivel spewing from Mr. Behan.
A moneyed elite desiring to maintain their position by dispensing (or causing to be dispensed by government agencies) paltry beneficence that keeps the great unwashed beholden to its generosity for their continued well being and away from its doors - that pretty much summarizes limousine liberals. Throw in a little guilt to stoke the impulse, a civil service that sees itself as an educated elite and apes the noblesse oblige of the rich in its disdain for the masses, community organizer rabble rousers to stir up identity groups among their clients as a distraction from the fact that they are given just enough to make it to the next month of dependence, the clients themselves with a sense of entitlement, and you have the bulk of the modern Democrat party.

The miserable farce plays out while the rest of us know what we want, how to get it, and only want to get on with our lives without interference and without this repulsive sideshow. But they're deeply embedded, loud, and aren't going away voluntarily any time soon. Thank you for casting some light on the problem and reviewing some of the ways issues were dealt with in earlier times.
Mark (and others), the “negative” of negative liberty is the “from” part. This is just basic simple definitions. Positive liberty is adding something, being positive so to speak; this freedom hinges on democracy. It is freedom, under our tradition, to vote in officials to enact liberal programs, in short, to redistribute wealth and make people rationale as Issiah Berlin said. This is the ideological underpinning of the U.S. Democrat party since FDR and gave us SS, Medicare, unemployment insurance, many needs-based programs, also that includes programs that many less wealthy industrialized nations already offer in more generous ways.

But, that they, the so-called democrats of the current-day, have grown so dependent on corporations for re-election look at the FEC website and note all the corporation next to individual’s names with maxed out donations for congressman, both parties have, effectively become more similar than they are different. Negative and positive liberty is so badly imbalanced, take anonymity on the internet for example, we can avoid implied duty to act responsibly toward others; this is taken as a freedom.

The elitists have benefited disproportionately from this freedom, while plain folk get anonymity on the internet, the ultra-rich perpetuate their 21st century robber-baron ways, and no one knows about the literal names and faces who drive it. I doubt Soros, or any of the other several dozen billionaires who have signed off to give away most of their wealth upon death, really mind being named as he was in this article, but, it is the rest of the ultra-rich that thrive on being far more anonymous. And for everyone aligned with the left, there’s ten aligned with the right. It is a major reason that explains that not one person, that was part of the mortgage market collapse/derivative instrument schemes that culminated in 2008, that exacerbated if not caused the biggest U.S. (and world-wide) recession ever, has been put in prison. Maybe some action would be taken against their white-collar crimes if more people knew who they were. I won’t give treatment to media manipulation; that and their anonymity is additive. That’s the balance in negative and positive liberty we now lack, the reason our society has grown imbalanced generally. It must be explained in terms of freedom, it is our current day’s most central driving concept.

To Mary, if you look at 2010 HCR’s surcharge that is to finance needs-based healthcare for the poor, an example that I must offer as there was no political strength in leadership of that congress to do other progressive taxations (elimination of SS tax ceiling of 250K, elimination of GWB’s tax cuts on the wealthy, estate tax, etc.), that was a progressive tax intended to help the poor. Let’s be clear, certain elites supported that, and even if the article is correct, and, they’re still essentially egoist and greedy, it is not tyrannical to give healthcare to the poor. It is not coercion, interference and failure, etc, but rather a glimmer of what could be positively made to happen in a democracy.
"Revolutionaries" should study what class gets slaughtered in the highest numbers. I see this all the time - someone who things that the TERROR will stop after a few beheadings.
This is completely anti historical especially in a terribly fragile elderly society like the USA. Terminate Food Stamps and SS and you will have 100 million Americans hungry in hours, flip off the power and water and we will have scores of millions of dead within months.
If you want the mob slaughtered than suggest they rise up. SLAUGHTERED
Thanks,
I will look into this book.
I have worked extensively with the underclasses and the slightly employed and while this outline seems good my observation is that we are talking about overwhelming numbers in the 10s of millions, 100 million (?) in the USA. This is a completely exhausting prospect and I have exhausted myself with it!
If it were to ever be again that the lost were some small percentage perhaps but now it is purely a custodial carrot and stick situation.
If anything the new elites seek to ally with the rabble to finish smashing the middle class. The "middle class" is sufficiently educated to understand and in so doing threaten billionaire hegemony. The highest and lowest classes have no morality and no ethics and are allied in their rapaciousness towards a segment of society somewhat wealth and restrained.
To Vince:

