But who are they?

I don't know.

I complain a lot about assorted government bureaucrats, social workers, educrats, the Imagine people, the government people, academicians and self appointed activists who work hand in hand with those who manipulate public opinion, highly educated people who believe that their credentials qualify them to run people's lives, but there is an enormous class out there. I don't know whether to call them a "ruling class," because Americans are not supposed to be ruled but are self-governing, and "ruling class" is simply not an accurate description of an unelected and undefinable elite that would deny its own existence. But this all begs the question: who are these people who want to rule, and why do they have so much power without ever having to run for office?

Justin quoted an interesting observation by Herman Kahn about "a vast group of intellectuals" said to "suffer from the most intense anomie of all social groups":

In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.
What would we call this vast group of intellectuals whose standards are declining but who believe they should wield social power? The government people? But they aren't necessarily in the government. Nor are they necessarily involved in Democratic Party politics.


Might they be similar to the people Spiro Agnew once described as "an effete corps of impudent snobs characterizing themselves as 'intellectuals'"?

That's a bit too much of an intellectual mouthful for me. Besides, I think Pat Buchanan wrote it, and I don't want the impudent snobs to accuse me of agreeing with Pat Buchanan and then stuffing his other words into my mouth.

Anyway, I'm dumbfounded whenever I try to come up with a definition, but I will never forget as long as I live seeing an elderly Chinese man interviewed on a local San Francisco "man in the street" television program. He was asked his opinion about a controversial left-wing proposal to do some damn thing I've long forgotten, and he flatly refused to say what he thought. This didn't satisfy the questioner, who kept pressing him, and finally asked him outright why he was so reluctant to speak.

"Because I might get in trouble with people!" the man said.

This only led to further questioning, and at that point the reporter really wanted to know why he'd be in trouble, and with what people.

Finally, the old man allowed a slight twinkle in his eyes, and said,

"You know.... The social people!"

I do know. It's the social people. They are everywhere, and you really don't want to get in trouble with them. Not if you want to avoid being hassled at your job, go about unmolested, not get targeted or audited by bureaucrats, or scolded at the local church groups, PTA meetings, or (for the wealthier and snobbier) even humiliation at smug cocktail parties and country clubs.

The social people take note of deviations, and even silence at the wrong time. You can get on their shit list by saying that there are still glaciers in Alaska after returning from a trip there and seeing them.

The social people want endless government reaching everywhere. Anything that is good for government (meaning anything that generates the need for more government bureaucracy) is considered good -- regardless of whether it solves the underlying problems. In fact, if it aggravates the problem, so much the better, as aggravating the problems leads to cycles of government-grown, government-aggravated growth!

(IMO, a major push behind the immigration bill comes from bureaucrats and social workers who find the illegal status of the 12 million extremely inconvenient, but would consider their legalization through a complex process to be extremely convenient! Laws are often passed simply because bureaucrats hate to be inconvenienced or because they want more jobs. But both? What a win-win!)

Whether they think they actually rule or merely want to rule, without exception the "social people" abhor guns, and want gun control. They also want you to cut the balls off your pets, and are now demanding that their activists who used to only scold people into spaying and neutering now be given official force to do it.

I've written a number of posts about AB 1634, but please don't mistake this as another post against AB 1634 (mandatory spay/neuter) because it's an inside look at the mechanics of the social people. I recently learned that a group of California veterinarians have dared to form a group in opposition to AB 1634, and that this has caused them to be praised for their courage:

----California Veterinarians Against AB1634---- PLEASE SUPPORT THIS GROUP VIGOROUSLY. Cross Post and share widely.

This opposition is NOT limited to California Veterinarians! Sooner or later every vet in the US will have to decide where they stand. These vets have taken a position that hasn't been easy for them.

I'm sure it isn't easy for them. You'd think that in a free country, opposing legislation you disagree with would be seen as a sort of civic duty, and not something to be afraid of. But these veterinarians who go against what I'm sure is called a "consensus" have every reason to be afraid. The social people are everywhere, and they are more vocal than anyone else. What they call "consensus" is really based more on intimidating people into silence than it is on any survey of public opinion.

Ordinary dog owners don't have as much to fear, so they aren't as afraid of speaking up, but I'm sure some of them are. That's because the social people package their views as a form of morality, and fewer and fewer people are willing to run the risk of being publicly labeled as immoral. It is now immoral to disagree with the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming alarmism. A woman publicly scolded me for it not long ago, and while I brushed her off, many in my position would not have, as she is a rich local philanthropist, much accustomed to giving orders and making sure that the wrong people don't get invitations to social events, and just because I don't care about being snubbed socially does not mean that others don't.

The idea that disagreement on such issues is seen as immoral fascinates me on another level, because I think it might shed light on a polarizing aspect of the Culture War. Once it becomes immoral to disagree with the social people, then the only people who will dare to disagree are people who don't mind being considered immoral. I know I'm generalizing here, but I think these divide themselves into two primary groups:

  • libertarians (and atheists) who are resistant to political arguments dressed up as morality; and
  • religious people who have their own view of morality as coming from God.
  • Unfortunately, many ordinary people are willing to have their morality manufactured and directed for them. There is not enough cynicism, and this allows the "vast group of intellectuals whose standards are declining" to wield the vast social power they do not deserve.

    While I still don't know precisely what to call this vast group, my biggest concern is that people who are given undeserved and unearned power are more likely to abuse it than people who at least had the decency to run for office. In a country built on the premise that no one has the right to rule, those who believe they have the right to rule are the last who should be given power.

    (Especially unearned power that can't be taken away.)

    posted by Eric on 07.03.07 at 10:27 AM


    Not the ruling class, the controlling class. They are people who want to control our lives because they are convinced we are incompetent to handle our own affairs. A ruler is certain that we are capable of carrying out his orders. A controller is certain we're incapable of doing anything and must therefor be cared for and given no opportunity to do anything on our own.

    Alan Kellogg   ·  July 3, 2007 5:50 PM

    The Controlling Class is a pretty good name for them.

    Eric Scheie   ·  July 3, 2007 9:36 PM

    I've always called them the governing classes.

    Brett   ·  July 5, 2007 8:18 AM

    That's also a good point about the tendency of the governing classes to see their preferences as moral imperatives for all.

    Brett   ·  July 5, 2007 8:26 AM

    Spiro Agnew famously called them "nattering nabobs of negativism."

    Yehudit   ·  July 6, 2007 9:33 PM

    "Busybodies" comes to mind.

    john b.   ·  July 7, 2007 10:29 AM

    In Britain we call these people the intelligentsia does that phrase get used much in the US?

    Mike M   ·  July 31, 2007 8:06 AM

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