Friday, Aug 01, 2014
Columns

The invisible imperial class


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Let's set this up by starting with two former private sector behemoths - Microsoft and Nokia. In recent years Microsoft hasn't had a significant role in any of the new technologies and had its first quarterly loss in 2012.

Its response was to buy a failing Nokia that once had a 65 percent share of the phone market, which has since plummeted to 15 percent losing its dominant position to Samsung - a rising star. Such examples abound with the likes of long-forgotten Studebaker, and more recently, IBM.

Analysts have always argued that this fate is part of the natural progression in the life cycle of private sector companies. The lack of innovation, mistakes in management's judgment and competition leads to failure.

Not so with the invisible imperial class in the U.S. - imperial in the sense of an ageless, eternal royalty, such as in the United Kingdom. As the saying goes, "The King is dead. Long live the King," referring to the transfer of sovereignty which occurs immediately upon the death of the previous monarch.

The invisible imperial class in the U.S. is a timeless amalgamation of power circles consisting of elected (including former elected) officials, lobbyists, financial power brokers, media and intellectual elitists, and the legendary celebrity hostesses, who introduce the new rising stars to the power circle upon the deaths of tribal members; thus keeping the cabal clued together.

There is a conceptual Chinese wall between the great unwashed - the middle and upper middle-class American - and the imperial class; but not to avoid conflicts of interest - in fact many of its members personify conflicting interests. This metaphorical wall simply ensures their invisibility to the general public. And these are the people whose tentacles are all over our personal lives.

There are quite a number of distinctly different moving parts to this circle of power, yet they all have one thing in common: they overwhelmingly endorse a culture and an economic system that is government centered. Given the size of our population and land mass, this renders them practically invisible.

How did they get so powerful? Answer; they simply maintain their power inside the Beltway.

This starts with elected politicians who are not term limited, so over the years they build up large staffs of powerful aides and chiefs of staff.

These people never go away. The guest list of any shindig organized by a Washington celebrity hostess will include former powerful elected officials - senators and congresspersons -who now ply their trade as lobbyists, often having been lobbied by the very firm that lobbied them when they were serving in Congress.

Included in this mélange are all sorts of former federal employees or former members of the staffs of former elected officials - not to forget those who are on the payroll of the public affairs department of large corporations. Moreover, the PACs of these large corporations are a lucrative source of campaign contributions. This self-perpetuating crowd is by design indestructible and is an integral part of the larger permanent invisible, imperial class.

Then there are the family members who lobby their relatives in the House and the Senate. In reporting on one scandal the Washington Post revealed that "56 relatives of lawmakers have been paid to influence Congress. More than 500 firms have spent more than $400 million on lobbying teams that include the relatives of members."

Mainstream media outlets - an integral part of the imperial class - supply reporters, journalists, and TV personalities who are highly respected by inside-the-Beltway society. Not so the loathed conservative Fox News channel journalist crowd which provides the only other media viewpoint.

The Ivy League intellectual elite and the world of finance go hand in hand. The Christian Monitor endorsed a widely accepted thesis that liberal to-the-core Harvard causes income inequality by sending all its MBAs to Wall Street. They speak of the "brain drain into finance and consulting fields that produces very little and in fact leech off of other industries."

I would agree with the observation about income inequality, but argue that Harvard or the Ivy League does not leech off the government "industry." These are very talented social liberals who migrate to Wall Street, then on to U. S. Treasury. So in essence, Treasury becomes Wall Street south with Harvard alumni. Broadly speaking, Ivy League types are at the vanguard of the liberal progressives and an integral part of a permanent imperial class. Like the private sector, they too make mistakes in judgment, and fail to innovate, by clinging to the liberal progressive dogma, but unlike private companies, they pay no price for failure. They have no natural life cycle.

A one size fits all solution would be for the leadership in academia to require that university curricula include courses on conservative thought, conservative traditions, and conservative thinkers (Political science, for one). After all, this is what a liberal education is all about - diversity of thought. This requirement would at least balance out the knowledge that students acquire in U.S. universities where faculties and lecture are dominated by progressive scholars who mischaracterize or totally ignore conservatism. It would require recruiting top tier scholars of conservative thought - but not necessarily conservatives. In places like Harvard; it would make for valuable debate - which is hardly likely in the current environment where everyone who thinks the same thing is not being taught competing ideas. Imagine classes in journalism being exposed to the conservative tradition in the writings of Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville and Adam Smith.

Consider this mostly ignored fact. The levers of power remain in the hands of the progressive imperial class. The ideology of its leadership is shaped in the hallowed halls of elite Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard before they move on to careers in Washington, the media and Wall Street.

It is no small coincidence that the President Obama, Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew, and New York Times' editor Allison Mitchell are all Harvard grads.

John Reiniers is a retired attorney and regular columnist who lives in Spring Hill.

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