June 9, 2014

JOEL KOTKIN: Watch What You Say: The New Liberal Power Elite Won’t Tolerate Dissent.

In ways not seen since at least the McCarthy era, Americans are finding themselves increasingly constrained by a rising class—what I call the progressive Clerisy—that accepts no dissent from its basic tenets. Like the First Estate in pre-revolutionary France, the Clerisy increasingly exercises its power to constrain dissenting views, whether on politics, social attitudes or science.

An alliance of upper level bureaucrats and cultural elites, the Clerisy, for for all their concerns about inequality, have thrived, unlike most Americans, in recent years. They also enjoy strong relations with the power structure in Washington, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street.

As the modern clerisy has seen its own power grow, even while the middle class shrinks, it has used its influence to enforce a prescribed set of acceptable ideas. On everything from gender and sexual preference to climate change, those who dissent from the official pieties risk punishment.

Punch back twice as hard. And mock them mercilessly, as they are eminently mockable. Plus:

The Clerisy has thrived during these hard times. Since 1990, the number of government workers has expanded by some five million to some twenty million. That’s four times the number who were employed by the government at the end of the Second World War, a growth rate roughly twice that of the population as a whole.

The upper bureaucracy have been among the greatest beneficiaries—along with Wall Street and the green crony capitalists —of the Obama Administration’s economic policy. The number of workers, particularly at the federal level, continued to rise even at the height of the great recession. Between late 2007 and mid-2009, the number of U.S. federal workers earning at least $150,000 more than doubled. The ranks of federal nomenklatura—combined with a host of related private contractors —- have swelled so much that Washington DC by 2012 replaced New York as the wealthiest region in the country .

The upper bureaucracy has evolved into a privileged and cossetted caste. In California, state workers are allowed such special privileges as having their Department of Motor Vehicle records kept confidential; a sensible precaution for those, like police, who deal with criminals but now expanded to cover a vast array of public servants, including social workers.

America is sounding more and more like The Hunger Games. But is America ripe for a populist resurgence?

2 Trackbacks to “JOEL KOTKIN: Watch What You Say: The New Liberal Power Elite Won’t Tolerate Dissent. In ways no…”