A big part of the ongoing crisis in America is that both sides of the political debate agree on one main point. The people are responsible for the mess. Joseph de Maistre gave us the phrase, “Every country has the government it deserves.” The American ruling elite has turned it into their raison d’etre. Because they have nothing but contempt for the people over whom they rule, they feel they have an obligation, a sacred duty, to be every bit as contemptible as the they imagine their subjects.
The general shabbiness of the current ruling class relative to those of the past can be seen when looking at the oligarchs of the prior age. Great technological advance brings great changes in economics. There are winners and losers and some portion of the winners become something like royalty. The industrial age gave America a class of super-rich who were every bit as powerful as old world aristocracy. They controlled the economy and finance, and thus the country.
These were the robber barons. The term itself actually comes from the feudal age, when a class of knights would shake down travelers for money. They would charge tolls for goods crossing through their lands, even though they had no authority to do so, and the roads were intended for public use. A robber baron was someone with status who maintained it though unscrupulous practices. Surprisingly, it was the New York Times that first used the term to describe modern industrialists.
The robber barons were accused of exploiting unethical monopolies over natural resources like coal and oil. They maintained these monopolies by bribing politicians and threatening those who challenged them. They squashed their competition, which let them suppress wages. If that was not enough, they operated financial scams on unsuspecting investors, often by manipulating the markets through fraud. The robber barons were high status crooks.
If that sounds familiar, it should. The oligarchs of the modern age make the robber barons look like pikers in terms of wealth and immorality. They are not hiring private armies like the Pinkertons to murder their workers. Instead, they are unleashing waves of foreign peasants who create mayhem in your community. They finance terrorist groups like Antifa and BLM to attack white people. Of course, they have their tentacles wrapped around the economy like a kraken.
When you look back at the men who were the oligarchs of the prior age, they are not very different from the current crop of oligarchs. Look at their biographies and they are familiar to a modern eye. Getting a monopoly on oil, like Rockefeller, is no different from having a monopoly on operating systems, like Bill Gates. James Fisk got rich through stock fraud, which is no different from what we see from the gangsters in the financial class today. We just have more of them.
There is one big area of departure in this comparison. The robber barons of old had some sense of shame, which led them to take some of their ill-gotten gains and put them back into society. Maybe it was just a way to buy public approval or maybe it was a genuine sense of duty, but they did underwrite things public works projects, colleges, and museums. In fact, most of the remaining culture we have that is worth the name was paid for by the robber barons of the industrial age.
The current robber barons appear to have no shame. Instead of using their money to build cultural monuments they are trying to blot out the sun. That is right, Bill Gate is using his wealth on a plan to block the sun. Feudal man got great cathedrals from his rulers, while industrial man got great museums. Technological man is getting crackpot schemes to plunge the world into permanent winter. By comparison, our oligarchs are super villains compared to those of past ages.
This is not just a one-off example. Gates is fairly typical of the modern robber baron, in that he seems to have a fetish for schemes that cause more harm than good. He poured money into African relief programs that were doomed from the start. He has bankrolled education schemes that make a mockery of what we know about how to train up the young generation. He has been making an ass of himself on the Covid issue, spouting one kooky idea after another.
Part of this, of course, is the modern moral framework. The robber barons of the prior age were working within the Christian moral framework. They may not have been believers, but the public was still Christian. If they wanted to be seen as pious men, they had to commit public acts of piety. Modern man is far more primitive in his beliefs, so pleasing the earth goddess or fighting evil spirits is the way to salvation. Even the hacks in the political system get in on the act.
Perhaps de Maistre was right. The people in the prior age would have had the good sense to hang someone promising to blot out the sun. If a governor stood in front of a pothole filled road blaming in on the gods, he would have been tared and feathered as a lunatic, if not a blasphemer. Today, out best and brightest indulge in the onanistic religion of climate change with the same fervor as the loons promising us they can control the sun. We have the rich people we deserve.