The Circulation of the Elites

"You are right, the idyll of peace and virtue of which our philosophers sing is about as real as a fable. But look what lies hidden behind these words, and you will see that an oligarchy is arising, ready to defeat and replace the one in power. The victory of the new oligarchy is certain because energy and strength are on its side." -- Vilfredo Pareto, The Rise and Fall of Elites, pp. 38-39

Reading Pareto just give me a whole new perspective on the libertarian "movement." Of course a world of entirely voluntary interactions is a pure fable. That many people like believe this fable is understandable: what really needs explaining is the large amount of funding behind it. But looking at all the talk of a world of peaceful cooperation as a smokescreen for the rise of a new oligarchy makes it comprehensible.

"I am fighting for a world without coercion" is going to motivate many more people than is "I am fighting for a world in which the Koch brothers and Peter Thiel rule."

15 comments:

  1. I am confused by this post. Do you think that figureheads like Ron Paul are actively conspiring for such an outcome, or are you saying that the implementation of libertarian principles will inadvertently set the stage for the rise of an oligarch?

    You are obviously not a libertarian, but are you still sympathetic with the Austrian school? Having found your blog through Economics for Real People, I am fairly surprised by its content! Have you had some kind of major epiphany since the book was published?

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    1. "Do you think that figureheads like Ron Paul are actively conspiring for such an outcome..."

      No one at all has to be actively conspiring for Pareto's analysis to hold: he would say, I think, that usually they are not.

      "You are obviously not a libertarian, but are you still sympathetic with the Austrian school?"

      I have learned many great things from Austrian economists.

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    2. Gene, Mr. Thrifty is simply wrong about you not being a libertarian, right?

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    3. My best guess is he really wants to avoid being labeled, and is wary of the radical connotations of the modern usage of the word.

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    4. MathMan, I do not regard myself as an anything at all.

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    5. Yes, Matt, that is right.

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  2. A Randroid reviews Pareto...

    "There is no reason why an elite cannot be commercial, meritocratic, non-coercive, and productive in proportion to the values it receives. The prospect is ripe in the coming decades for establishing that "natural aristocracy" which Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers predicted to emerge in a free market of goods and ideas...

    A meritocratic elite, ... would admit anyone into its ranks who is sufficiently productive to have made a name for himself-there would be no formal initiation process, nor a hierarchical ladder to climb. The elite would be self-made, and self-perpetuating through voluntary association."

    http://voices.yahoo.com/a-review-vilfredo-paretos-rise-fall-of-292963.html

    Earlier in his review, he notes that, "the victory of the new elite does not necessarily mean the actualization of the principles for which it rallied the lower rungs of society".

    Ba-Dum Tiss!

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  3. You state the pessimist's view, though it is no untrue.

    Have you gotten a hold of "The Son Also Rises" by Gregory Clark?

    http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-Clark/e/B001I9OM4W

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    1. Trying to get assigned to review it as I write this! Thanks for the tip.

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  4. Thrifty (and Gene): "Individual saints, exempt in individual intention from the law of power, will nonetheless be always bound to it through the disciples, associates, and followers to whom they cannot, in organized social life, avoid being tied." -- James Burnham

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  5. Probably explains why most libertarian works and theory I encounter comes off feeling rather artificial and forced.

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    1. Careful, Samson. If you start engaging in conspiracy theory too heavily, you'll turn into a libertarian!

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  6. I'm not sure what needs to be explained about people with money and power attempting to take advantage of a political philosophy/ideology to increase their money and power? It seems to me your question is akin to asking why there is so much money behind the Democrats and the Republicans. It could be ideological agreement but it is almost certainly because he/she sees it as a means to acquire/retain wealth and/or power.

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