New Orleans I’m sorry, but whenever there’s a subhead in the Wall Street Journal in bold, italics heralding “Power and Respect for the Working Class,” it’s a signal that we have to pay special attention to what the professor might be saying. This one turned out to be Michael Lind from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from his new book, The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite.” Yes, it’s true that every time we turn around these days, we find out there’s a new class war it seems. Usually, it’s the same class war with new recruits attacking the same old targets, low and moderate income and working families.
Professor Lind has an interesting argument though and the heart of it follows, so here goes:
“The new class war is very real – and the managerial class is winning. A few decades ago, corporate managers, politicians and university professors had distinct subcultures. No longer. What we might call ‘woke capitalism’ represents a fusion of the three elites at the commanding heights of the economy, the culture and politics; they increasingly constitute a single conformist caste.
“This newly consolidated ruling class is best described as ‘liberaltarian,’ combining moderately libertarian views in economics with cultural progressivism in values. From its citadels in a few big cities, this oligarchy periodically notifies the working-class majority what values and opinions about sex, immigration and other topics it must immediately adopt without debate, on pain of being blacklisted by the private sector, prosecuted by government or censored or erased by the media.
“Many elites in history have justified hereditary privileges by a doctrine of noblesse oblige, which imposes special military or economic obligations on members of the ruling class. But today’s managerial elite is different. The pretense that it springs solely from ‘merit’ – from individual talent and hard work – creates a false sense of superiority for its members, stoking resentment among their fellow citizens, who are defined as failures in fair competition.
“The managerial overclasses of the West understand that the policies they prefer on trade, immigration, entitlements and other issues are unpopular and can be threatened by voter rebellions. That is why for the last few generations they have sought to remove decision-making authority from legislatures, which are somewhat accountable to working-class majorities, and deliver it to administrative agencies, courts, and transnational institutions such as the European Union.”
It’s an interesting argument. Not a perfect one, obviously, but it hits enough of the issues squarely to be worth serious consideration.
He goes on to argue that unions have been “driven into virtual extinction,” but argues that the solution is that “21st-century equivalents are needed, in the form of mass membership organizations accountable to working-class people rather than to elite donors or grantors. Only genuine bottom-up institutions can allow working-class citizens to exercise countervailing power against the elite by pooling the only resource they have: their numbers.”
I’m a thousand percent behind that recommendation. Let’s keep this professor in mind. I have my ear cocked to the wind, because I swear for a minute it seems like he’s singing our song!