The primary concern for any ruling elite is to remain the ruling elite, which means they must always look out for the peasant revolt. By definition, ruling elites are a minority population that rules over the majority. The relationship between the elite and the masses must be asymmetrical, which is why there are no elites that are poorer than the people over whom they rule. Combined with the numerical disparately this makes managing the relationship a primary concern for elites.
Second, but still in the primary group of concerns, is the palace coup, which is a way of saying instability in the elite class. There is a hierarchy within every elite and elites are composed of humans with a fixed lifespan. This means the people at the top of the elite class will not be there forever. This gives hope to younger members at the bottom who have ambitions about rising up the ranks. Every ruling elite needs a way to control this so that the elite can appear unified to the masses.
To see how this works, one only has to consider the most common form of rule in human history, which is monarchy. The king must always balance the needs of the people against the needs of his family, but he must also balance the interests of the prominent families against one another and his own interests. The king does not want angry peasants showing up at his castle, but he also has to make sure the nobility thinks he is their best bet to remain a nobility.
This is the key to the monarch’s success. The nobility, the church and the peasants all have to see the king as their best chance at peace and prosperity. If any of the three begins to see the king as the cause of their troubles or a threat to their position, they no longer have a reason to support the king. Maintaining the balance, therefore, requires the king to be the very symbol of order. It is only in an orderly world that you can be sure that your interest will be protected.
In the modern age, the same rules apply, but they are expressed in more abstract and arbitrary terms. For example, the party in charge is responsible for keeping a good economy, which is not always easy to quantify. Even in the best of times, there are people unhappy with the economy. In the booming 1980’s, the working classes were not happy because their jobs were being sold off to foreigners. The middle-class was thrilled because their jobs were booming.
That three-legged stool on which monarchy rests, the nobility, the church, and the peasantry, does not work in a liberal democracy. No one is loyal to anyone in liberal systems because we are all individuals. What fosters cooperation is individual loyalty to a set of ideas that define the system. The three-legged stool of monarchy is replaced with economics, security, and culture in a liberal democracy, which is held together by trust in the official holders and the institutions.
If you look at American elections going back since the dawn of this liberal democratic empire, they have always been about the same topics. Economics is always a top concern of voters and the pols seeking their vote. Security is a close second, expressed as crime fighting or foreign policy initiatives. The third item always on the list is something from the culture war that never ends. Elections turn on which side is most trusted at the moment on these items.
Go back to the beginning and you see it in presidents. Eisenhower was trusted on foreign policy because that was the top concern. Kennedy won in 1960 because the culture was becoming the top concern and Nixon was not viewed as a trustworthy political actor, despite his competence on other issues. Nixon won in 1968 by appealing to Southerners on cultural and security grounds. He also won votes from other regions due to his foreign policy credentials.
While democracy obscures elites from the people, the superficial aspects of the system operate by the oldest of rules. The people will generally support those who are most trusted on the pressing issues of the day. If it is the economy, then the side viewed as sympathetic to that issue will do well. When people are concerned about the culture, then those viewed as normal will triumph over those indulging in cultural experimentation and novelty.
This brings us back to the needs of the ruling elite. The dynamics of democracy are supposed to address both of their primary concerns. On the one hand, it is a useful feedback loop to keep the peasants from revolting. Instead of angry peasants showing up at the castle with a list of demands, the peasants select the options presented by the ruling class on election day. The rulers then know where to fix their attention and the peasants feel like their concerns are being addressed.
Of course, elections and the industry around them help solve the other problem within the elite, which is the palace coup. Elections are a sort of scoreboard used by elites to settle differences between the sides. It also helps them gauge how the peasants are responding to elite initiatives. This prevents elites from imposing polices that are good for the elite, but hated by the peasants. It reinforces the survival logic that must guide the internal behavior of all ruling elites.
If we look back at the two great revolutions in Western history, we can see how this natural order was at the center of the revolt. In pre-revolutionary France, the peasants were facing increasing pressure economically. The nobility was increasingly at odds with the king. The church was coming under pressure by the changing cultural landscape brought on by new ideas. All three legs of the system were faltering while trust in the king was declining.
Tsarist Russia faced a similar crisis. On the one hand, the peasants were under pressure from the changing economic conditions of the empire. On the other hand, the urban working class was demanding reform. The conservative culture was failing the peasants, but it was in opposition to the workers. The fracturing culture threatened the position of the nobility. Instead of being that which held the system together, the Tsar was increasingly viewed as the problem.
When you look at the current crisis, you first see that the feedback loop that allows the elite to take the temperature of the peasants is broken. The elite stopped trusting the election system after 2016. The elite response to this collapse in trust resulted in the peasants losing trust in the system in 2020. In other words, the trust system is collapsing on both sides of the relationship. This is what makes the debate over economics, security, and culture so bizarre.
The disconnect can be seen in the issues. The people are worried about the collapse of the American system, but the elites are pushing radical cultural fads like pedophilia and ritual child mutilation. The people are increasingly concerned for their safety, but elites are unleashing black criminals and promising global war. Inflation remains the top concern for Americans, but both parties ignore it. The political system and the voters are two ships passing in the night.
When you look at the other half of the elite concerns, the palace coup, it is clear that the elites are highly paranoid about one another. The behavior of the secret police toward the political class reflects that loss of trust in the political system. The increasing narrowness of debate within the media reflects the general fear of being seen as disloyal to the system. The people at the top are not just paranoid about the peasants but they also fear their own people.
Following the loss of the Russo-Japanese war, a delegation of liberal reformers led by an aristocrat named Sergei Trubetskoi went to the Tsar and told him that the people still trusted him, but they could no longer tolerate the chaos. In other words, it was not the policies of the Tsar that were causing civil unrest. It was the failure of those polices to restore order. Therefore, reform was needed to restore trust. The Tsar seemed to agree and then set about doing the opposite.
What followed was increased activity by the secret police and the unleashing of gangs loyal to the regime. Like Antifa, the SPLC, the ADL and the other regime aligned toadies and thugs, the Black Hundred set upon anyone suspected of questioning the Tsar or the tsarist system. Disorder was met by elite policies that created more disorder. Tsarist Russia was plunged into a spiral of declining trust by the one thing that held the system together, the Tsar himself.
The relevance to this age should be obvious. The current unrest is not due to incompetence or perfidy among the political class. That is an issue, but that has always been a feature of the liberal system. The cause of the current unrest is a collapse of trust in the system itself. In order to preserve their status, the elite is acting outside the agreed upon rules. This further erodes the peasant’s trust in the system, which feeds the elite distrust of the peasantry.
America is rapidly approaching that point where the calls for reform contradict the demands for order. The elite can initiate reform, but this puts their position at risk, so they view calls for reform as a physical threat. Therefore they choose to impose order, which is viewed by the peasants as a threat to their safety. Those two irreconcilable forces, reform and order, end up on the same track heading for a crash. This is never settle by the ballot box, but by the cartridge box.
If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!
Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. The Pepper Cave produces exotic peppers, pepper seeds and plants, hot sauce and seasonings. Their spice infused salts are a great add to the chili head spice armory.
Above Time Coffee Roasters are a small, dissident friendly company that roasts its own coffee and ships all over the country. They actually roast the beans themselves based on their own secret coffee magic. If you like coffee, buy it from these folks as they are great people who deserve your support.
Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start.
Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link. If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb. Just email them directly to book at email@example.com.