More thoughts on the elites versus the people

Yesterday Paul K. posted a penetrating comment that made me pull back from my usual disagreement with the standard conservative view that the “elites” are the main or sole cause of our problems. My position, stated since the early ’90s, is that all groups and societies are represented by their leaders, the “elites,” and therefore to separate the elites from the people and say that only the elites are responsible for bad things that are being done is incorrect. I got that insight partly from Eric Voegelin, with his ideas of representation as stated in The New Science of Politics. But you don’t have to be a political philosopher to understand the point. Radio host Bob Grant repeatedly said in forceful terms that if the people really disagreed with where the elites are leading us, they would DO something about it. But they haven’t done anything about it. They haven’t used their freedom to protest, in a meaningful way, the elites’ directions.

As Paul K. showed, however, the people have done a lot, and everything they’ve done has been shot down by the elites, often through skullduggery. Look at California’s Proposition 8, a popular referendum amending California’s constitution which the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has just declared in violation of the 14th Amendment because it treats same-sex couples differently from heterosexual couples. So the people of a state are not even free to amend their own constitution, the most fundamental act of self-government. The elites will suppress any legitimate act of self-government which goes against the liberal agenda.

And I haven’t even touched yet on the fact that we live in a mass electronic culture where the thoughts and attitudes of the people are managed an all-encompassing manipulative apparatus.

I also haven’t spoken of the aggressive social punishment of individuals who speak against the liberal agenda.

So how can we say that the elites represent the whole society, and that the people are at least constructively responsible along with the elites for the society’s direction, when the elites massively control the people’s thoughts and obstruct and punish any deviation by the people from the elites’ orthodoxy?

However, that is not the end of the topic. There is still the recourse to mass legal protests, to mass illegal protests, to revolution. The American people have not done any of those things. Our forebears started a revolution over a little tax on tea. We are being turned into the slaves of an evil liberal ideology that aims at our psychic immolation, our political, cultural, and demographic dispossesion, and ultimately our complete destruction as a people, and we won’t even organize a legal mass march against it. So Bob Grant’s point still holds.

It’s a complicated issue. There is no simple way to express it. Within the bounds of ordinary political action, of non-heroic, non-self-sacrificial action, it is true that the elites have suppressed the people, and that the people have accepted this, and therefore the people are responsible along with the elites. However, it is also true that it is not reasonable to expect most people, especially in the conditions of modern society, where people have so much, so many pleasant things in their lives, and also have important responsibilities to their families, and therefore have so much to lose, both for themselves and others, to engage in self-sacrificial, heroic action. Therefore, within the normal conditions of our society, it is the case that the elites have suppressed the people and the people are not responsible for what the elites have done.

At the same time, as American patriots are always declaring, freedom is not cheap. It is not a gift. It must be fought and sacrificed for. If we are not willing to risk our well-being for our freedom, can we honestly say that deserve our freedom?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 10, 2012 07:30 PM | Send

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