Oligarchy is not good.
….But as soon as the people got leaders, they cooperated with them against the dynasty for the reasons I have mentioned; and then kingship and despotism were alike entirely abolished, and aristocracy once more began to revive and start afresh. For in their immediate gratitude to those who had deposed the despots, the people employed them as leaders, and entrusted their interests to them; who, looking upon this charge at first as a great privilege, made the public advantage their chief concern, and conducted all kinds of business, public or private, with diligence and caution.
16 But when the sons of these men received the same position of authority from their fathers-having had no experience of misfortunes, and none at all of civil equality and freedom of speech, but having been bred up from the first under the shadow of their fathers’ authority and lofty position-some of them gave themselves up with passion to avarice and unscrupulous love of money, others to drinking and the boundless debaucheries which accompanies it, and others to the violation of women or the forcible appropriation of boys; and so they turned an aristocracy into an oligarchy. But it was not long before they roused in the minds of the people the same feelings as before; and their fall therefore was very like the disaster which befell the tyrants.
I have made, from time to time, the observation that the elite in American society is trending in its favored policies toward conscious promotion of oligarchy. Over at The Committee of Public Safety, Joseph Fouche quoted a theorist, retired CIA analyst Patrick E. Kennon, who is a delighted advocate of a coming technocratic oligarchy:
“Now, as we enter the twenty-first century, the future of the nation-state is much in doubt…Indeed, tribalism has revived with a brutal savagery from Rwanda and Cambodia to the newly dissolved USSR and the newly unified Germany…At the same time, a kind of shadow empire…is being embraced by elites around the globe. UN bureaucrats and Greenpeace activists, Carlos the Jackal and Mother Theresa, Toyota and Amnesty International, the Cali drug cartel and the World Bank, people who worry about the dollar-yen ratio and people who worry about the ozone layer, all of these consciously or unconsciously look to empire for their profit or salvation. All of these have largely given up on the nation.”
Oligarchs elevate self-interest and class interest over national interest, it’s the signature of oligarchy, be it the Thirty Tyrants or the Soviet nomenklatura. Milovan Djilas knew what the hell he was writing about as much as did Thucydides.
What to do?
The proto-oligarchical class in America, the elite who are the product of “the good schools”, tend to embrace and celebrate progressive taxation and diversity as high moral principles. What if we applied them?
The gateway to membership in the elite and opportunities for fabulous wealth and power runs through the admissions offices of our best universities, the Ivy League and a few other select intitutions and a handful of old, highly exclusive, liberal arts colleges. What if we put a special surtax on the purchase of tuition on a sliding scale that correlated with how many generations that members of a family have matriculated at such schools? Plus a few other tweaks here and there.
For example, a student who is the first in their family to go to college and was accepted by Yale would not be taxed at all, perhaps instead, they would be subsidized with a free ride for four years. But someone like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, a Dartmouth grad who was the son of a Dartmouth grad and a Ford Foundation executive, his kids might face a steep penalty, maybe a $ 250,000 per annum fee on top of tuition, then an additional surcharge to their income tax rates if they entered government service or certain professions like, say, hedge fund management, for the next couple of decades. Entering a different field, say becoming a social worker, a bowling alley manager or a policeman would not incur any income tax surcharge.
We can argue about the appropriate level of progressive taxation but the basic idea is that we could make it increasingly expensive for a family to continue to perpetuate itself, generation after generation, at the political and economic heart of American power. Not impossible, that would be un-American, but very, very expensive.
The net result would be far greater “diversity” at our flagship educational institutions – far more white ethnics whose last names end in vowels, Catholics, Jews, Eastern Orthodox, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Southerners, Midwesterners and Westerners, people hailing from small towns or blue collar socioeconomic backgrounds. Currently favored demographic groups might be markedly reduced under such a system but since most of them come from long established UMC to UC families with great connections, they’ll be ok even going to Big State U. and getting a third tier school degree. No worries.