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realclearworld

The New America: very different from the old one, and not as good

Required reading: Two interlocking essays that will confirm your worst fears about what is happening to the United States.  Both focus on California, that Petri dish of progressive virus cultures.

Reading both of these lucid essays reminded me of reading Alexis de Tocqueville's early 19th century masterpiece, Democracy in America.

De Tocqueville was able to describe and analyze the young American republic far better than any American could because he was an outsider, a Frenchman who could see all of the unique  inner workings of American society that Americans themselves could not see as clearly.  He was  outside the restaurant window, and in the kitchen too, so to speak, watching how the establishment worked.  And he had a frame of reference -- the Old World -- which most Americans lacked.  Americans were inside the restaurant, so to speak,  focused on the menu and their appetites, oblivious to how unique  the kitchen, the food,  and the service were.  Two centuries later, his book is still required reading in good American colleges and universities, because de Tocqueville was so perceptive, so great at describing not just the details, but the big picture.

These two essays deserve to be required reading at every institution of higher learning in the United States, and also in every household.  Of course, the leaders of our educational establishment will reject everything these essays have to say.   Our intellectual elites will spit with utter contempt on the authors of these essays because their own elitist foolishness and irrationality are being exposed, and--  like the naked emperor in the well-known tale-- they are so totally blinded by their shortcomings and so surrounded by like-minded individuals that they fail to perceive their nakedness.

While the essays are enlightening, they are also frightening, for many reasons.  But what makes them seem most frightening to me is that their authors have the clarity of sight that only outsiders can have.  Yet, the essays are written from within, not by some foreigner. Which can only mean one thing: America has veered so far off course, and become so pseudo-feudal -- as both authors point out -- that the chasm is now so wide between ideological perspectives within America, that some Americans can see their own country as a foreign land with all of the perspicacity of an outsider.

My sole disagreement with both authors is that they are misusing the term "feudal".   In feudal society, the landed class did not supply the peasants with income drawn from the merchant or yeoman class.  In other words, a truly feudal society has no welfare, food stamps or medicaid.   In addition, a feudal society needs real knights, that is, elites who will devote themselves to warfare.   America's new elites are very different: they require the peasants to do their fighting.

The illustrations above illustrate how feudalism and socialism are not to be confused.

America is only becoming "feudal" insofar as it has a disappearing middle class, a process that will eventually leave it with nothing but elites and serfs.  At the moment, however, it still has a middle class.  It's being squeezed out, but is still in place, and its resources are fueling its own demise.

At the moment America is more like the Roman Empire in its heyday, with bread and circuses keeping the emperor in power.   No emperor in this case, but merely substitute "new elites" for "emperor" and "middle class" for "conquered lands", and what you've got would look very familiar to  Vespasian, Titus, Domitian and all those other Caesars associated with the building of the Colosseum.

The first essay: California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude, by Joel Kotkin, in The Daily Beast.

California has been the source of much innovation, from agribusiness and oil to fashion and the digital world. Historically much richer than the rest of the country, it was also the birthplace, along with Levittown, of the mass-produced suburb, freeways, much of our modern entrepreneurial culture, and of course mass entertainment. For most of a century, for both better and worse, California has defined progress, not only for America but for the world.

As late as the 80s, California was democratic in a fundamental sense, a place for outsiders and, increasingly, immigrants—roughly 60 percent of the population was considered middle class. Now, instead of a land of opportunity, California has become increasingly feudal. According to recent census estimates, the state suffers some of the highest levels of inequality in the country. By some estimates, the state’s level of inequality compares with that of such global models as the Dominican Republic, Gambia, and the Republic of the Congo.

At the same time, the Golden State now suffers the highest level of poverty in the country—23.5 percent compared to 16 percent nationally—worse than long-term hard luck cases like Mississippi. It is also now home to roughly one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, almost three times its proportion of the nation’s population.

... and there is so much more.... continue reading HERE

The second essay taps into the first: Medieval Times ‘Vanity Fair’ and the New Feudalism by Matthew Continetti in The Washington Free Beacon.

Looking for a distraction from the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate? I urge you to read Vanity Fair’s latest advertisement for “The New Establishment,” a list of “50 Titans Disrupting Media, Technology, and Culture,” the century-old magazine’s annual mash-note to the rich and powerful and self-satisfied. These disrupters innovate technologies, set the trends, define the limits of acceptable conversation in culture and politics and society, and pour money into the network of liberal foundations and Democratic campaigns around which our world is increasingly organized. They are the winners in the cognitive lottery that is the New Economy, the men and women creating and shaping, by accident and by design, the “New Feudalism” described so well by Joel Kotkin in The Daily Beast. It’s good to know their names.

...much more... continue reading  HERE.

2 comments to The New America: very different from the old one, and not as good

  • George Moneo

    "California, that Petri dish of progressive virus cultures."

    Brilliant, Professor!

  • asombra

    And needless to say, Cuban-Americans can definitely see things with a bifocal perspective (except, of course, for good little Cubans who have joined the plantation as proper minority clients or followers of the liberal establishment).