Facebook division and the Two Middle Classes

Happy Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. George Washington’s Birthday, a.k.a., Happy Birthday to a slaveholder.

In addition to owning slaves and behaving in a traitorous fashion to the British Empire to which he’d sworn loyalty as a military officer, George Washington had a reputation as a unifier of disparate American interests. Could he have unified us today?

First, we should ask why middle class Americans aren’t already unified. If Americans generally vote their pocketbooks, how can people with similar levels of income split into passionately different political camps, as evidenced by their dramatic rhetoric on Facebook. A possible explanation from “The Two Middle Classes”:

Politicians across the Western world like to speak fondly of the “middle class” as if it is one large constituency with common interests and aspirations. But, as Karl Marx observed, the middle class has always been divided by sources of wealth and worldview. Today, it is split into two distinct, and often opposing, middle classes. First there is the yeomanry or the traditional middle class, which consists of small business owners, minor landowners, craftspeople, and artisans, or what we would define historically as the bourgeoisie, or the old French Third Estate, deeply embedded in the private economy. The other middle class, now in ascendency, is the clerisy, a group that makes its living largely in quasi-public institutions, notably universities, media, the non-profit world, and the upper bureaucracy.

Standing between the oligarchs, who now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets, and the growing population of propertyless serfs, the traditional middle class increasingly struggles for survival against those with the greatest access to capital and political power. The power of this modern-day equivalent of the Medieval aristocracy, what the French referred to as the Second Estate, seems likely to grow; a recent British parliamentary study projects that, by 2030, the top one percent will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth, with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated in the top .01 percent. One of the upshots of this concentration of economic power is that entrepreneurship is now declining even in the capitalist hotbed of America.

In contrast, the clerisy has a far less adversarial relationship with the uber-rich, since they operate in large part outside the market system. Like the Catholic Church in Medieval times, this part of the middle class enjoys something of a symbiosis with the oligarchal elites, the main financiers of NGOs, and the universities, and dominates the media and culture industries that employ so many of them. They are often also beneficiaries of the regulatory state, either directly as high-level government employees, or as consultants, attorneys, or through non-profits.

It’s an interesting theory. One major flaw in the article is that he accepts the bogus idea that American serfs are “propertyless”. A resident of the U.S. who has never worked and who will never work nonetheless holds substantial wealth (i.e., “property”). She is entitled to 100+ years of housing, 100+ years of health care, 100+ years of food, and 80+ years of smartphone service. Any children she chooses to have will be entitled to a free education and also, if they do not choose to work, free housing, health care, food, and smartphone. That’s $millions in wealth for every American on welfare (about 70 million people on Medicaid, for example).

If a person with $2 million in cash buys an annuity with the $2 million, do we say that she has suffered a $2 million loss of wealth? If not, it is absurd to consider Americans on our various forms of welfare as being without wealth.

Or consider the retired stripper who turned into a family court entrepreneur by suing Hunter Biden for child support. She may have already spent every dime that she earned in the gentlemen’s clubs and every dime that she has gotten from Mr. Biden. But as long as she retains custody of the cash-yielding child, she is not without substantial wealth. (And anyone who reads “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage” can replicate her success!)

How to explain the current era of Peak Sanctimony?

Like their Medieval counterparts in the old First Estate, members of the contemporary clerisy insist that they are motivated not by self-interest but rather by pursuit of the common good. They constitute “the privileged stratum,” in the words of French left-wing analyst Christophe Guilluy, operating from an assumption of “moral superiority” that justifies their right to instruct others. This power is greatly enhanced by their control of culture, most media, the education systems—eight in 10 British professors are on the Left—and throughout the bureaucracy.

Readers: What do you think of this article? If we believe it, could a figure analogous to George Washington actually accomplish anything today in terms of unifying Americans who, in fact, do not have common interests? And who would that figure be? It couldn’t be someone from the military, since we no longer have military victories. What about a Great Scientist? Dr. Fauci perhaps?

Inside the Washington Monument (November 2019):

The view from the top, which I posted on Facebook with “Massive crowd for the Trump inauguration.” (#NotFunny?)

