The Elites' America

By MatTehCat | The Cat's Mewsings | 29 Mar 2023

Every great society is defined by only a few great men whose character is so exemplary that the majority must align themselves with them or falter.

On Monday, the 27th of March, I began reviewing Burnham's work, Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom. That review primarily covered Burnham’s analysis of Machiavelli’s methodology. In this piece, I want to show how the elite or noble class defines the character of a nation. I will begin by covering Michels’ work on elite theory.

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that it is the elites of a nation who define that society. Democracy, or the will of the masses, is an apparent obfuscation by the elites according to Michels and Burnham. The illusion of the people's sovereignty is made clear once one examines the main claim of democratic societies: the people should be or are in charge through either direct or representative democratic processes. These democratic processes hide the fact that it is the people who, when they elect a representative, submit themselves to that representative and grant him sovereignty. If there is a man who can be called a sovereign, then the people shall elect him. If the man they called sovereign or “representative" fails at his duties, they shall submit themselves to another. They cannot coordinate as a mass and, thus, always require a capable elite or sovereign leader.

Burnham goes through several points laid out by Michels to emphasize the illusion democratic systems provide us. First, direct democracy is unachievable. While Burnham’s analysis of this issue may appear outdated (we are no longer obligated to meet in some physical location but can vote electronically from wherever we stand), the essence of his point holds. Let us say that, for instance, people could elect a representative or directly vote on a decision – i.e., they all had the means to engage in direct democracy at all levels of political action. Firstly, most people would not want to do this, they would not have the requisite knowledge to make the kinds of decisions required of them and, thus, would delegate such decisions to those who do. Thus, the majority’s will could never be fully represented, only the will of those few who choose to participate. Secondly, they might not or would not be able to make the kinds of necessary decisions about military action in time (which are essential for the preservation of a nation) and, thus, would delegate those essential decisions to someone who would and could. This person is effectively the elite or elites. It is also this person whom Burnham regards as the quintessential leader.  Lastly, the number of potential representatives may significantly fracture the total voting population (especially in a direct democracy), ensuring that the only candidate that wins will be the one the organized minority supports. It is rather facetious to believe that direct democracy genuinely represents the people's will, even when direct democracy by electronic voting is possible. To make the point clear: even in the best circumstances where direct democracy is possible, most people will lack the capacity to engage in direct democracy in the requisite fashion, and they will, therefore, delegate their decisions to those who can. These men or this man is the true sovereign and, thus, organized elite.

Secondly, since the people need the elite, the elite will take their position as the natural leaders they are. The people do not want to engage in the kind of work required of the elite. Their work is highly complex, physically and emotionally demanding, and degrades their bodies and minds. These positions are not, nor intended to be, sinecures for the select few. When put in these positions, few want them and few can handle them. Only an exclusive few will be capable of effectively taking up the reigns of leadership. Still, those who do will be afforded significant benefits. It pays to serve well. Partly, this exceptionalism of the leaders comes from their training, which seems to be rooted in their ability to convince the masses to act on their behalf. Expertise takes a great deal of time and effort to accumulate; knowledge and learning; trial and error, all of which most people are unwilling to acquire or undergo. They would rather delegate the elite-level, complex work to someone capable of doing it rather than possess it since they are unwilling or incapable of doing it. As a result, a leader or an elite class will naturally emerge because Man’s existential conditions, his tendency to divide labor, require him to form an elite. Man cannot change these conditions. He may modify their derivatives, but by the nature of essential things, he can never escape them. In other words, the will of the people is not so much the will of the people as a whole but the will of the select few capable of coordinating the masses to do their will. Democracy provides an illusion for the elites to coerce, or acquire the consent of, the masses.

Lastly, it seems that historically speaking, democracy inevitably produces despots. This undermines the entire foundation of democracy as an operative form of self-governance because it is ultimately self-defeating. Democracy’s goal is to take power from the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the people. It is suggested that in a democratic society, power is vested with the people. Yet, just by the nature of elite theory and even by contemporary analyses of game theory, which I have extensively covered previously, power inevitably is held by the few capable of wielding it. Yet in a democratic form of governance, the electorate also tends to delegate their decision-making authority to a single individual, within whose hands power is secured through democratic means, for life. Burnham and Michels identify this man as a Napoleon or Caesar figure. It seems as if, because democratic forms of government deny this essential fact about human sociology and anthropology, they unconsciously manifest it. I will discuss this further on Friday, specifically when I cover Burnham’s examination of Pareto’s Derivatives and Residues. In short, the democratically elected despot seizes the people’s need for a strong leader and provides them with that strong leader. Regardless, the need for a strong leader(s) capable of organizing and keeping the people unified, doing the complex work necessary to preserve a nation, and sacrificing himself in a way that’s preferable to the people, which earns him rewards, is a requisite condition for any nation to survive. If a nation has a competent leader or elite, it will survive.

