Protecting Power & Privilege Has Doomed Regimes Throughout History

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched, socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle, doomed regimes throughout history.

Every system is optimized to serve a specific purpose. As noted in my recent essay What Metric Are We Optimizing For?, what the system optimizes is rarely explicitly stated.

Sometimes this results from not understanding the metric that the system is designed to optimize; but in other cases, explicitly describing what the system optimizes would trigger social instability.

The Status Quo around the world--from France to China to the U.S.--is optimized to protect its Elites and the sprawling Upper-Caste of academics, managers, think-tank toadies, technocrats, apparatchiks, functionaries, factotums, lackeys and apologists who serve the Elites, and are well-paid for enforcing the Status Quo on the disenfranchized castes below.

Demographer Joel Kotkin, author of the new book The New Class Conflict, has coined the word Clerisy to describe what I have been calling the Upper Caste:America's new class system.

Oligarchs are assisted in their control by what Kotkin calls the "clerisy" class — an amalgam of academics, media and government employees who play the role that medieval clergy once played in legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies while quelling resistance from the masses. The clerisy isn't as rich as the oligarchs, but it does pretty well for itself and is compensated in part by status, its positions allowing even its lower-paid members to feel superior to the hoi polloi.

Because it doesn't have to work in competitive industries, the clerisy favors regulations, land-use rules and environmental restrictions that make things worse for businesses — especially the small "yeoman" businesses that traditionally sustained much of the middle class — thus further hollowing out the middle of the income distribution. But the lower classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running, at least for a while.

This describes the Savior State perfectly: a centrally planned and controlled government that enforces its absolute control via force, legal regulations and the blandishments of complicity: there's billions of dollars in free money social welfare to buy the loyalty (or at least the passivity) of the disenfranchised and marginalized.

I have often written about the stagnation of social mobility and the rise of a neofeudal arrangement of social-economic strata:

America's Nine Classes: The New Class Hierarchy (April 29, 2014)
The Three-and-a-Half Class Society (October 22, 2012)
The New American Divide (January 25, 2012)
Why Reform Won't Work (February 7, 2013)
When Belief in the System Fades (March 12, 2008)

The political, corporate/financial and National Security State Elites represent a vanishingly thin layer of the American economy and society. America today is the nightmare scenario feared by James Madison and other Federalists: a covertly created monarchical (what I term neofeudal) empire much like the Roman Empire--a republic in name but in reality a highly centralized Empire operated for the benefit of tiny Elites who buy complicity of the masses with free bread and circuses.

The "Monarchical Federalists" Madison and Jefferson feared have indeed established a neofeudal, neocolonialist Empire.

In this context, it is interesting to note that fully 20% of all entitlements (tax credits, Medicare, Social Security, etc.) flows to the top 10%, 58% goes to middle-income households and 32% goes to the bottom 20%. The swag of bread and circuses is remarkably well-distributed, buying off every sector of the populace.

Behind the PR facade of democracy and free-market capitalism, a parasitic Aristocracy extracts income and wealth from a financially indentured class of serfs. This Aristocracy is composed of several Elites which are served by the Upper Caste of technocrats. These Elites and the Upper Caste serve each others interests, a social heirarchy that Hilton Root characterized as a "society divided into closed, self-regarding groups." The slow trickle of the "best and brightest" into the Upper Caste via Ivy League university admission is also a propaganda facade, as Ron Unz ably and exhaustively proves in The Myth of American Meritocracy How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?

The trick is enable just enough meritocracy to support the PR facade. The Ivy League has mastered that balancing act.

These Elites have few if any links to the social layers below. Charles Murray spoke to some aspects of this trend of financial/social Elitist isolation from the debt-serfs and worker-bee class below in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, but the key dynamic that is outside Murray's sociological purview is the stark reality that the Elite class is devoid of any real feeling for or interest in the common good or public weal.

That is, not only have the key institutions of American governance and power lost the memory and mechanics of good governance, the Elites running the institutions have become an inbred neofeudal Aristocracy characterized by an unexamined (and thus deeply adolescent) sense of entitlement to the reins of power and control of the national income.

It's not just the institutions that have lost any conception of good governance-- the Aristocracy ruling the nation has lost all interest or recognition of the common good. This is of course not unique to America; the same disregard for the common good is at the root of all developed-world and developing-world failed states.

The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched, socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle, doomed regimes throughout history.This is what the Status Quo everywhere is optimized for: protecting those who have secured the wealth, perquisites and power by strangling competition, democracy and social mobility.