Speaking of Trump, if we wanted to include him in Presidents’ Day this year and going forward, which of his achievements should be highlighted?

15 thoughts on “Facebook division and the Two Middle Classes

  1. Enjoyed the article. I have more to say about this later (I’m in the middle of a project) but one very good way to gauge the attitudes, opinions, priorities, politics and motivations of the “clerisy” here in Massachusetts is simply to listen to the Morning Roundtable every weekday morning on WAMC, hosted by Alan Chartock and the news items highlighted by NPR just before and after the program.

    This morning while en route to a COVID test (necessary for a hospital visit) the lead-in to the program was a story about eliminating natural gas production in Oregon. The question: what to do with the pipelines already in the ground as we transition to a carbon-neutral, zero-fossil-fuel future? Their answer was a complicated combination of harvesting “natural gas” from landfills and sewage treatment plants, the gradual replacement of methane with hydrogen derived from splitting water, and the complete elimination of animal agriculture (i.e., beef, chicken and pork farms).

    They can’t possibly get enough methane from the landfills and sewage plants to replace more than a fraction of the current pipeline capacity, so the brilliant idea is to pump partial pressure of hydrogen through them instead. The plan to produce the hydrogen is build plants which require lots of electrical energy to split water. And all the farmers and people who supply today’s methane will simply have to disappear or adapt somehow. Their expert commentator was from Earth Justice. There was no alternative view presented as to whether this was a good idea.

    Then it was on to the morning Roundtable with Chartock and his crew, dissecting the second Impeachment trial. The upshot was that because of the chicanery, cowardice and dishonesty of the Republicans in not convicting Trump, the Democrats now need to “take the gloves off” – increase the flow of immigration, “clone Stacy Abrams” a few times and run primary challenges to all the Republicans everywhere in the country, basically. This is all the Albany/SUNY area. Chartock is from Great Barrington, as I’ve discussed before.

    He describes the clerisy very well. And there is no unifying the country. One side must prevail and the other side must be destroyed, because their worldviews are in complete opposition to each other’s. I listen every morning to hear the latest views of the clerisy as I watch the people around me increasingly struggle to survive. They are now the Precariat, which is, I think, a better term, and one I will talk about later.

    • And the serfs won’t be propertyless, as you point out, but they will be slaves nonetheless. From the perspective of the clerisy, they will be recipients of the policies they implement “for the public good” – welfare of various kinds to keep them teetering on the brink.

      Oh, after the Impeachment, the subject was the 1.9 Trillion dollar stimulus package. Even Larry Summers, ex-President of Harvard, former Clinton and Omama alum, wasn’t successful in persuading them that 1.9T was too big with his bathtub analogy: “You know if the bathtub isn’t full, you turn on the taps, but you don’t turn them all the way on and leave them on until the bathtub overflows.” That was poo-poohed away. They should make it 2.9 Trillion!

  2. And the stripper was clever and resourceful: she found a way to clamber aboard one of Turchin’s “Lifeboats of the ruling class” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/12/can-history-predict-future/616993/ by sliding up and down on a dance pole in a purple room. But I sure as heck can’t dance like that, and Hunter Biden wouldn’t be interested in watching my me, not to mention my NASCAR-loving friend who drives a propane truck do it.

    “Elite overproduction creates counter-elites, and counter-elites look for allies among the commoners. If commoners’ living standards slip—not relative to the elites, but relative to what they had before—they accept the overtures of the counter-elites and start oiling the axles of their tumbrels. Commoners’ lives grow worse, and the few who try to pull themselves onto the elite lifeboat are pushed back into the water by those already aboard. The final trigger of impending collapse, Turchin says, tends to be state insolvency. At some point rising in­security becomes expensive. The elites have to pacify unhappy citizens with handouts and freebies—and when these run out, they have to police dissent and oppress people. Eventually the state exhausts all short-term solutions, and what was heretofore a coherent civilization disintegrates.”

    I don’t think it will disintegrate, though. It will be maintained through an increasingly sophisticated surveillance/police state.

