Friday, November 11, 2011

The 99% are to blame

This past week saw two "riots" on college campuses. There was a bit of a scuffle with cops as the Occupy Cal group (i.e. the "99%-ers) tried to establish a campsite on campus. Across the country at Penn State, a spontaneous riot broke out following the announcement of Joe Paterno's dismissal for his failure to adequately respond to news that one of his assistant coaches was raping 10-year olds in the team showers.

Each of these confrontations is worthy of much discussion, but what I find most interesting at the moment is how the events at Penn State undermine the narrative being presented by the Occupy crowd.

Joe Parterno is the 1%. Even by the standards of University faculty, sports coaches have extremely high pay. Paterno was bringing in around a million dollars a year, while several other head-coaches bring in multimillion dollars salaries. University payscales are a perfect microcosm of the more widespread inequalities that the Occupy movement decries.

My view is that "gods are not allowed to make mistakes"-- when someone of Paterno's stature and power is this neglectful of his duties, he deserves to be thrown out on his ass. However, consider the reaction of the great masses in the Penn State community -- they defended Paterno, with massive public protest. They embraced the idea that a person like Paterno is above the law; he is so great that he can do no wrong. Even more telling, there was no Karl Rove manipulating public opinion behind the scenes. This was totally spontaneous.

I have read innumerable essays by concerned leftists pondering why the lower classes repeatedly vote against their own interests. These overly partisan egalitarians find the obvious answer -- it's the other party! (i.e. the Republicans). If they would open their eyes, this riot (which is just part of a long-standing phenomenon) would put their partisan theories to lie. There is no need for sophisticated propaganda to create massive inequality. A college education does not cause people to open up their eyes to what really matters. The truth is that most people are morons. Most people are willing slaves who fantasize about having a king. They dream of a benevelent lord who will provide them with bread and circus, absolving them of any responsibility for their own lives.

A half-century of middle class unionism and public universities has done nothing to lessen this peasant mentality among the masses. It's time to consider the possibility that democracy has failed. Democracy is impossible because when power is given to the masses, they give it right back. Those of us who want freedom will have to find it ourselves. If we want a society of equals, we will have to find it separately from the servile masses. We obviously can't physically separate ourselves from them, but we can weaken the institutions that they use to force themselves on us.

9 comments:

Ricketson said...

post-script: I noticed that this rant might seem to be going in a Randian direction (e.g. Galt's gulch as the solution). This is not what I intend, and I do not endorse the Randian view of the superman who makes everything works (i.e. Atlas) and deserves gratitude from the mass of simpletons.

rulingclass said...

My interpretation was a rant against the meme of "false consciousness rather than an endorsement of Objectivist ethics.

I agree about the uselessness of "false consciousness" because human moral foundations, including the basis of human moral outrage, are not rooted in violations of economic egalitarianism.

However, I don't agree about human moral foundations rooted in stupidity or subservience as an explanation for irrational social allegiance. It's much more murky and complicated than that.

But there is no such thing as the moral foundations of the 99% nor the collective action of the 99%

anagory said...

The truth is that most people are morons. Most people are willing slaves who fantasize about having a king. They dream of a benevelent lord who will provide them with bread and circus, absolving them of any responsibility for their own lives.

Meanwhile libertarians and other conservatives call us elitists. University payscales are not a perfect microcosm of the more widespread inequalities that the Occupy movement decries. They are the last holdout of the social norm of job security that the Occupy wants back. Why are you talking about widespread inequalities as if they're a bad thing anyway? I thought your tribe was opposed in principle to equality. Or is this just part of the Tea Party triangulation strategy of telling the Occupy protestors how they really feel, and that what they're really against is crony capitalism. I don't speak for anyone but myself, but my beef is with what you might call "capitalism without adjectives." Every capitalist is a crony. If they're not a crony with someone in Washington, they're a crony with someone at the country club. Capitalism is all about who you know.

