There are massive social and political divides in America right now. This should not be surprising because there have been massive social and political divides throughout world history.
But what lies at the root of these divides?
Philosophers, professors, sociologists, and other wise people have studied this phenomenon for ages. Some claim it is based on economic conflict. Others claim that it is based on religious or social status. Still others describe the conflict as Left versus Right, the Nobles versus the Serfs, Liberals versus Conservatives, Republicans versus Democrats, or the Proletariat versus the Bourgeoisie.
All of these suppositions obscure the deeper conflict that is the root of human political turmoil.
The root conflict has always been the Elites versus Everyone Else. It has been the governors versus the submissive, the order givers versus the order followers. It has been a collusion of political and economic power brokers versus the people who create the real goods and services. Regardless of what country is involved, what era is considered, or what ideology serves as camouflage, the aristocrats have always controlled the social institutions and have leveraged them for their own benefit and self-preservation.
Feudal barons monopolized the land and lived off the toil of their tenant vassals. Monarchs lorded over their subjects using the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. God-kings like the Roman emperors and the Egyptian pharaohs coerced their peasants into building monuments to their glory. The Dictators of the Proletariat starved the proles for the illusory common good. The Theocrats of the Middle East lived in grandeur while imposing suffocating social restrictions on their subjects.
History offers an endless litany of such examples. The Elites have gained power over Everyone Else through the populism of the ballot box, the spiritual coercion of theocracy, the ancestral blood lines of monarchism, the class warfare of collectivism, and the brute force of gangs. People have been forever manipulated and abused by secular and theocratic aristocrats imposing themselves on society. Elites have always hijacked governments in order to reap society’s rewards while Everyone Else labored and fought on their behalf.
Even when Everyone Else occasionally revolted, the usual result was the enthronement of a new set of Elites to replace the old. The proles merely switched their allegiance and resumed their subservience.
America is not immune to this conflict, despite our origin as the world’s first society of sovereign individuals. America has always contained two antagonistic cultures, just like every other nation in the history of the world. The Elites in America are generally a northern and coastal culture that is collectivist, bureaucratic, and urban. Everyone Else is generally a southern and plains culture that is independent, agrarian, and rural. The bitter antagonism between the two cultures has been a constant rift, sometimes to the point of violence.
America’s Elites are a self-exalted group of politicians, financiers, academicians, consultants, lobbyists, bureaucrats, cultural icons, media darlings, social justice champions, and crony business moguls who collude with them all. The Elites make their living politically, which means that they leverage society’s institutions to coercively extract wealth from Everyone Else. Everyone Else make their livings economically as farmers, production workers, retailers, clerks, managers, small business owners, truck drivers, medical practitioners, construction workers, utility workers, doctors, firemen, policemen, soldiers, inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, plumbers, electricians, and other such roles. These hard-working people earn their wages and salaries by providing everyone (including the Elites) with goods and services. The Everyone Else class is the real engine of economic wealth and growth.
The divide between these two classes is not necessarily one of wealth or income, although the Elites in general are wealthier than Everyone Else. It is possible for many among the Everyone Else class to earn well-deserved wealth through hard work, investment, risk-taking, and innovation. The divide between the Elites and Everyone Else is instead a function of how their wealth or income is acquired and maintained. The parasitic Elites acquire it politically and coercively. Everyone Else earns it by creating and producing real value for the rest of society.
An examination of per-capita wealth concentration in the U.S. shows that it is generally highest in urban areas. It is lowest in the vast areas between the urban islands. Enormous wealth is flowing from the rural and exurban areas, where people work economically, to the metropolitan areas, where people work politically. To paraphrase H. Ross Perot, that giant sucking sound you hear is the economic wealth generated in the rural farms and suburban factories being vacuumed up by the Elites in metropolitan suites and skyscrapers.
This one-way flow of wealth has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism or any other economic philosophy. It happens in all countries no matter what their economic system is. It has happened in all countries since civilization began, long before capitalism or socialism emerged. The palatial edifices in New York City and Washington D.C. arose from the same dynamic as the palaces in imperial Rome, the palaces in ancient Athens, and the palaces in colonial London.
The key distinction between the Elite class and the Everyone Else class is how they get their money. Everyone Else earns their living economically by providing goods and services in competitive marketplaces to customers who are free to buy or not to buy. Elites acquire their income politically using the levers of government (including its lawmaking power, its regulatory power, its monopoly power, its money-creation power, its predatory cronyism, and its satellite social institutions) to coerce people into funding their lifestyles.
