Sun, Oct 16, 2022 |
By John Schroeder
Filling The Void
Very interesting reading this morning. Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds often uses that blog to promote and make notes as he researches for his column. That seemed obvious to me when I saw this post, which in the end links to his latest in the NY Post. His theme is that we are in a class war, whether we know it or not and whether it is intentional or not. It is an interesting proposition and one that I understand why Reynolds would make. He is a long-time resident of Knoxville, Tennesse where I am moving to in just a few months and where I have owned a home for two years.
Knoxville is Appalachia, with hints of the South – hillbilly country. My own home is less than thirty miles from Pigeon Forge where Dolly Parton grew up in a two-room cabin without electricity, at least for her early life. It was, but is no more, one of the poorest regions in the nation. When I tell some of my California friends I am moving to east Tennessee, the responses are remarkable. Too kind to ask me if I am nuts, they look at me as if I am moving off-planet. And yet I am moving there in large part because socially it reminds of the California I moved to and loved in the mid-80’s – friendly, open-minded, entrepreneurial. Places like east Tennessee are no longer simply “flyover country” they are to be reviled. East Tennessee is everything that was once good about California and yet California has indeed become so classist that they look down their noses at it. To be in that area and travel to others is to know there is unquestionably classism in this nation. That Reynolds would note it and write about it is natural.
In his column, Reynolds notes Joel Kotkin and on the blog links to and quotes extensively one of Kotkin’s latest. Kotkin’s theme is that the current classism among the elite is suicidal, drawing parallels to the periods leading up to the French and Russin revolutions in those countries. Says Kotkin:
Given this vast wealth, we might expect a ruling class with a strong desire to protect capitalist accumulation. But instead, we have one that almost invariably, and perhaps suicidally, adopts progressive positions. Figuring out the psychological personal motivations of this impulse is way above my pay grade, but the economic underpinnings are fairly clear. The elites on Wall Street, and even more so in Silicon Valley, emerged from a highly competitive economy that impressed even leftists. At the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, anti-capitalist demonstrators held moments of silence and prayer for the memory of Steve Jobs, a particularly aggressive capitalist. One progressive writer, David Callahan, portrays the tech oligarchs, along with their allies in the financial sector, as a kind of “benign plutocracy” in contrast to those who built their fortunes on resource extraction, manufacturing, and material consumption.
Yet the tech elite today, as well as their Wall Street allies, no longer resemble the entrepreneurs of the past. The masters of our increasingly “woke” corporate elites are, for the most part, now second-generation bureaucrats presiding over the wealthiest, most pervasive monopolies on the plant. Controlling 90 percent of a market like search (Google), operating system software (Microsoft), dominating the cloud and on-line retail (Amazon) or 90 percent of phones (Google and Apple) does not turn executives into-risk takers but acquirers. Three tech firms now account as well for two-thirds of all on-line advertising revenues, which now represent the vast majority of all ad sales. Once paragons of entrepreneurial vigor, these firms, as Mike Lind has noted, have morphed into exemplars of “tollbooth capitalism,” which receive revenues on transactions that far exceed anything they lose in failed ventures and acquisitions.
Well, while Kotlin claims motivation is “above his pay grade,” I think we need to at least take a shot. I honestly think all we need to understand it is a single quote from G.K. Chesterton:
“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
Our “benign plutocracy” is ungrounded and seeks to fill the void that has created in their lives with self-destructive nonsense.