Apr 26, 2022Liked by Richard Hanania

Please see Russia in the 1990s as one example of the problems of unrestrained, ground-up plutocracy as a means of running a society.

American plutocrats come per-housebroken as a result of operating under a strong state, so they don’t really show the full vices of the plutocratic form.

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Even a dictator would need to rely on a vast bureaucracy. The difference is that a dictator has lots of power over the bureaucracy, but the merely elected government in the US has little power over the bureaucracy. So the obvious thing to do here is to increase the influence of the elected government over the bureaucracy. Appoint the right judges, and give the president the power to veto or change any rule issued by any administrative agency, within the limits of the agency's authority created by congress. For instance all the disparate impact stuff from the EEOC could be overruled by an EO.

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> Some call this the “managerial class,” but I don’t like that term as I think it’s too broad and implies that everyone with a college degree or who works in a white-collar profession is actually taking part in running society. In reality, it’s a very small group that matters

The Intelligentsia?

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Great article. It is a complex issue with no easy answers. I am reminded of the C. S. Lewis quote:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The very foundation of our Constitutional Representative democracy was designed to address so many of the issues we face today. Did we just become to wealthy and complacent to maintain the system? I wish I knew the answer.

Thank you for the thought provoking piece.


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I don’t think we need caesarism, plutocracy, a managerial class, or anyone else “running” society. I think we need to get back to the idea that society is not to be controlled any more than are free markets. These systems are (or should be) emergent, based upon millions of freely-made individual decisions at any given moment. Government should be limited (and thus drastically diminished) to the role of protecting life and property.

Thus, in a case like Twitter, the proper solution is to let free markets and individuals solve the problem (if there is one). If Twitter is unreasonably applying too much censorship, that creates an opening for entrepreneurs to create alternatives. Or, like the present situation, the opportunity to take over a sub-optimally run company and make it better.

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This is an instance of a billionaire doing something good, and we should be glad that the richest man in the world believes in freedom of speech and is willing to do something about it. Plutocracy could result in a situation in which the wealthy use political control for rent-seeking. I also think that we shouldn't regard the right to vote so highly; if given the chance, milions of people would be willing to sell their right for less than $10, and millions of people willingly do not vote. A dictatorship has potential and each dictator needs to be judged on their merits of their actions; if I was dictator, I wouldn't hand over power to the vote.

Democracy creates a polarized culture and creates all these conflicts. But we could imagine a Democracy without the laws that make wokeness (Critical Social Justice) everywhere. If Richard was made president, he could do away with so many institutional problems quickly. The nature of schools, universities, corporations and media is largely due to the incentives created by laws. Civil rights law in particular as you've noted. Get rid of that, and we may see institutional change. Universities should largely be done away with because they're largely signaling mechanisms; hopefully they would if funding was pulled.

A Democracy should really have it's hands bound. If conservatives achieved a win and had a government council to ensure fairness online, we would see it captured--as you mention--and used for nefarious purposes. Freedom is always the better alternative. If we're getting philosophical, it would be nice if we decentralized power; some states can be radically lefty and some can be radically right wing. Maybe this would prevent some of the polarization if people self-segregated along political lines.

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"I fail to see how it is possible for us to have a technological revolution, a social revolution, an information revolution, moral, sexual, and epistemological revolutions, and not a political revolution as well …. In this sense the breakdown of government as we have known it – which is to say representative government – is chiefly a consequence of obsolescence. Simply put, the political technology of the industrial age is no longer appropriate technology for the new civilization taking form around us. Our politics are obsolete.” Alvin Toffler, Future Shock.

We Westerners have always distrusted our leaders because our Greco-Roman political legacy is monarchical at heart and, thus, inclined to war.

Elite lying about wars has been a constant for 3,000 years. Our political inheritance is not ‘democracy,’ but irresponsible leaders whose primary responsibility is to maintain the status quo lying on behalf of wealthy sponsors and ignore plebeians’ needs: "Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, we conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of–or even against–the will of the majority of voters.. The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence”. Gilens and Page.

Confucian government, now on public display in China, is an alternative to our ridiculous system but, only when Rome finally falls will we consider it.

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The plutocracy idea is extraordinarily bad under the best reading. I think the best case he's arguing is that entrepreneurs should be in charge

> "Someone who builds rocket ships, or founds PayPal, or gets oil out of the ground is likely to have better ideas on how to run society than someone who..."

