I was once young and now am old. And the older I get, the less I believe in policies, solutions, or circumstances. Meaning, as an Aristotelian curmudgeon, I simply believe that things act according to their own nature.
Let me explain. Does it really matter if Switzerland devises a public education system or a private one? A nationalized healthcare system or a private one? Whether the Swiss opt for policy A or B is of no substance: They will always have excellent health and education because they are Swiss.
Does it matter if Denmark has a presidential system or a coalition-based relational democracy? Not really. Denmark will always be a well-governed place because it is Danish. I am sure Danish wonks love debating this or that, but zoom out a little bit, view things from the rocking chair of an old man, and it doesn’t matter at all.
So let us shift to America. I can’t say that I identify much with some of the enthusiasm on the Right for “draining the swamp.” Sure, let’s drain the swamp, I despise these DC critters and apparatchiks like any other red-blooded conservative. It would fill me with both esthetic and moral pleasure to see the administrative-woke-apparatus vanish from the face of the earth, leaving behind it, like Sauron, but a dark cloud soon to be dispersed by the western wind. But I am not quite sure we will changing anything of substance.
First, the “swamp” in itself does not have to be a negative thing. If you think about it as a sort of oligarchy, there are indeed plenty of historical examples for rather successful oligarchic polities. Britain of the 18th and early 19th centuries was a tremendously successful state. It stood triumphantly as a rich, free, and militarily successful (but for the American Revolution) nation that was continuously increasing its prosperity. It was by no means a democracy, however. Until the reforms of the mid-19th-century, voting in Britain was limited to a select few. The House of Lords was still extremely powerful, and the country was in general governed by the good-old-boys club of the aristocrats and the wealthy. Nonetheless, they did a pretty good job.
Another classic example is the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The Republic of St. Mark had stood for a thousand years, most of them in a state of astonishing prosperity and freedom, especially by comparison to the rest of contemporary Europe. If you were somehow to be transported into 12th century Europe, the place to go wouldn’t be France or England with their muddy streets and thatched barns, but the glittering palaces and trade houses of Venice. But then again Venice too was not a democracy. It was literally a swamp, and so was its political system. Venice was governed by a tightly connected web of aristocrats who had probably benefitted one another greatly, but in the process also had also greatly benefitted Venice itself.
So a swamp, or an oligarchy, is not exactly the problem. The problem is that OUR swamp and OUR oligarchy are extremely useless. Instead of responsible men of honor serving as custodians of the American republic (while perhaps enriching themselves in the process) we have a horde of HR ladies and good-for-nothing imbeciles. Our oligarchy is good for a mandatory PowerPoint presentation about Diversity and Inclusion, but not for doing anything in the real world, such as securing America’s southern border, or America’s withdrawal from Kabul.
America’s issue is not that we have a ruling class, but that we have a very useless ruling class. Whereas the English ruling class would rise to power through the pipeline of blue-blooded public schools (English private boarding schools), where students were fed a diet of cricket, rugby, classical studies, and hierarchy, our ruling class is sourced through a pipeline that produces management consultants. Meaning, superficial characters with no practical skills, no historic depth, no grasp of reality, but a knack for “framing” and “communicating.”
Here’s what such a character sent me on LinkedIn the other day: “I’m building a team of like-minded individuals willing and able to work together in a strategic way, leveraging relationships and affiliations to build more credible opportunities. We work to elevate conversations that create the highest value of communication.” It means nothing, but it follows a certain acceptable code of communication.
And here’s our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan who hails from a similar background: “The reason that there are U.S. forces at the airport, effectuating a successful drawdown of our embassy, securing the airport to be able to get other people out is because…” First of all, what the heck is “effectuating?” Why not use “effect?” And second, the whole thing is a word salad without any congruency with reality. This guy, who’s a complete political hack mastering a jargon “effectuating” only the braindead, knows as much about national security as my great aunt Hadassah. At least she could also make a killer chocolate mousse.
And so we are where we are. Our malady is not the existence of a ruling class, but the very low quality of that class. And if you purged them from the government they would simply swell the ranks of your HR department or corporate compliance office, as they already do.
I wish I had a solution, but there ain’t no cure for stupid.
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