circulation of elites
Source Jim Devine
Date 12/07/13/15:14

[this is reminiscent of the conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter's
view that "democracy" involved the masses choosing between elites.
The title of this post comes from Vilfredo Pareto, another elite

from SLATE:
My Kind of Elitist
Obama and Romney may disagree on many things, but there is no question
they are both members of the “elite.” It’s just a matter of which type
of elitist you prefer.

By Anne Applebaum

I DON'T KNOW WHETHER this was the intention—one certainly assumes
so—but the handful of new investigations into Mitt Romney's investment
arrangements in Switzerland, Bermuda, and the British Virgin Islands
have come at a particularly interesting moment in the U.S. electoral
cycle. With four months to go, both presidential candidates are
frantically drawing lines in the sand:

Each is arguing that he offers American voters a clear and distinct
choice on health care, immigration, taxation—and that his opponent
offers something quite different.

On purpose or otherwise, the tales of the Cayman Islands make clear
that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are offering American voters another
kind of choice as well. One of the words most frequently deployed
during both the midterm elections and the now-forgotten Republican
primaries was "elite," usually as a term of opprobrium, usually by
Republicans but sometimes by Democrats, too. Running for the Senate,
Christine O'Donnell ran a campaign ad declaring, "I didn't go to Yale
... I am YOU." Attacking Obama, Rand Paul called the president a
"liberal elitist" who "believes that he knows what is best for
people." Occupy Wall Street rose up against the "1 percent," but
fizzled out before it could propose an alternative. At one point, even
Justice Clarence Thomas's wife railed against the Washington political
class, leading Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick to wonder how that term
could possibly exclude her husband ("If ever there were nine people
who are actually paid to think they know better than the rest of us,
Supreme Court justices are it.").

Granted, the word "elite" is often used, blurrily, to mean "a group of
people whose views I dislike." But that doesn't mean that elites don't
exist. On the contrary, the previous debates on the subject were
insufficiently subtle, failing to recognize that in the modern world,
there are multiple elites, each with its own customs and habits, its
own moral codes and its own domestic and international connections.
And let us be clear: When we are offered the choice between Obama and
Romney, we are offered a choice between two sets of them.

You know the stereotypes already. Both Obamas come from what might
loosely be called the intellectual/academic meritocracy, the "liberal
elite," the post-WASP Ivy League, easily caricatured as the world of
free-trade coffee, organic arugula, smug opinions, and Martha's
Vineyard. The Romneys, by contrast, belong to the financial oligarchy,
the "global elite," the post-financial-deregulation world which is
just as easily caricatured as one of iced champagne, offshore bank
accounts, dressage trainers, and private islands. The two groups have
some important overlaps. Though Romney got some attention for holding
a fundraiser in the Hamptons last week, it is Obama who has raised
more money in the Hamptons overall (the president scored particularly
well in Sagaponack, by one account, where the median home sells for
$4.4 million).

They also have some important differences. The financial oligarchy, as
we learned from the Barclays scandal in London last week, is happiest
when it operates in deep secrecy, where it can manipulate interest
rates, package derivatives, hide its profits, and shelter its taxes as
it sees fit. The liberal meritocracy prefers to operate in the glare
of publicity, where it can give lectures, write books, make
documentaries, and generally promulgate its own views as loudly as
possible. At age 34, Obama wrote his autobiography. At age 37, Romney
founded Bain Capital.

But while you might think one or the other group more preferable or
more offensive for reasons of politics, culture, or taste, you
certainly cannot argue that either one of them is in close touch with
"average" or "ordinary" or even "middle-class" people, however those
terms might be defined. And although both they and their supporters
may shout about "radical left-wing professors” on the one hand or
"Gordon Gekko" on the other, neither Obama nor Romney can plausibly
claim to be leading a populist revolution against the "elites" who are
allegedly destroying America.

Which is just as well, because the political success of both Obama and
Romney proves that radical populism in the United States has failed
spectacularly. For all of the attention they got, neither Occupy Wall
Street nor the Tea Party has a candidate in this race. Neither found a
way to channel inchoate, ill-defined public anger—at the deficit, at
the banks—into electoral politics or clear alternatives. Whoever wins
in November, we'll therefore get the elite we deserve.

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