Set aside for the moment the large number of plutocrats who probably just got lucky (not all of them, but some), and still the whole point of governmental institutions is to make something enduring and stable. Entrepreneurs become plutocrats because they find profit by upsetting existing orders.

And entrepreneurs stay plutocrats by maintaining the existing order they've created. And the heirs of plutocrats typically have even less interest in such innovation and more interest in preserving their plutocracy.

In short, a first generation plutocracy run by dynamic entrepreneurs will almost of necessity give way to a later generation plutocracy run by statists who are hostile to dynamic entrepreneurs.

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Great thoughts, but the premise that "somebody" is more competent than "anybody" leads me to wonder why Kings or Queens are still needed in the 21st century.

The US has been an oligarchy since the 1913 Banker's Coup d'Etat (The Fed, income tax, IRS, popular election of senators.) Plutocrats have been pulling the strings for over a century! All they've managed to give us is #BigBrother & the #NannyState (warfare & welfare per every previous failed civilization.)

Let's re-imagine a society where a monopoly of power is not vested in a single institution and individuals have maximal liberty.

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Good post, but it feels like you've (re) discovered the wheel. Problem is, the wheel might be kind of broken.

This is a somewhat old argument, really: businessmen run businesses, bureaucrats have never been expected to deliver the results expected of businessmen, therefore we should have businessmen run the government. Donald Trump was a pretty skilled businessman, all things considered, I think, and he was something of a huge failure. As far as I know, he was not an outlier, which is why people use this line as punchline nowadays.

Plus there is the issue that while most businessmen are not Berezovsky, rentierism is pretty common in more normal, oligarchic polities. Latin America certainly has had that issue, and Joe Studwell argues pretty convingly that oligarchic power made economic transformation impossible in chunks of Asia. Maybe America is just a more functional, higher IQ polity so whatever oligarchy it gets will beat Brazil's and Malaysia's, but isn't the "Brazilization" of the US (and the West in general) the latest hot thesis?

If you have exclusively Schumpeterian capitalists guys running the show, then sure, the whole thing will probably work better, but most capitalists are nothing close to Elon Musk. I might be cherry-picking, but the idiocy of the American tax-filing system strikes me as a pretty palpable consequence of rich companies having lots of influence.

Overall, an interesting approach. I certainly share your enthusiasm for Musk's takeover, but I'd be wary of extrapolating too much, as much as I would like to agree with this rather optimistic take. It's good you reserve the right to fully flesh out the idea, because it certainly needs it.

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Your tweets today were a great reminder that lots of people online are incapable of considering that someone might be kidding.

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"Plutocracy has the fewest problems, mainly because rich guys are smarter, less neurotic, and have higher testosterone levels than activists and bureaucrats, and they have achieved their success through market processes, which is more indicative of an ability to solve problems than success in academia, government, or activism." - - - I had to check that this was not written on April 1.

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In the British system, the rich are represented in the House of Lords and the population as a whole is represented in the House of Commons. A mixed form of government may be called for in the US. It also makes sense to restrict the right to vote to the kind of people who can vote well: eg. landowners.

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The 21st century American system of governance is bizarre. The Covid response proved that the Constitution as an iron law is a fiction. What remains is an all-powerful bureaucratic machine that is either tempered or enflamed by the reigning executive. In most cases, legislatures are worthless. Even when they have a clear majority, legislatures tend to to be timid and weak.

The defining quality of 21st century American government is unaccountability. By the vote, the US has had one seismic election after another since Gore v. Bush. Yet none of that has changed the trajectory. Consider that 2022 is shaping up economically and globally a lot like 2008. It sucks and the attribution for the policies causing the sucking are the same: Globalists and monetarists who run the world based on the little models they learned in "school".

The only difference between current American government and plutocracy is the illusion of choice. Reality is the American citizen is not going to realize real, lasting reform by voting. The system is rigged, just as if plutocrats were in control.

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This quote from C. S. Lewis comes to mind:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."

I am not sure if Musk is a robber baron, but I am reasonably sure that many of his opponents are 'moral busybodies' in Lewis's sense.

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I think you're missing the point.

Form of government is irrelevant. Modern western social breakdown revolves around sex and race. In order to not end up living in a dis-functional hellhole like, say, Portland or Baltimore or a hundred other places in the US, people are going to have to eliminate race and sex quotas. It's quite simple really. Get rid of quotas, bring back freedom of association – you can hire, fire, invite, sell or serve, or not, anyone you want. Let the cards fall where they may.

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