If you want to pinpoint the one dynamic pushing the global economy into not just a prolonged recession but a parallel period of massive social instability, look no farther than the social and financial stagnation that results from optimizing the system to benefit the Elites and the entrenched incumbents who protect them from competition and the dispossessed debt-serf classes below.

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devo's picture

Fuck you, Bernanke.

PartysOver's picture

Let the games begin.  Torch toss, pitchfork hurls .........

SilverRhino's picture

America today is the nightmare scenario feared by James Madison and other Federalists: a covertly created monarchical (what I term neofeudal) empire much like the Roman Empire--a republic in name but in reality a highly centralized Empire operated for the benefit of tiny Elites who buy complicity of the masses with free bread and circuses.

The "Monarchical Federalists" Madison and Jefferson feared have indeed established a neofeudal, neocolonialist Empire.


And there is NO fixing it short of collapse / war.

NemoDeNovo's picture

Glad to see more people Finally getting it that there is NO way out but collapse, and whatever side effects come with that.  Sorry to all the True BeLIEvers that still hold on to the naive idea that we can 'fix' this, time to grow up and smell the shit we are swimming in.

numapepi's picture

You can't live in a cesspool and not smell like it... And not smell it.

devo's picture

What about repricing gold to pay off debt? Seems like a simple fix.

Bell's 2 hearted's picture

'Hard Target' with banksters on the run

Milestones's picture

Mossberg Marverick w/18 1/2 barrel; add a pistol hand grip and viola, an old fashioned scattergun.           Milestones

Fred Garvin's picture

 "People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage."  Galbraith

numapepi's picture

The new class progressive Galbraith is the problem!

gdiamond22's picture

Power and Party before the People - the way of our political figures now in the US. Only one way to stop it and isnt fucking voting.

TheEndTimes's picture

My God you are all such a bunch of sky-is-falling jamokes. I imagine the author of all these doomsday articles is a huge hit at parties 

Bell's 2 hearted's picture

i, uhh, only come here for the free hors d'oeuvres ...

CHX's picture

Go back to read CNN. All is perfectly OK. Best it's ever been. Gooday.

Bell's 2 hearted's picture

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

Read more:

Diogenes of Sinope's picture

This is what,in the end, sinks every Empire/Civilisation.  A comlplex, healthy, and dynamic culture in which most citizens are invested will survive environmental calamity, war, invasions, etc.  But the criminal elite, Gibbon's "barbarians from within", will ultimately destroy any civilisation.  

Tainter has very good book on the subject...


Jack Burton's picture

It's true. As a history lover, I have read the same story over and over. Read how the Russian revolution came about and was communist driven. The story is one of privilege being protected by government to the cost of all society. How could an evil like communism grow among a people? Simple, read what government was doing to the people in the name of aristocratic and corporate privilege in the 18th, 19th and 20th century Czarist Russia.

If you beat a dog daily, sooner or later he will do anything, all he wants is to bite you back, the costs of doing it don't matter to him.

bid the soldiers shoot's picture

Everybody who was around in 1963, wave your willies (women can jiggle their racks) if you think that the Mafia or Fidel Castro killed Kennedy in Dallas.

Hmm. Who does that leave?

Do it again if you think Oswald was a lone gunman.  And if Ruby just happened to be in the garage of the police station by chance. Or if he just happened get galloping brain cancer right after he won his appeal for a new trial.

And if Oswald just happened to a get a job at the Book Depository on the motorcade route two weeks before the Kennedy trip.


Ruby fearing for his life, and the life of his family told the Warren commission....
"Well, you won't see me again. I tell you that a whole new form of government is going to take over the country, and I know I won't live to see you another time"

Ruby quotes

besnook's picture

unbridled self interest leads to self destruction whether as an individual or an organization.

Gaffing_Nome's picture

Is that you morris108?


Your avatar, "obviously" a genuine rendition of yer countanance, kinda-sorta bodes not with a 2014 finance graduate.

remember, many here need some assurance; don't forget the /sarc.

endoftimes is like, the most appropriate handle for a comment made outta the broad stroke, what-with using noun-descriptors such as "bunch of Ja-Mokes" and chicken little accusations from "theendtimes".

As usual, what's the motivation of such op-skrall? 

Nothing related to the content in sooo many posts. Just the usual "my god!"  [conspiracy-doomsayers!]. Sarcasm e.g., "Awesome at parties!" will embroil a few Ja-Mokes here on the ZH, not enough worth the effort. /No Sarc: non-sensical comments unrelated to the subject ending with a snarky poke are so much more effective on YouTube-Comments and the Facebooks. Seek gratification over that way. 



limacon's picture

The imbalance between Wealth and Money is unequally distributed , forming elites . 

