In the post-World War II era, an invigorated form of democratic capitalism, promoting the bourgeois virtues of self-development, discipline, hard-work, loyalty, family, and community, gave millions of Americans the opportunity to enter the ranks of the middle class.
But that way of life is rapidly declining thanks to the growing power of wealthy tech oligarchs and their intellectual sycophants who are contemptuous of middle-class values and reject the fundamental democratic premise that people may be relied on to govern themselves.
This frightening development is the subject of a new book by one of the nation’s leading social scientists, Joel Kotkin, Executive Director of the Houston-based Urban Reform Institute and Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in California.
In "The Coming of Neo-Feudalism – A Warning to the Global Middle Class," Kotkin contends a new aristocracy, led by technology oligarchs, is dominating America’s political landscape and imposing a new form of feudalism that favors inheritors and is turning working-class folks into mere vassals.
And the thought leaders and opinion makers providing the intellectual fodder for the newly ordained aristocrats, Kotkin calls, the "clerisy."
The term "clerisy" was conceived by the 19th century poet and critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He "envisioned a group of secular intellectuals guarding society with their knowledge, as the cultural role of the church waned."
The 21st century clerisy, Kotkin points out, has similar traits.
They "are the people who dominate the global web of cultural creators, academia, the media, and even much of what remains of traditional religious institutions."
The collaboration between the ultra-rich and the clerisy is based on the shared belief that scientific formulas and progressive ideologies about globalism, environmentalism and gender must replace what they consider dated bourgeois values.
This phenomenon is destroying liberal dynamism, eliminating intellectual diversity, diminishing social mobility and destroying the middle class.
As tech billionaires are acquiring monopolistic or duo-polistic power, they are becoming an "exclusive ruling class."
Their huge surplus wealth has also permitted them to expand their power base by infiltrating and dominating "older industries like entertainment, finance, education, and retail, as well as industries of the future: autonomous cars, drones, space exploration, and most critically artificial intelligence."
Kotkin argues that "middle and working classes are expected to become marginal" because the high-tech despots have created a "scientific caste system" of technicians and engineers that has "little place for upward mobility, except within the charmed circle at the top."
To keep the marginalized folks — or deplorables as some on the left call them — under control, the uber-rich are supportive of "oligarchical socialism."
They favor guaranteed annual income and other "free" social services "in part to allay fears of insurrection by a vulnerable and struggling workforce."
In other words, the uber-rich and their intellectual cohorts want to buy off working-class folks, hoping over time this inferior surplus population decreases.
An example of the future that has arrived is California.
The nation’s most populous state, where Kotkin has lived for over 50 years, “suffers large-scale middle and working-class outmigration and the highest poverty rate, adjusted for costs, of any state.”
Thanks to government policies driven by gated community tech geek residents, the clerisy and San Francisco and Hollywood beautiful people, California’s "level of inequality is greater than Mexico."
Eighty percent of the new jobs created in California during the past decade were "below the median income and half of those under $40,000."
And many low-paying workers are employed by the elites to clean their mansions and to manicure their lawns.
California’s low paying jobs, skyrocketing housing prices and rents, onerous government regulations, failed schools and the highest state income taxes in the nation, are driving what’s left of the middle class to Texas and other greener economic pastures.
"We are moving," Kotkin writes, “toward a future that most of us may not desire, with highly concentrated property ownership, a concerted drive for even greater urban density, few families, and a declining middle class.”
The nation will become what social scientist Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," calls "an incipient class apartheid."
Whether we can muster the resolve to assert our place as engaged citizens, Kotkin concludes, "will determine the kind of world our children inherit."
Yes, if there is not a revolt against these trends, the United States could become China-lite, whereas Big Brother monitors and regulates every aspect of our lives based on the ideological priorities of the ruling class.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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