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Week in Review

This week, we posted the latest installment of our series of essays on the decline of the blue social model and the emergence a new social structure to replace it (previous installments here and here). The piece examines how liberalism 4.0 shifted from a transformative ideology designed by elites to uplift the masses in the early 21st century to an elitist defense of the status quo by the century’s end:

In this vision, liberalism has accomplished its historic mission by bringing a true meritocracy into our midst. No longer do accidents of race or gender block the path of the talented to the heights of power; hardwired into the social structure by the shape of the economy and legitimized by equal access, a radical inequality of power and status will indefinitely persist. Liberalism now has nothing to do with attacking or eroding the power of the liberal elite; as long as that elite carries out its duty to share with the masses and accepts that its children must in turn earn their own place in the elite rather than simply inheriting one, the elite has no further need to democratize. The long job of social evolution, the fight against entrenched power going back to Magna Carta is over. It has done its job, it has brought us into the golden age of absolute and permanent meritocracy. The best now truly rule.

And something else has also come to an end: the rise of the common people. In the industrial economy, the rising productivity of ordinary people underpinned their rising political power. Karl Marx was not the only observer who could see that a country where the majority worked in factories was a very different place from a country where the majority were peasants on farms. History demonstrated nothing if it didn’t show that peasants could be oppressed with impunity for hundreds of years. Industrial workers, though, literate, organized, and urban, were a much more formidable force.

Gentry liberals today see something different: the ‘ungifted’ majority is the object of their pity and care, rather than a force that demands their respect and even their fear. As they contemplate what post industrial society will look like, they are filled with pity for the incompetent losers, the untalented, those who will only be able to get jobs as pool boys and cocktail waitresses in the post-manufacturing world. Industrial society saw the workers as a rising irresistible force whose interests could not be ignored; post-industrial liberals seem to see the common folk as a collection of sad and weak losers whom the strong must protect.

News from Asia this week centered around Japan, where the new government of Shinzo Abe is making significant changes: printing money to bring down the value of the Yen, increasing cooperation with India, and sending dangerous mixed signals towards China over the disputed Senkaku Islands. India, for its part, has been busy as well, moving closer to nuclear war with Pakistan over Kashmir and preparing for next year’s national elections. Elsewhere, Chinese students are pouring into American schools, North Korea threatened the US with nuclear testing, and the Philippines protested increased Chinese aggression in the China seas.

In the Middle East, news continued to focus on the ongoing conflicts in Mali and Syria. In Mali, Western powers continued to drag their feet as France committed thousands of troops to the conflict. In Syria, Iran has doubled down on the Assad regime, leading Assad to claim, “I will win, even if Damascus is destroyed.” Meanwhile, sanctions continue to bite in Iran, Israel threatened intervention in Syria, and Morsi delivered more ugly, anti-semitic remarks in Egypt.

Pensions figured heavily into the domestic news this week. In Florida, state courts delivered a blow to pension cost creep; in Texas, retirement funds have made big gambles with pensioners money, and in Illinois, pension struggles led S&P to downgrade the state’s credit rating to the lowest level in the nation.  Even the Pentagon is now struggling with a major pension crisis for retired military and veterans. Meanwhile, Amtrak is looking to push rail costs onto the states, cities are declaring a pointless and self-destructive war on food trucks, and the black middle class continues to struggle. There’s bad news from blue citadels of California and New York as well, where poor decisions on the part of mayors and governors threaten to reignite budget problems they had hoped to solve.

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