This long, rambling post by Jonathan Haidt is interesting for a number of reasons. Haidt is one of the few mainstream intellectuals who takes the hate-thinker community seriously. He’s not an ally, but he does not dismiss, out of hand, the cultural and moral arguments coming from the Right. Recently he has been writing about the popular resistance to globalism popping up all over the West. He appears to be searching for a way to reconcile elite globalism with what I call national populism.
Given what is happening at the ballot box, the next big thing among public intellectuals will be crafting ways to repackage globalism in order to make it more palatable to a skeptical public. The political class is in a panic, as all their old tricks are suddenly not fooling anyone. As a result, there is a demand for new rhetoric and tactics, but also a demand for new polices that will appeal to the voters. One thing public intellectuals do not do is miss an opportunity to monetize a crisis.
The trouble they will run into, as they search around for ways to sound a more populist tone, is that the underpinnings of the managerial class are incompatible with national populism. In fact, a big reason for the populist rumblings is the otherness of the people in charge of our societies. Turn on a television and the news is full of smug experts dismissively discussing the “white working class” and the “uneducated males” as if they were describing a trip to the African bush. There’s no way to make that sound good.
It is not just a matter of aesthetics. Even if you can somehow knock the smug off these people and give them a respectful vocabulary, they are still left trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. For instance, patriotism and multiculturalism can never coexist. The former assumes a set of value judgments based on nationality and ethnicity. The latter explicitly rejects those values. In fact, multiculturalism is nothing more than the nullification of patriotism and nationalism. There’s no squaring that circle.
The bigger issue is that the prevailing morality of the managerial class rests upon a set of contradictions that can never be reconciled. For instance, we are forever lectured about the glories of diversity. In fact, “diverse” has become an abracadabra word for our betters. Cruise through the on-line job advertisements and you will find a phrase about how the firm celebrates diversity. Marketing firms go to ridiculous lengths to make sure their ads have lots of diversity, even when it has no value to the sales pitch.
Yet, if anyone dares notice diversity in public, the people in charge will land on him like Puritan witch hunters. One of the hilarious parts of reading crime stories is how the reporters go to great lengths to conceal the race of the criminal. We end up with stories about a “tall man with a red cap” being jailed for murder. The result of this absurd contradiction is that diversity has become synonymous with danger and the promotion of it erodes trust in the people promoting it.
Similarly, the ruling class makes a fetish of democracy and free speech. We’re constantly told that the end point of human society is one where all people have a say in government and can speak freely in public. Yet, we see the ruling class working to defeat the results of democracy and cripple the free exchange of ideas. The systemic rigging of the Democratic primary is one example. The shenanigans on the social media platforms to eliminate dissent reveals a deep distrust of free speech and the marketplace of ideas.
For the managerial class, democracy is just a bus to ride from one point to another. Once the destination is reached, they get off the bus. The votes on gay marriage are a good example. They kept having votes until the right answer was reached. When that failed, they just had the court reference the invisible amendments to declare gay marriage a time honored natural right. This happened in Europe with referendums on he EU. Voting became a meaningless exercise to keep up appearances.
The fact is, the meritocratic system that supports the managerial class is ruthlessly authoritarian. If you don’t check the right boxes, you cannot advance. This system is by design intended to boil off anything resembling dissent or innovation. It is why the Buckley Right locked shields with the Left in opposition to Trump. Their loyalty is to a system that has bestowed credentials and honors on them, along with a lifestyle they could never achieve outside in the dreaded private sector. Political ideology is just a decoration.
A system that cannot tolerate dissent and makes war on anything that challenges it, cannot be made compatible with popular resistance to its polices. The managerial class can search about for tactics and language to try and square this circle, but they are faced with an irrepressible conflict. We either have normal countries with popular governments, responsive to the will of the people, or, we have an authoritarian, technocratic managerial state. It’s one or the other, but not both.