These imbalances alternate if self-propagated down time 

Elites afre inevitable if an equitable balance between wealth creation and money creation occurs .


kchrisc's picture

Dear pols, crats, funcs (functionaries), and banksters,

Truth, when it arrives, and it always arrives, comes dragging a guillotine.

An American, not US subject.

Ohne Deckung's picture

The base of any system in our speak of is the search for the best solution among the elements, the participants of the then system called.

The search for the best solution is a condition that starts always a competition.

A system tweaked to serve a specific purpose is a deviant of the said rule.

Searching for the best solutions only for the winners of the underlying competition for instance. A corruption, usually achieved by restricting, ignoring, suppressing, killing not corresponding ideas.

The enterprise is a deadburn by concept but not in our reality.

Ever and ever there a enough men at work to make it go. Our history is marked with the much you could have the idea that's our history itself.

Our history, the not so honorable effort to make suppression soustainable.

On one line there is the possiblity that such may come true with the a given no competition, and because competition means life, end of it.

Notsobadwlad's picture

Ya know who has been a tremendous disappointment for me? Peter Thiel. He has taken the same tact as David Rockefeller in his opinion that "competition is a sin".

IMO, competition (or at least struggle) is what keeps us alive as a species. Without it we wither and die.

Socratic Dog's picture

3 billion years or so of Natural Selection probably has a point.  Turn your back on it at your peril.

indio007's picture

The people of the world don't have much time.

Full stand off capability- (i.e."stand and attacker off with taking casualties) is 20 years away for the .01% Meaning superior numbers of people doesn't mean anything because of technological asymmetry.

They can crawl into Cheyenne Mountain and drone and/or space based weapons to death.


A couple "rods from god" will come people down with the quickness."

The weapon would be very hard to defend against. It has a very high closing velocity and a small radar cross-section. Launch is difficult to detect. Any infrared launch signature occurs in orbit, at no fixed position."

numapepi's picture

This article is the Principle Agent dillemma, (as it pertains to government), defined.

For a solution there is the Fourth Branch possibility...

AdvancingTime's picture

This article is spot on and America is working overtime to transfer wealth to the small group at the top. Today a big topic is the huge growth in inequality. Those who look closely understand that it is not the 1% at the top stealing the icing off the cake, but the much smaller .1% or .01% that are skewing the numbers and overreaching.

I contend the biggest problem is the massive growth in crony capitalism and corruption in Washington. Much of this can be attributed to the ability of those in control "changing the rules" and positioning themselves to benefit at every corner. In our busy and complex world we have found it impossible to watch all the moving parts. More on this subject in the article below.

sam site's picture

A perfect example of a corrupt government-protected monopoly is our current Allopathic "accident" Medicine protected from competition by Big Government allegedly to protect us..

Investors who have Big Pharma stock should sell ASAP because when the dollar collapses, corrupt agencies like the FDA that protect the "Standard of Care" favoring Big Pharma and all these expensive, unaffordable and dangerous "miracle" organ replacements, will probably collapse too.  Like the corrupt Fed, these are the last days of government-protected monopolies and if they had to compete with cheaper, safer and far more effective natural medicine like Homeopathy, Naturopathy or Chinese Medicine they would likely be starved for patients. 

 The last time the dangerous Allopaths competed in the marketplace in 1900 they could only attract 14% of patients.  The public was afraid of them and fortunately there was still a free market in medicine so they chose affordable, safe and vastly more effective natural medicine.  In the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the Allopaths lost 30% of their patients.  The later banned alternative medical providers lost 1%. 

 Allopaths were known as the Quicks (later Quacks) for the quicksilver or mercury they poisoned their patients with.  They're still poisoning patients with toxic mercury in vaccines along with aluminum, neurotoxic MSG and formaldehyde embalming fluid and also with chemotherapy for cancer that's a derivative of WW1 mustard gas. 

 Because we allowed the Jesuits and their Zionist agents to take over our money and medicine in 1913, we allowed the Quacks of the day, a government-protected monopoly and drove out the true healers.  The sheeple to this day still believe the myth that "Accident" Allopathic Medicine earned it's government-protected status because it's the only "proven and scientific" medicine. 

 Nothing could be further from the truth.  It's a vicious, cruel lie that 95% of the public not only believe, but even defend this myth.  Our hidden organized crime Jesuit rulers are getting a huge belly laugh on their way to the bank.