  3. And I love listening to Chartock, because he tries to maintain his happy, joking, clever, erudite mien in most of the discussions, but when it comes to describing Trump supporters, I turn up the volume because the terms come hissing out of his mouth and land on the microphone drenched in spittle. Once he has spent himself, he hands it over to UAlbany adjunct professor Rosemary Armao, whose contempt for Republicans and Deplorables oozes from every pore of her body, except for the fraction that she keeps deep inside to churn around lubricating her internal organs.


  4. That article leaves out a very important comparison of the classes when compared to the Medieval times. During the Medieval times, if you were poor, you were really, really poor. You had virtually zero support from the government or your community. You would not live past 50 and you were really starving for food day-in-day-out. Even the middle class was in tough situation, they didn’t take yearly vacations like today’s middle class do and they worked 6-7 days a week over 10 hours a day. Not only that, working age was as early as 10 even much younger.

    Compare all that to day’s middle class or the so called today’s poor. Today’s poor has almost noting to worry about and live like the middle class without having to work for a living. Today, there is literally no one starving for food.

    • Add modern daily commute and all bureaucratic forms modern middle class has to fill out and you can easy go over 10 hr workday 6 days per week.

    • @LSI, and yet we seem to find the time to riot, waste time on FB and worry that the universe will collapse if Uncle Sam doesn’t save us. We have become a loud-mouth’er and a whine’er society.

    • @George A.: And reflexively self-abusive and self-denigrating also. I was astounded yesterday at the local convenience store, in a masked-up and socially-distanced line behind a mom and her two young kids (<7 years old, I would guess). On the radio playing in the background, a commercial came on: "Calling all Massholes and Bad Mother Truckers!…." and on into a pitch for some fine dining establishment or another. The little boy looked at the mom and said: "What's a Mother Trucker, mommy?" Apparently he already knew what a "Masshole" was. Hell, meet Handbasket, it's a long way down.

    • @George A – I was talking about working middle class, not leisurely scions of middle class parents. No time for rioting. Just work and drive and curse when hear on car radio how “busy” were “your” “representatives” while you were adding value and kept America great. Facebook is a menace, agree. Takes time form sleep. But medieval times seemed to be more fun that they are getting credit for: peasants migration n to cities, religious wars, Reformation.. People lived at most into their fifties and worked hard with low productivity but still had time for extras,.

  5. Nothing really to add, but this falls into the ‘interesting idea every 3 months’ category for me, thanks Phil (and Alex).

    Oh yea, I think Trump changing our approach to China (“We’re mad as hell, and we are not gonna take it anymore!”) was a highlight. That, and of course, his ability to singularly unite the Democrats.

  6. Speaking of Trump, if we wanted to include him in Presidents’ Day this year and going forward, which of his achievements should be highlighted? My guess is appointing conservative judges to the supreme court and the tax cuts.

    • Trump’s presidency was a failure. He failed to protect Americans’ most basic civil liberties over the course of a year-long health hysteria. He aided and abetted the shutdown of American society. He was in charge and it happened under his watch. He played not to lose, and he lost.

  7. >> Speaking of Trump, if we wanted to include him in Presidents’ Day this year and going forward, which of his achievements should be highlighted?

    The middle east peace deal? it seemed kind of impossible to happen.
    It was nice of him to not start any new wars also.

  8. Trump’s main acievement is maneuvering leftists into prematurely exposing their real nature: a violent totalitarian cult whose leaders lack anything resembling morality.

    Historically, this becomes obvious only after they disarmed population and suppressed opposition. Instead, their riots, blatant lies, and censorship woke up a lot of decent and formerly apolitical Americans who are no longer believing anything MSM and Big Tech say and thus are no longer susceptible to leftist mind control. And they, being loudly declared deplorables and enemies by the virtue of their skin color and faith, see no future in which they and leftists could coexist. These people are arming themselves (there are empy shelves in gunstores all over the country). Soon, they will start organizing. And then leftists will be exterminated. All it takes is disupting food supplies (which are done by the deplorables… city leftists don’t do trucking) for two weeks. City people have no idea of the rage and anger their pet leftwing clowns aroused in rural America.

    And, frankly, given their hisorical record, the leftist cult needs extermination.

Comments are closed.