Recently Leah related to me a little about certain squatters she would meet when she was traveling who would talk about the class-war revolution they thought was coming in the U.S., in which the poor would rise up against the rich, or the corporations, or whatever other forces of capitalism that are supposedly oppressing them.
I don’t see this scenario, the way such people imagine it, as being likely. Coincidentally, it wasn’t long after Leah mentioned it that the topic of such revoltionary visions was brought up at Catallarchy, and an argument made there and then elaborated on by TJIC that I think pretty much comports with my feelings on the subject.
Nevertheless, I think those lefties and squatters may be on to something; they’re just looking at the wrong kind of class division. The class revolt, if one happens, will not be a conflict between economic classes necessarily. Though the class that would be risen up against is monied and powerful, they are not defined solely in economic terms, but moreso in terms of a certain type of role and position they occupy in society. The opposition will will be of the citizenry against what I’ve come to think of as the “political class.”
The Political Class is not something that has always been with us in America. In the early days of our nation, politics was not considered a full-time career. People interested in participating in our government would run for office, and if elected, would serve for some years, part of each year, like the times of the year when Congress is actually “in session.” They were compensated tor their time, but not nearly so lavishly as they are now, and the rest of the time, they would go back to whatever real job they made their living at, be it farming, practicing law, what-have-you.
As we all know, that is not the way things work now. It’s not that it’s only the wealthy who can achieve political power – while most national political positions seem to go to a certain economic class, the field is not closed to others. Having a little wealth and power to start with, be it your own or that of family and friends, certainly helps, but there are many examples of people who started out poor, for whom wealth and power followed with their climb in the political sphere. However, in order to make that climb, one has to make politics pretty much their life’s work, regardless of the economic class one starts out in.
The effect of this is that our political leadership is now made up of people whose knowledge, experience, and skills seem to be concentrated and specialized into politics. Politics is the only thing they know very well. Back when a politician also lived the life of a citizen and was employed outside government, a politician understood the issues and how they affected citizens, especially those citizens with whom they shared a profession. Modern politicians are no longer qualified to make decisions that have anything to do with our nation’s commerce, technology, science, or anything else. They don’t know commerce, technology, or science. They just know politics.
Of the numerous illustrations of our political class’s cluelessness about the very things they make the powerful decisions to regulare and affect, one of the most recent has lately become a running gag on the Internet. Alaska senator Ted Stevens’s explanation to the press of his stance on the net neutrality bill is both hilarious and sad. A politician who has a crucial position in relation to a vote on regulation of the Internet has an understanding of the workings of said Internet that is comparable with that of the average elementary school child. If Congress can’t put people onto committees to examine legislation that have more knowledge about the issue being legislated on than this, incompetently bad policy is the only thing we can expect. I got to thinking along these lines a few days ago after reading some commentaries on Stevens’s remarks, and started thinking out this blog post. Apparently the same thing happened to Crag Depken, who beat me to the punch earlier today.
To be fair, Stevens is just one senator, and we can’t expect our members of Congress to all be IT professionals. But if our Congress worked more like it did in our country’s early days, I venture we could expect at least a few of them to be, and that would result in some actual informed debate on legislation that would improve the understanding of the issue among the others before they were to put it to a vote, leading to much more intelligent policy from Washington.
But that’s not the way our government works now. Over the years, politicians have turned politics into more of an end in itself. The existing national political establishment is interested primarily in perpetuating itself, and over many years has managed to manipulate the system so that their membership changes as slowly as possible. The political establishment is concerned mainly with preserving a certain status quo by getting re-elected as much as possible, to the point that that’s now the only thing they’re good at. Change of the guard is allowed almost totally by promotion-from-within of those who are already insiders of one of the two major parties. They have turned themselves into a political class, so specialized towards their one sector of society that they are largely cut off from the rest of it, therefore clueless about its details, and thus unqualified to govern it.
So if any revolution scenario is at hand, it’s not going to be of the economic class-war variety imagined by some on the radical Left, but a movement of the more libertarian variety, made up of people fed up with the increasingly prescient incompetence that has been bred by the development of a political class, against the continued existence thereof. Its most strongly represented economic classes will most likely be the middle classes – people not wealthy enough to buy influence in the entrenched political class, but necessarily smart and hard-working enough to organize a viable opposition to it.