Part II of The Coming of Neo Feudalism (2020) anatomizes modern Oligarchs. Chapter 4 (High-Tech Feudalism) shows us how technology is driving a social devolution back to feudalism. Chapter 5 (The Belief System of the New Oligarchy) is a fascinating exploration of how Oligarchs think and what they want. Chapter 6 (Feudalism in California, Harbinger of the Future) examines how the Golden State foreshadows things to come everywhere.
I wrote about Oligarchs here in a 3 part post on 10/27/15, 11/3/15 and 11/10/15 concluding that it is NOT in our best interests for Government to attack Oligarchs. My takeaways in 2015 and now:
- Oligarchs are untouchable – way too powerful to attack via public policy
- Capitalism and wealth inequality are moral and natural
- Forced wealth redistribution is both immoral and impractical
Part II of Joel Kotkin’s new book does a superb job of: 1) Identifying technology as the cause of new feudalism; 2) Probing deeply into the beliefs and motives of the new Oligarchs (immoral arrogance!); and 3) Pointing to California as a case study. The chapter on the belief system of tech Oligarchs was the most enlightening – sending me off for hours and hours of further reading on technological determinism. That term, along with “conspicuous consumption”, was coined by economist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). His book The Theory of the Leisure Class is a classic and yet still sobering explanation on how psychology drives both the economic behavior and moral values of humans, particularly wealthy humans. This article shined light for me on why so many people come to adopt false and destructive beliefs:
The virtue signaling hypocrisy of Oligarchs stems from the fact that they can afford to fake moral righteousness. But it’s just a mask – a pretentious moral and intellectual façade hiding ignoble wannabes. Today’s tech elites, writes Kotkin, are smugly powerful, “long on brilliance, but short on hardship”. They “consider themselves more forward-thinking than the corporate managers of an earlier time”. They have a technocratic worldview, favoring an expanded welfare State but have no intention of allowing their own fortunes to be squeezed. Instead, we, the middle class will foot much of the bill for guaranteed wages, free healthcare, free college and housing. Today’s Oligarchs regard themselves as intrinsically more deserving of their wealth and power than the old managerial elites or the grubby corporate speculators. They believe that they are not just creating value, but building a better world.
What they are doing to manipulate information and control culture is alarming. They have devastated old media forms and seized the largest online “news” outlets. It is one of the reasons for the enormous and increasingly obvious leftist bias in mainstream media today. Their progressive views on gender, race, environmentalism, wealth and power are disturbing and a threat to rationality, reason, objective truth, freedom of thought and open debate.
Next week, we move to their enablers – the “clerisy” in academia and media – close minded intellectuals who persecute wrong think and target their enemies for cancellation. But first, lest ye have any doubt about the tight relationship between intellect, morality and wealth, Friedrich Nietzsche shows us the danger of wealth and pretense.