I hope we never lose the concept of negative liberties, because that is the freedom to do what one wills within the confines of that which is mutually beneficial to those one interacts with, or does not materially harm others directly. Positive liberties are sold as the freedom from societal norms, but such freedom exists in the concept of negative liberties as well. All the concept of positive liberties ends up getting us is forcing people to agree to an ever-changing doctrine that some elite or other deems more worthy than what came before, to try to "balance" society. When will you ever learn that you cannot balance society through sheer force of will, because it is never completely in your grasp? All you can do is interfere, and make others feel you breathe down their necks, intimidating them. What freedom is that?
Let us not overlook the straightforward advantages of liberalism. All those government regulations are handled more easily with economy of scales, so they strangle the big business's potential compeititors. "Soak the rich" taxes hit more than the very elite and help limit them from challenging the elite. And if they set up regulatory bureaus, regulatory capture has wonderful consequences.
[James’s and Trilling’s belief that social pity conceals an unacknowledged desire for power finds corroboration in the behavior of today’s elites, who in promoting the ostensibly virtuous cause of social reform are making a shrewd investment in their own continued dominance.]

This is the key point and has always been the TRUE face lying beneath the Left's "power to the people" fascade. Their goal has never been "free" people. Their goal has been to overthrow existing societal power structures (i.e., aristocracy, Christianity, etc.) so that THEY can rule over the people. Very benignly, mind you!

One need only look to their own words for an understanding of this...

"The poor man does not need to be educated. His station gives him a compulsory education. He could have no other." — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in "Emile"

"Distrust the judgment of the multitude in matters of reasoning and philosophy; its voice is that of wickedness, stupidity, inhumanity, unreason, and prejudice..." — Denis Diderot, author of "L’Encyclopedie"

"For men, as they have been hitherto educated, are incompetent to form a correct or sound judgment on any subjects except those which are connected with the certain sciences in which they have been instructed. On all others, in consequence of being compelled from infancy to receive the absurd doctrine of free will and responsibility, they have necessarily been rendered irrational." — Robert Owen, father of American socialism

"Psychologically, this talk of feeding the starving masses is nothing but the expression of saccharine-sweet sentimentality characteristic of the intelligentsia..." — Vladimir Lenin
[The point is restoring civility to our culture should, to restore connections among community members who are driven against each other by elites who are far mar aligned with politics of the right...]

Pure and utter tripe. The very basis of Leftist political ideology is to stoke "identity politics" in an effort to reap the political benefits of class envy - i.e., to stoke enough resentment of "them" (whites/conservatives/Republicans) to legislate govt-sanctioned theft of private property under the guise of "entitlements" and "social justice".
This is THE organizing principle of the Democratic party. But tell us, Vince: what moral right do you - or anyone else - have to confiscate wealth that you had no hand in creating in order to redistribute it to others who had no hand in creating it?

As for your love of "positive liberty", one need only take a cursory look at history to see how your "positive liberty" inevitably turns out in the end...in tyranny.
Outstanding. Eloquently ties together a lot of observations, motives, and possible solutions I have been thinking about, but couldn't quite tie together in my head.

Thanks
The Manchester Liberal elite, people like Robert Owen's father-in-law, were rich industrialists who were also paternalistic reformers and change agents. They changed the condition of the emerging factory based British working class and (inadvertently) prepared the ground for much more profound change over the next 100 years.
I agree with three observations made. One, elites are out for themselves first and foremost, this is the case regardless of political associations, and this whole article didn’t need to drop those names just because those people are ascribed liberal guilt by the author. Two, at the risk of sounding anecdotal, liberal guilt definitely exists with me individually, so it definitely exists in some of us maybe who are benevolent and giving of heart and spirit, rather than simply greedy. Third, I am wholly supportive of in-person living, in general, that kind of culture of community and creativity, but, the elites will make a point to avoid it like the plague; the joke of this article should be, yeah, but it won’t work, the elites are agoraphobic, and then list all of elites aligned with the right.

The point is restoring civility to our culture should, to restore connections among community members who are driven against each other by elites who are far mar aligned with politics of the right, start by dragging out all the 21st century robber barons and publicly executing them. If that strikes anyone as extreme, could we settle on putting a few in prison for a long time, instead of putting them in charge (as we have done)? Yet, it would be positively liberating, they deserve it. Our society is far too lopsided toward Issiah Berlin’s “negative liberty” to a point we aren’t ever going to be able to get together, again, to create balanced society. If their day of reckoning doesn’t come, the current trend is not going to stop until they have figured out how to take it with them when they’re dead, in which case, they won’t fear death anymore, or it plain never ends.

Old people look back to the time of, say the twenties, the roaring twenties before depression hit, with “rose colored glasses”; I think the author is doing that a bit much himself. It would be nice to go back to the ways of past, he described, but there’s much different about industrial or, post industrial society, One plausible scenario is to restore classic liberalism, via good ole violent revolutions of positive liberty.