Salvo 07.26.2023 10 minutes

You Got a License for that Tyranny?

Manipulator concept vector illustration. Puppet master hands manipulate man mind, silhouette. Domination exploitation background. Mental control ropes

The internal contradictions that fuel the regime draw a tightening noose around America's neck.

We live in such strange times that even the most banal cliches are being overturned. For example, “That which can’t go on forever, won’t.” Is that still true?

The premise of the cliché is that people behave more or less reasonably, and that society is functioning normally. Under those conditions, obvious contradictions in public policy and socio-economic trends simply can’t persist; they have to resolve themselves one way or the other. But are we living under normal conditions?

Consider one obvious example that seems to defy common sense. In most blue states and cities, the members of our leftist ruling class consistently enact policies that degrade their own quality of life. Why do the wealthy, Democrat residents of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco continue to make those cities so disgusting and dangerous for themselves? Of course, many residents of California, Illinois and other Democrat-dominated states are relocating to less dysfunctional places like Idaho, Arizona, and Colorado. This includes large numbers of proud liberals, who are often too sanctimonious to learn anything, and so they bring their deranged voting preferences with them, pushing the same policies that destroyed the states they are fleeing. These “blue locusts,” as they are sometimes called, devoured their previous habitat and are now looking for greener fields to feed on.  

Despite their disregard for the long-term consequences (including for their own children), these social parasites demonstrate a certain short-term and ruthless self-interest. What’s harder to understand is the thinking of those who stay behind and continue to support politicians and programs that exacerbate the squalor, crime, and decaying infrastructure of their own neighborhoods. Presumably, these urban hipsters feel a certain moral superiority in “authentically” embracing their ideological purity, rejecting bourgeois values like feces-free streets and not being assaulted or raped in broad daylight. Although it seems insane to the red voters in fly-over country, this spiral into urban barbarism shows no signs of abating.

A more important, and more complicated, contradiction embraced by our bureaucratic oligarchy is the tension between credentialed expertise and anti-rational postmodernism.

On the one hand, a genteel mafiosi of Ivy League graduates controls the highest levels of the federal administrative state, corporate executive suites, major law firms, and of course academia. This self-conscious managerial class not only shares the same socio-economic interests, but is united by the unshakeable belief that its elite education and training qualifies it to rule over both the public and private sectors (which can hardly be distinguished any more) without the consent of the uneducated masses. This problem is not limited to the United States. An important new book published in Germany discusses “expertocracy” in Europe.

At the same time, however, these elites are undermining the foundations of objective science and technical rationality on which their expertise depends. Thanks to the misplaced arrogance and missteps of Anthony Fauci and the massive federal public health apparatus he came to represent, an unserious military leadership, and hostile incompetence in both government and big business, most Americans no longer trust our establishment institutions, which seem utterly preoccupied with ideological posturing. The most prestigious universities, meanwhile, are rapidly spending down what little intellectual capital and credibility they retain in pursuit of racial equity and absurd academic dogmas that declare empirical evidence, academic rigor, and objective truth to be constructs of white hegemony. It is an open question how long the elites can continue to believe their own propaganda. They demand that the American people “follow the science” (which the experts of course interpret) while simultaneously embracing the postmodern doctrine that reality is just a language game, and truth is merely a function of power.

A widely discussed essay in the current issue of The Atlantic by Jason Blakely intelligently examines part of this problem. Science, he argues, has descended into scientism, arrogating to itself all manner of non-scientific questions of morality and politics, while cloaking a partisan agenda in claims of objectivity.

The difficult truth is that scientists, doctors, and other public health experts are on the same level as ordinary citizens when it comes to thinking through questions of political and ethical significance. Science offers them no special insight or authority in this domain. There is no science that can determine what is meaningful, no way for experts to quantify what values we ought to prioritize. Likewise, no one culture is simply scientific and rational. Rather, a plurality of ethical and political positions can avail themselves of the latest science.

Because he approaches this problem from the Left, however, Blakely doesn’t appreciate some key aspects of this problem. For one, he doesn’t consider how we can discuss moral and political questions under an official orthodoxy of radical atheism and relativism. What is the common ground of our moral deliberations? Nor does he consider the challenge within the ruling class, discussed above, of how to reconcile rational administration by credentialed experts with postmodern dogmatism and racial equity. Either the elite managerial class rules on the basis of superior merit or it doesn’t: racial quotas are an impossible attempt to have it both ways.

In my own contribution to this difficult subject, I try to clarify some of the philosophical and theoretical issues that the Atlantic essay overlooks. I attempt to explain that the political Left, which seems to dominate virtually all aspects of American life, is emphatically progressive and anti-traditional, and therefore much more indebted to modern philosophy than the Right. But the power it draws from being cutting edge and philosophically sophisticated also makes it self-contradictory and incoherent.

For the moment, these tensions—between scientific expertise, racial justice, and nihilistic dogmas—don’t appear to affect the Left’s political dominance. Yet the United States is still relatively peaceful, prosperous, and secure. Some kind of calamity—perhaps a financial collapse or an urgent military threat—could challenge the Left’s hegemony and expose its intellectual contradictions. In that case, it would be useful to explore some of the basic issues in political philosophy that have brought us to the present crisis. To end with a shameless plug, that’s what my new book attempts to do.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading from the editors

to the newsletter