With this in mind, it is necessary to recognize that these elites shape the nation's character. For their sake, a nation may be regarded as good or bad, competent or incompetent, a failure or success. To validate this claim, it is necessary to review Burnham’s analysis of Mosca’s elite theory.

Given that we know the elite are a product of the necessary division of labor inherent to all complex societies, it will be prudent to understand how the elites or nobility are defined. Quite frankly, the elites are defined by the circumstances of their conditions. In a fishing society, the best fisherman, who catches and sells the most fish, knows the waters he fishes on the best, and can sail more effectively than any other fisherman, will become the one every other fisherman in that community looks up to; he will be the head fisherman and given duties no one else is capable of handling. In an agricultural society, the men who are best at farming and selling their harvest, who know the land better than anyone else in their community, and who can work the land better than anyone else in their community will become the ones every other farmer in that community looks up to; as the best members of their community, they will be assigned duties no one else in that community is capable of handling. In a society defined by the capacity to reason and engage in methodological or scientific thinking, it will be the man or men who can produce the best models and theories, who can use those models to garner the most support from patrons or produce the most change on their own, who know their field or numerous fields better than anyone else in their society and can navigate their field and generate novel models (updating the old ones) better than anyone else that will be venerated as the elite or nobility; they, too, shall be given duties no one else wishes to or can handle. This means the elite are constrained by the circumstances of their time, but make the best they can of those circumstances, inevitably becoming their community’s keystone.

These elites can come from two, overlapping social sectors. They can come from the people or a noble family. The first expresses the democratic tendency of the elite, which is a term used by Mosca. These democratic nobles are pulled from the people or, for their historical conditions, acquire the requisite skills, knowledge, and authority to become an elite as members of the masses. The other elites are of the autocratic variety, another term used by Mosca. These autocratic elites come from the pre-existing elites of a community or nation. They are born into an elite class and are reared for the position. I regard them as overlapping because, due to ever-changing conditions, the elites are in constant flux. At one moment in time, an elite may hold power; yet, if they are unable to adapt to the circumstances they find themselves thrown against, they will lose power to a more democratic variant of the elite, which will inevitably secure power for themselves at the expense of the old elite. However, if there is a burgeoning new class of elite, who are seemingly better adapted to overcome the autocratic elite, yet are either integrated by the old elite into their house or put down through the standing elites’ adaptation to the new, emergent circumstances, the old, autocratic elite will preserve their power. In the latter case, the elite can be composed of both born and bred elite and newly minted elite. In either case, elites tend to be extremely competent at what they do and capable of adapting to changing circumstances. They'd lose their elite status if they couldn't adapt to changing conditions or were incompetent. 

The elite, throughout history, will always have a goal that defines their character. The elite of an agriculturalist society will need to keep their land, produce food, and unify their society to continue producing food and, thus, their wealth. The elite of a fishing or hunting society will need to know the land, train new hunters and fishermen, and preserve their hunting grounds and people to secure their wealth and power. The elite of a rationalist society will need to generate innovations, technological masterpieces, and theories that better explain the human condition, predict behavior, and enable the elite to adjust their behavior accordingly to preserve their society, wealth, power, and position. In other words, while the conditions of the elite define their character, those same conditions ultimately define the goals of those elites. This, by no means, means the conditions of a nation are static. They are not. Instead, the elites of these communities are also in the best position to rapidly adapt to new environmental conditions and, therefore, maintain their control. And by maintaining their control, they continue to define the goals of a nation. It is, thus, the elites’ goals that define the social structure of a given society. The elites, therefore, define the character of the various people who constitute that society by coordinating them toward their ends. This means the elites define the quality of the society they manage. Without these elites, the mass could not coordinate or have a coherent social structure. Thus, the people would be quality-less. It is only through the elites that a society can have any quality. Ergo, we can judge the quality of a nation by their elites.

Now, what does this mean for the United States?

