Educated Elites Part 2
Posted on September 22, 2016
So how is it possible to reconcile a model of the egalitarianism spectrum (or the wealth spectrum or the haves versus have-nots spectrum) with the fact that right-wing, radical, so-called “populist” Trumpites are aligned with the haves, while the educated elites (or EEs) are aligned with the have-nots?
Trump’s right-wing radicals are easy enough to understand. In every case they are seeking anti-egalitarian goals: suppressing blacks, putting women in their (former) place, establishing dominance of their religion over other religions, putting down labor unions, getting government off the backs of wealthy business people, reversing sexual liberation. That makes their alignment with the anti-egalitarian haves entirely natural.
However the EEs are bit harder to grasp. How can it be consistent for people who may be in the top 10% income class to align with the have-nots?
One important point is that there is no natural dividing line between the haves and have-nots. In a democracy, a governing coalition can include anywhere between around 51% to 99% of the voters. EEs at even the 99%tile of income have family incomes under $400,000. They have essentially nothing in common with billionaires, whose family incomes would typically range from $100M to $1B. Hence the EEs can be said to share a common interest with almost everyone else in increasing the tax load on billionaires.
Another point is that the wealth spectrum is purely notional. In reality, the haves are always engaged in pushing wedge issues that split the potential coalition of the have-nots. Hence you will never see a pure coalition of either haves or have-nots. Instead you get mixed coalitions that tend toward one or the other side of the spectrum.
Another way to put this is that ideologies are multidimensional. In particular, there are many different ideologies that support piecemeal egalitarianism: women’s liberation, black liberation, sexual liberation, poverty alleviation, health insurance socialization, voting rights reform, campaign finance reform, civil liberties, and so on. (There are a roughly equal number of anti-egalitarian ideologies.) Very few groups in the political area truly support egalitarianism across the board (e.g. the ACLU does not support economic rights). Hence the coalition of the have-nots at any point in time consists in a somewhat motley coalition of interest groups with relatively selfish interests directed to particular forms of equality, together with a minority of real progressives who are concerned with equality in general.
In this melting pot of liberations and equilizations, the EEs have a natural place. As intellectuals concerned with making the system work, many of them are true apostles of social efficiency. As I keep arguing, true social efficiency means making full use of all human resources. That can only happen when we have substantial equality in access to education, health care, nutrition, leisure time, and all the other necessary inputs to full participation in the life of a society.