Then again, I just read that you're "more progressive than conservative." Maybe your purpose is to be a "reality check from within" for progressive and related movements. I'm all for that, but I'd probably do my professor-bashing not by calling them people with more job security than anyone deserves, but by calling them craven careerists who schmooze their way to the top like any other yuppie scum.

Ricketson said...

While the "99%" statistic refers to the distribution of income/wealth, I think that the current mobilization is largely focused on political power and the often unrecognized privileges that arise from fame and the control of public institutions(i.e. cronyism) -- so that's how I'm using it.

Re "false consciousness":

The main target of this rant was the meme of "we are the 99%". The main problem with that idea is that 50% of the 99% disagrees with the people who claim to represent "the 99%". As illustration, most of the people who rioted at Penn State probably fall in the lower 99% by socio-economic status (this type of fanatical fandom is pervasive, even off college campuses), and their values seem to be at odds with the values that the "99%" are supposed to endorse.

More troubling for the 99%ers, the riots show that the power of the 1% (including their disproportionate political power and special privilege) does not arise from sophisticated propaganda campaigns, or institutional control: it is invited by the masses at a visceral level.

In this context, egalitarian political reforms and policies are superficial and unsustainable.


The other form of "false consciousness" (if I understand the term properly) that is addressed in this rant is "fandom", which is just one manifestation of group-think and leader worship. All too often, fandom (like nationalism) devolves into inter-group conflict and the exemption of leaders from normal accountability.

Ricketson said...

"Meanwhile libertarians and other conservatives call us elitists."

I'm not sure who "us" is. I most closely identify with libertarians.

"University payscales are not a perfect microcosm of the more widespread inequalities that the Occupy movement decries. They are the last holdout of the social norm of job security that the Occupy wants back."

Okay, they aren't "perfect" because they are biased towards better jobs. However, when you include the lowest people on the payscale (e.g. custodial and clerical staff), the jobs are far from ideal.

"Why are you talking about widespread inequalities as if they're a bad thing anyway? I thought your tribe was opposed in principle to equality."

Again, I don't know what tribe I'm supposed to belong to.

Anyway, I am not opposed to inequality when it reflects differences in life choices (e.g. deciding to work more or less), talent, or even the unavoidable randomness of life. What I do object to are social institutions that magnify inequalities-- especially when those institutions claim to be advancing the public good.

In college sports, I think there is a good case that the high pay for head-coaches is not a simple function of their talent or hard work, but is the result of the system that they work in. The universities created a winner-takes-all system, and even if the best coaches end up as winners, there is still a problem.

Part of this winner-takes-all arises from group-think, and how people form groups and then choose leaders for the group. Part of it arises from the explicit economic manipulation of the universities: they make tons of money off of the athletes, but prohibit each other from actually paying the athletes a salary. These ill-gotten proceeds are then partitioned among the people who control the system. I wouldn't be surprised if the main quality of a "good coach" is their ability to recruit and exploit star athletes.

"Or is this just part of the Tea Party triangulation strategy of telling the Occupy protestors how they really feel, and that what they're really against is crony capitalism."

I dunno. This is just how I feel.

"Maybe your purpose is to be a "reality check from within" for progressive and related movements. "

I don't have much of a purpose at the moment. Just putting my ideas out there. I have very few readers.

rulingclass said...

anagory reminds us why eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

anagory said...

It works both ways. It's true that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, but it's also true that the price of eternal vigilance is liberty. It's hard to see either as anything other than an asymptotic goal.

rulingclass said...

Anagory:

You unwittingly just made the case for amoral market agency over moral ends.

I can only recall, Benjamin Tucker, who in his first edition of "Liberty" wrote:

"Formerly the price of Liberty was eternal vigilance, but now it can be had for fifty cents a year."

That is, eternal vigilance, as a market good, can be very affordable. This simply means that intermediate agency potentially solves coordination problems which you think are intractable.

anagory said...

Affordable to whom? Besides, privatized authority is still authority. The public/private "dichotomy" is strictly a formality. The important questions concern who calls the shots, who pays the piper, and I suppose, whose eternal vigilance is superior. Probably not the more affordable one.