When we look at the United States, it would be difficult to claim that she’s in a good position. Her people feel alienated. They’re suffering a crisis of meaning, lack cohesion, faith in their institutions, and social values, and many are not proud to be Americans. To boot, the national identity of the United States has been dissolved through mass migration, and its native population is partially forbidden from acknowledging this. The likes of Jennifer Rubin gaslight them about the matter or ruin them if they try to express it. This elite stock (Jennifer Rubin’s stock or the Leftist and Liberal Elites) has led the country for several decades and has done its best to preserve its position. However, looking at the United States' condition, its ability to preserve its institutions and identity, and its ability to maintain social cohesion or manage internal conflicts, we might say the United States is failing. We could blame this on the people, but we must remember: the elite shape the people’s minds. The elites' goals ultimately shape the social system the people belong to. If this social system is crumbling, then the elites are crumbling; they’re incompetent, or unable to adapt.

However, perhaps they are not incompetent or unable to adapt. Perhaps the collapse of the United States is the goal of the ruling elites. They may not see the United States as the fount of potential they once saw it as, and as such, are shifting their position on the World Stage. If this is their goal and an adaptation to changing circumstances, and we can say they’re doing this effectively, then they are achieving their goals. While we may grimace as the elites let the United States be eviscerated from the inside-out as they leave the sinking ship, if they effectively pull this move off, then an elite obsessed with preserving their power (which unbridled elites are) can escape and establish themselves or their progeny as a new elite elsewhere. Remember, the elites are a specific class, capable of handling exceptionally complex work, rapidly adapting to new situations, and doing the kind of work no one else is willing to do. They are a necessary component of every complex society and, as such, they could acquire a position for themselves in foreign countries. If I remember correctly, this happened as the Western Roman Empire collapsed and the Islamic Caliphates began ascending. Some of the elite of the Western Roman Empire found safety in the rising Islamic Caliphates, who needed a managerial class to manage their newly acquired lands. If they see there’s no way to resolve the situation in the United States, they will accelerate its collapse and do their best to make it to more stable shores.

Yet, this potential tactic requires the escaping elite to be exceptionally arrogant. Machiavelli notes that if a prince does acquire a new position of power, he must prudently remove the old prince or ruling class. The new ruling class would be exceptionally foolish and naïve if they let the old ruling class reside within their territory. The old powers will always want to reassert themselves. As such, the escaping ruling class could not flee to the new, world power. That power would likely kill them. The new elite class wants to preserve its power; if it wants to preserve its power, it will not hand that power over to a foreign elite class or give them comfort and aid; therefore, the new elite class will kill the foreign elite class if it wants to take up residence within the new elite class’s territory. 

Of course, this only holds if we regard the elite as incompetent or unable to adapt to changing circumstances or cope with the effects of their decisions. There’s no reason we have to see their actions as extravagant and fraudulent. Yet, perhaps we would be wise to regard their actions as one enormous, fraudulent action; this is an essential aspect of the human condition: people have a deeply ingrained tendency to lie. Perhaps we could come up with some conditions to prove whether the elites are subverting their people and society. First, if the elites are causing the collapse, then they'll have benefited financially from the nation's collapse. Secondly, they would also be fleeing the nation or country they’re collapsing with the wealth they’ve acquired. Thirdly, they'd be receiving remunerations from the foreign powers that stand to gain from the collapse of nations like the United States. If the majority of these necessary conditions do not hold, then perhaps they are not causing the collapse and are incompetent or unable to adapt to changing circumstances, which includes coping with the effects of their decisions.

Disproving these conditions may not confirm that the elites are not collapsing their own country, but it would help to show that they’re not as competent as their people would want them to be. However, just because we prove these to be the case and can't disqualify them doesn't mean we've shown the elites are intentionally collapsing their country. Yet, demonstrating that it’s difficult to disprove these necessary conditions would suggest that the elites do have ulterior motives. In other words, showing the necessary conditions hold doesn’t ultimately prove the sufficient condition, but it does make it more likely.

I want people to realize that they cannot escape the reality of the elite, ruling class. The elite will always exist in some way; they are an essential ingredient of every complex society. These elites also clearly define the people they rule over. I.e., history can be seen as various stories about different elite classes as they vie for political control over the nations they find themselves within. For example, one of my favorite historians, Peter Turchin, regards this as one of the causes of the American Civil War. Given these facts seem ineradicable, we must regard them as defining features of every society and accord our behavior to them. For example, aiming for a classless or equal society is nonsense; an elite class will always necessarily emerge. classlessness or equality, or equity as goals, or any of their sort, serve as formulas for the elite to control the masses. If a group of people do not want to be manipulated and wish to assert their power effectively, they will not forget the perennial reality of the elite.



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