A simple thought experiment will illustrate the irony of this arrangement. What would happen if the rural and exurban areas magically disappeared? The Elites in the metropolitan areas would starve in a matter of days, and chaos would erupt. What would happen if the metropolitan areas magically disappeared? Everyone Else in the rural or exurban areas would hardly notice, other than to experience an odd feeling that their burdens have somehow been lifted. And yet the tidal wave of wealth continues to flow into the urban enclaves of the Elites, and Everyone Else continues to allow the Elites to make the rules. Why?
Part of the explanation is that Everyone Else have been conned into believing that life can’t proceed without the presumed omniscience and saintly leadership of the Elites. We’ve been conned into thinking we can’t make decisions for ourselves, despite the obvious irony that the decisions made by the Elites often end badly for us but good for them. We’ve been conned into believing that our lives can’t be secure unless the Elites provide us with “entitlements”, despite the obvious irony that Everyone Else creates the substance of the benefits that the Elites steal from Everyone Else and then return after siphoning their administrative take. We’ve been conned into believing that “justice” is defined as turning over our hard-earned income to Elites who then make fabulous livings doling it out to their satellite special-interest groups and captive voting blocks. We’ve been conned into believing that Elites must tell us what to do, what to think, and what to believe, despite the obvious irony that it is Everyone Else who accomplish real things and create real value every hour of every day.
To compound the absurdity, the Elites are laughing at Everyone Else. They tell us we have to constrain our lives to stop climate change while they fly their private jets to Davos, light up their 10,000 square foot mansions, and lounge in their oceanfront resorts. They lock us in our homes during a pandemic while they sneak out to their hairdressers, their dinner parties, and their graduation ceremonies. They impose myriad laws upon us and jail us if we violate them, while they will never see the inside of a prison no matter what malfeasance they commit. They tell us they must work from home (or not work at all) because of Covid-19, while Everyone Else must keep laboring so that Amazon and Door Dash can deliver to the Elites whatever they desire. They tell us we must surrender our guns and disband our police forces, while they live in gated communities with private security forces. They encourage rioters to vent their social frustrations, as long as it is our neighborhoods that are burned to the ground and not theirs. And the politicians who orchestrate it all magically become fabulously wealthy during their tenures in office despite their modest public-service salaries.
The Elites have an abiding disdain for all who are not them. One can easily imagine them in posh ballrooms, smugly nipping their caviar and tinkling their champaign glasses, giggling over jokes about us “deplorables”. Here is the gist of their jokes: We are not one of them, and we will never be. We must live by the rules that they make, but they don’t have to. Justice is wonderful, but only as long as it benefits them.
The Elites see their actions as neither moral nor immoral. They see them as just part of the natural order of things, like a lion eating a gazelle. That is because the arrangement whereby the Elites dominate Everyone Else has actually been the natural order of things in human history. The amoral Elites genuflect to a god called gold, and they intend to harvest it from the blood and tears of Everyone Else.
What do these Elites really contribute to society? They may have grand and glorious talents, but they lack the one vital talent that would make them useful — the ability to provide value without imposing on Everyone Else. They often make a mess of their own lives, but they are still granted the power to manage the lives of Everyone Else. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at any single craft, yet the Elites become “experts” on literally everything, often with little training or experience. They leverage their “expertise” to control our lives.
Their primary role is to manipulate the levers of society’s institutions to protect their wealth and privilege. How many of the Elites lost their paychecks during the Covid-19 crisis? Very few, but millions of Everyone Else did. How many of the Elites were classified as essential workers during the crisis? Very few, but most of Everyone Else was (if they weren’t laid off). Despite these inequities, it was the Elites who got their manicured hands on most of the emergency Paycheck Protection Program money issued by the Treasury and most of the $3 trillion of Quantitative Easing funds that were injected by the Federal Reserve into the economy. Everyone Else got a pittance of a stimulus check for getting their hands dirty in factories and retail outlets every day to make sure the Elites had whatever they desired.
One percent of the people in America control 50% of its wealth. The wealth of this one percent has tripled in the past 30 years. “Coincidentally”, government spending also tripled in that same timeframe. As government grows, the number of well-paid aristocrats that manage it (and manage us) will grow at least as fast. Since 1990, America’s Gini Coefficient, which measures its degree of income inequality, has risen by 35%. America now has the most extreme income inequality among industrialized nations, despite our illusory efforts to lift our poor out of poverty with various government programs.
