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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bring Back The Elites

I was going to write a review of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? The book is superficial, anecdotal, class warfare laden piece of leftist aversion to traditional culture and proper economics, but I totally botched the review. It was pretty much unreadable. Clunky and lame, with a spoonful of “I needed something to attack”. Good thing I brought along my library copy of William F Buckley, Jr.'s Happy Days Were Here Again to work, otherwise I'd still be scrambling to find something to write about.

William F. Buckley, Jr. was the father of the modern conservative movement. His magazine, National Review, was the center of conservative fusionism, the hybrid of traditionalism, libertarianism and anti-communism. Countless intellectual legends have written for it and written to attack it. The are countless number of books on him and the magazine's history, as well as a book of reader's letters and his responses to them. Along with being a public conservative intellectual, Mr. Buckley was a novelist, avid sailer and all around elite.

Modern politics are awash in the false innocence of populist rhetoric. Politicians like John Edwards and Mike Huckabee used it like a cudgel, while President Obama and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin used it in less annoying fashion. There is constant deriding of those who aren't like the common man on both sides (Thomas Frank would be shocked at such a statement). Attempts to portray oneself as the common man, despite personal history to the contrary, get ridiculed by television punditry more often than actual policy initiatives. The ability to relate to your constituency ranks right next to amount of tax dollars wasted, amount of terms served and amount of times you can utter “BARBARIC!!!” during a Senate debate.

As the working class, we're supposed to be against the man who has the vast wine cellar, the yachting advice, the cavernous library and the ability to use words like manumission in proper context during a unscripted televised debate. According to Thomas Frank and all of his pseudo-intellectual, pro-populist muckrakers, our leaders should bow down to the Mob when the Mob commands it, and if anyone strays from the Mob, it is because they are “deranged”, as he laments in his book that I badly reviewed. These people believe that people like Mr. Buckley are the true establishment, one that has stood the test of time since the Pilgrims landed. The creation of the social welfare state that has a budget of over a trillion dollars and has cowed even the most free market of Republican leaders apparently isn't an establishment, but a radical rebellion still in motion.

John Adams, a great lawmaker and philosopher of an ordered society, believed in a natural aristocracy. Unlike the monarchical heredity they fought to detach from, he said this new elite would grow based on their merits and their God-given abilities. In a free country, men would be able to create their status among the people by working with the people through business, literature or any number of professions. This has shown to be true, as our free expression society has created one of the largest cults in modern history; that of the celebrity. I find it amusing that we're willing to allow our movie and music stars to attain the status of kings and queens, princes and princesses, philosophers and thinkers with questionable theories, but our actual leaders must be our friends, our buddies, people like us or we'll mock them endlessly for being successful.

Mr. Buckley was part of this natural growth of merit, and he enjoyed debating people who also were part of that growth, even if they didn't believe in it. He hosted a decades-long running television program called Firing Line where he debated various intellectuals. The program wasn't like the shows of today where you have two talking heads scream at each other for a few minutes and then laugh about it before moving on to the oddity story of the day. Nor was this show like the CNN show Crossfire, which pitted Democratic and Republican Party attack dogs against each other in attempts to out rhetoric and out insult each other (amusingly, the show was canceled after comedian Jon Stewart declared it hurtful for America). What was debated on Mr. Buckley's show was deep, articulate and timely. I honestly can't name a show that would pass for Firing Line today. Maybe The Charlie Rose Show? Its an interview show, though. At least that beats out Larry King asking the father of Bristol Palin's baby exactly where he had sex with her or encouraging Megan McCain to rant on how creepy Karl Rove is. Rove's only crime was to add her to the vast number of Twitter accounts he follows, which doesn't mean he's actually reading her in-depth posts on how awesome it is not to work on the weekend.

Its a natural human urge to identify oneself with a common class. Marxism is based on the idea that all workers feel for all other workers. Fascism is based on that all citizens of a nation feel for all the other citizens of the nation. But, its not how the world is. We can elect people who relate to us. We can vote for John McCain because he was a vet. We can vote for Barack Obama because he grew up poor. We can vote for Sarah Palin because she's authentic small town conservative. We can vote based on our emotional reaction to a speech or our indignation at someone's shoes or their wardrobe, but that's really not the way we should be choosing who gets to make the hard choices in our society.

I am not an elite by any means. I'm a security guard with a blog, a wife and a sardine can apartment in a working class off-shoot of Salt Lake City. I don't have a associates (my Canadian degree doesn't have an equivalence in the US), let alone a PhD, as much as I'd like to pursue one. I don't like wine. I don't really know that many big words, let alone release a book of them like Mr. Buckley did. If I were to get a boat, it would have a gas motor and I'd use it to fish or just to lay in while getting swarmed by mosquitoes. I will never be one of the country club conservatives that Mr. Buckley was and Thomas Frank despises (from his token column at the Wall Street Journal, of all places), but I realize the need for people like Mr. Buckley. We need our intellectual elites. We need our country club men. We need examples to aspire to, like Mr. Buckley, and examples to avoid, like Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff.

A nation run by the Mob is a country based on the whims of the collective (that includes the conservatives). A nation run on whims is one that loses its place more often than it finds it. People want their houses without the mortgage and their credit without the interests. They want the beauty without the surgery and the money without the work. Despite how aghast Thomas Frank and the populist ilk would be at such so-called snobbery, we need people like Mr. Buckley to tell them that its simply not workable, as well as being immoral and just plain concupiscent. [1]

1. The Lexicon: A cornucopia of wonderful words for the inquisitive word lover. William F. Buckley, Jr. Harvest Original. p.31


DocAmazing said...

Glad you need an aristocracy to keep watch over you; the rest of us like democracy and are willing to fight for it.

At least pull the curtains before you fellate the wealthy. Not everybody wants to watch that.

Jordan said...

Glad you think the lowest common denominator is the greatest expression of our nation. Let's just forget about those with natural ability. Praise the drug addicted pregnant teenager. She is the icon of our struggle!

yukio ngaby said...

Careful about how you determine the elite, though. I think it was William F. Buckley himself who said he'd rather pick random people out of the phone book to run the country then have the Ivy Leagues do it.

Elites and classes have a way of erecting themselves, not unlike market economics. Rather than looking for Russell Kirk's "natural" distinctions (so close to racism and classism it makes me very uneasy) I think people have to trust the humanist qualities and characteristics of rep. democracies. It's not going to be great all the time, but the alternative is far worse (and keeps tried disasterously in other countries-- esp. Latin America and Eastern Europe).

Jordan said...

That's very true, yukio. Its a fine line between the elite I am talking about (or the ones I think I'm taking about) and a landed aristocracy that DocAmazing is talking about.

Off topic, but have you read The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America? It has a great profile on Kirk.

DocAmazing said...

Actually, a landed aristocracy is unneccessary--you & yours have been busy osculating the glutes of the financial class for quite while now, with the result that the people who crashed the economy will lose nothing for their risking other people's money. But hey, that's the free market! Oh, isn't...but heym, those people are smart and important and we're damn lucky to have 'em...

Jordan said...

If you find support for corporatism on this blog, let me know. Because I sure as hell don't and neither does Michelle.

As for your very obvious class warfare views, if you're so sure that the merit-based hierarchy is so bad, then move to North Korea. I hear that "intellectuals" such as yourself are welcomed. Mind the bodies tho, those people were stupid enough to think that their natural abilities meant they could excel. Sorry, the collective doesn't want that. The collective wants you just like everyone else!

DocAmazing said...

Merit-based! You're a scream!

I swear, I get more laughs from your posts...