I am a political progressive. I generally follow the news of the day by watching MSNBC. Chris Hayes is one of the bright personalities on MSNBC.A few yerars ago, Hayes write a book, Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. The idea behind the book is rooted in human nature and is pretty self-evident. It is this: People like to get ahead, and when they do, they like to stay ahead. In America we have evolved a meritocracy to provide opportunity for the best and brightest to achieve the American dream. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Chris Hayes is a very skilled wordsmith. Combine that with a very compelling and well researched argument, you get a terrific book. Twilight of the Elites is a terrific book.
At this point, I’m going to defer to some quotes pulled right from the book, interspersed with some thoughts of my own.
‘…the iron law of meritocracy (predicts) that societies ordered around the meritocratic will produce inequality without the attendant mobility ideal… over time, a society will grow both more unequal and less mobile as those who ascend its heights create means of preserving and defending their privilege and find ways to pass it on across generations.’
This is not rocket science. Kings, Emperors, and war lords have been operating this way since the beginnings of agriculture, 10,000 years ago. Elites entrench themselves in positions of power and privilege and they stay there by any means necessary. In the world we live in, it’s people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who wield their power and influence to maintain the status quo that favors them while diminishing the masses.
‘…one of the lessons of the (past decades) is that intensively competitive, high reward meritocratic environments are prone to produce all kinds of fraud, deception, conniving, and game rigging.’
‘…we cannot have a just society that applies the principle of accountability to the powerless and the principle of forgiveness to the powerful. This is the America in which we currently reside.’
‘While the basic logic of democracy is one person one vote, our entire system of representation heavily weights the preferences and interests of those with the most money.’
‘…in the three decades after 1979, the top 10 percent captured all of the income gains, while incomes for the bottom 90% declined.
‘The challenge, and it is not a small one, is directing the frustration, anger, and alienation we all feel into building a trans-ideological coalition that can actually dislodge the power of the post-meritocratic elite.’
So, corrective action is required; disruptive corrective action. Where to focus the attention of the disaffected to deliver meaningful change? In Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes talks about building coalitions across ideologies; bringing the disaffected tea party types together with progressive change agents like the ‘Occupy Wall Streeters’ to disrupt the gravy train the elite have created for themselves. That’s a tall order to be sure. This is where Hayes’ book falls a bit short. He talks about altering the code for income taxes and about restoring the estate tax to reduce the extreme advantage people like Paris Hilton gain through massive inherited wealth. Problem is the already wealthy are experts at using their money and influence to thwart any efforts to undermine their dominant position.
How to get around this problem? The answer to me is not complicated. You have to disrupt the ability of the elites to use their wealth to get what they want. The way to do that is to get the overwhelming masses of people affected to focus on one straightforward action that would induce the change that is so badly needed. I’m talking about a constitutional amendment that eliminates ‘corporate personhood and the idea that ‘money equals free speech’. These two corrupt legal constructs are the foundation on which rests the perverse reality that ‘he who has the money makes the rules.’
A group called ‘Move to Amend’ is pressing for just such an amendment. It’s language is brief and unambiguous. Here is a House Joint Resolution, still not passed, that presents the amendment in simple terms.
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Here is a link to Move to Amend’s webpage… https://movetoamend.org/