This data suggests that growth in government spending does not help the poor, it enriches the Elites who leverage it. In the past 30 years, the number of millionaires in the U.S. has grown by 1,000%, and the number of billionaires has grown by 500%.
This is not a criticism of those who earn their wealth by producing or creating goods and services. This is a criticism of those who gain their wealth by controlling the levers of government and its satellite social institutions. It is a criticism of those who hijack the power of government to do their personal bidding and who take obscene advantage of those who live by producing. It is a criticism of those who benefit from a mysterious financial maze of government subsidies, block grants, quantitative easing, money printing, bundled tranches, hedge funds, and derivatives.
The real conflict in the world is this perpetual battle of a small cadre of wealthy Elites versus Everyone Else. What these Elites fear most are independent thinkers who are driven by truth rather than propaganda and by what is right rather than what is expedient. Such independent people ignore the apparent rules of the game, following Twain’s adage that rules are made for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.
It’s time for Everyone Else to realize that they’ve been subordinate to Elites all of their lives. When enough of Everyone Else awaken to this truth, they will realize that they no longer have to silently accept their fate. It will dawn on them that they have been grinding each other into dust for the benefit of those in power on both sides of the political aisle.
Most of us just want to live freely, safely, and prosperously. To do so, we must challenge the premise that certain Elites are somehow endowed with dominion over Everyone Else. We must refuse to submit to them. We must express our intent to govern ourselves as sovereign individuals, without asking permission from any authority whatsoever. We must wrest control of our lives from aristocrats who have used the levers of power to treat Everyone Else as pawns since time immemorial.
It is this very anti-Elite sentiment that fueled President Trump’s passionate support. He struck an anti-establishment chord that resonated with millions among Everyone Else. The important question now is who will step into the breach to carry this movement forward. Perhaps it will be a leader who is bold enough to step outside the elitist confines of the two dominant political parties. This leader must have the vision to break the Democrat versus Republican paradigm, because the entrenched machinery of both political parties are complicit in the hegemony of the Elites. There are far more people in the Everyone Else class than in the Elite class. A non-partisan Everyone Else movement would have great political clout if they abandoned their party attachments. Mr. Trump has already proven that the support of party machinery is unnecessary to become the champion of Everyone Else.
Unfortunately, it is possible that the Elitist hegemony is now so entrenched that reformation is impossible, even by a strong non-partisan political movement. The State is now stunningly efficient – not in classical terms of output or production, but in elitist/political terms of control and surveillance. Too many people see the State as the problem solver of both first and last resort, despite its long history of compounding problems rather than solving them. The masses have been conditioned to set in motion the awesome machinery of the State, nominally for their own narrow, shortsighted benefit, but ultimately for the benefit of the Elites who prosper and enlarge their powers. We are edging inexorably toward a dismal future where our entire civic life is bureaucratized and managed by Elites, while Everyone Else serve as mere fuel for the statist machine.
My hope, however, is that the eternal truths espoused in our Declaration of Independence will rouse Everyone Else into a political rage to renew its promise. All people are created equal. We are endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, we institute governments that derive their powers only from our consent. If our governments become abusive or destructive, it is our right to alter or abolish them. Such is the foundation of free minds, free markets, and free people. Such is the only logical path forward.
As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, people are not born with saddles on their backs, nor are others born booted and spurred to ride them. The only aristocracies should be those born of invention, creation, and production.
We claim that we are sovereign individuals by virtue of our American heritage, but we are not acting as if we believe it. There are three types of people in the world. There are the Elites, who are attempting to rule the world. There are the fools, who humbly submit to the Elites. And there are the renegades, who are too smart to be fools and too independent to be ruled. Which are you? Are you the master of yourself or not?
In our Declaration of Independence, we have the blueprint for rejecting the aristocrats who have dominated all of history, yet we hide it in a drawer and instead kowtow to our masters. Our founding documents are nothing more than a collection of hollow words if we allow the Elites to continue to ignore them.
But it is not shallow patriotism that energizes nations. The only path to resolute cohesion between citizens is a common desire to be protected from coercion and aggression and to have justice prevail. We cannot continue to superficially worship the patriotic symbols and traditions of America while at the same time allowing the Elites to coerce and abuse us in all aspects of our lives.
Flag waving is an important signal to arouse fellow patriots as America sinks into the abyss of statism. But destroying the American political aristocracy is the decisive action that is imperative now.
It’s time for the gazelles to eat the lions. Are you hungry, Everyone Else?