Who are they? Part III

Who are who?


The people who run our lives.

While "they" are hard to define, I've always thought of them as one of those "I know it when I see it" sort of phenomena, although I've searched for definitions, noting that Herman Kahn characterized them as "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.
Recalling the wise characterization of an elderly San Franciscan, I ventured that they might be called "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!

That comes closer to defining them, but still...

I'm always looking for more.

So in another post ("But who are they? Part II"), I cited this observation of Dr. Helen that their behavior is so controlling as to be downright thuggish:

...rather than a bunch of "fat cats," most millionaires are just the opposite: people who worked, lived below their means and saved a lot of money. Or as one politician put it, people who "worked hard and played by the rules." All of us could learn from them. Jealous that they have not achieved this level of wealth, now many controlling types of people are scheming to take money from others through high tax rates that penalize the "shy millionaire" as much as the real "fat cats," whatever that means. Instead of scheming like a bunch of thugs, perhaps the government and those that approve of their thuggery should learn to be more like the shy millionaires by spending below their means, saving, and showing some class.
I supplemented that with Robert James Bidinotto's view of "the Excuse-Making Industry"
....consists primarily of intellectuals in the social science establishment: the philosophers, psychological theorists, political scientists, legal scholars, sociologists, criminologists, economists and historians whose theories have shaped our modern legal system. It also consists of an activist wing of fellow-travelers: social workers, counselors, therapists, legal-aid and civilliberties lawyers, "inmate rights" advocates, "progressive" politicians and activists, and so on...

It's a sprawling intellectual consensus...united in a single premise: that the criminal isn't responsible for his behavior... Forces and circumstances outside his control "cause" him to behave as he does. He should be forgiven, or treated therapeutically, or placed in a better environment, or counseled to "cope" with his uncontrollable inner demons. But he must not be held accountable for his actions-- and, under no circumstances, punished for what he "couldn't help."

That was in October.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked Eric S. Raymond's marvelous post about a child who died because of a bricklayer's fear that if he saved her he'd be accused of child molesting. Reading through the comments, I found a link to yet another marvelous post (from British libertarian Sean Gabb) which I think really hit the nail on the head. (Bear in mind that while Gabb calls them the "Enemy Class," I'm sticking to just plain old "them" -- not so much out of bleeding-heartedness, but because I think many of "them" can grow out of being "them" much in the way that I did.)

What I will call the Enemy Class exists in and around the public sector. It comprises the great majority of those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State. Its leading members are people like Anthony Giddens, Greg Dyke, Elspeth Howe, Mary Warnock, Polly Toynbee, Peter Mandelson, and others. They articulate and advance the interests of perhaps a million other people--from television producers and heads of executive agencies, down through the university lecturers and social workers and white collar bureaucrats, to the lowest grades of civil servant and local government officer. Add to the list all the racism awareness and anti-aids consultants and the workers in those non-government organisations that receive money and status from or via the State.

These are the people who really govern the country. They are the ones who decide what statistics to gather and how and when to publish them. They decide what problems can be identified and what solutions can be discussed. They advise on policy and implement policy. Because of their numbers and education and beliefs, and the formal and informal bonds that hold them to each other, and because of their ability and willingness to give and withhold benefits, they set the tone of society. They can require not only external conformity to their will, but can even to some extent shape the public mind so that conformity seems right and natural. They provide the boundaries and language of debate. They define the heretics and schismatics, and arrange for them to be persecuted. They are the modern equivalent of an established church. More precisely, they are what Coleridge called the Clerisy.

Read it all.

And weep.

Once again, whatever happened to the separation of Church and State? Far from separating the two, these people have misused the concept by creating a monstrous hybrid -- in the form of state-sponsored faux spirituality with tentacles reaching into every last home. Enforced by priests who are not priests wielding a perverse sort of neotheocratic power, and by unelected bureaucrats wielding state power and quasi-state power.

In terms of power and tyranny, the results are worse than anything which could be achieved by the power of either the church or the state standing alone.

But it helps to know who they are.

There but for the grace of the unknown went I.

UPDATE: Link error corrected. (My thanks to Alan Kellogg for alerting me.)

posted by Eric on 07.03.08 at 10:31 AM


They are similar to my Arts & Humanities Tribe (I have taken to calling them Clans at this point). They are generally allied with the Government Clan but separate. One of the reasons they have hated George Bush, in fact, is that he is from this clan but left, and when he came to governmental power did not bestow the requisite status upon the A&H Clan.

Though many of them are intelligent, and even more are educated, the A&H Clan's foundation is social. They are experts at sending and receiving social cues, and police each other primarily with social sanctions. When those are inadequate they move the government to create pressure to adhere to their social norms.

I can get carried away and write for hours on this. I grew up in that clan, but consider them poisonous bastards now.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  July 3, 2008 3:27 PM

One of your best. Happy Independence Day.

dr kill   ·  July 3, 2008 5:55 PM

Thomas Sowell's term says it all. He calls them the "anointed."

notaclue   ·  July 3, 2008 9:15 PM


That's the link you want for the ESR post Glenn linked to the other day.

Alan Kellogg   ·  July 3, 2008 10:32 PM

For most of these people, the term "intellectuals" is probably inappropriate. Instead, we should bring back two older words: *clerks* (in the medieval sense) and *sophists* (in the Greek sense)

david foster   ·  July 4, 2008 3:32 PM

We know who they are.

The question is, "who the hell do they think they are?"

Brett   ·  July 4, 2008 4:31 PM

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