Class war in reverse

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Class war is real, Brett Stevens argues, but it’s in reverse, from the bottom upward. Think of it this way, he says:

You start a civilization with ten of your buddies and their families. A few others come along, and while they’re not quite as sharp, you let them tag along as unskilled labor.

You and your buddies find a way to prosper. First, you organize specialized roles and get everyone working efficiently; then through hard work, you make the land ready for sustainable farming, and start producing.

Over time, a surplus of food is created. This enables you to spin off more people — grandchildren, at this point — into specialized roles such as doctor, hygienist, inventor and law enforcement. Stability increases, efficiency increases, and with your new technology, so does safety.

What happens next is a shift in perspective, but a valid one: because you offer more of a safety net, the poorer and/or less intellectually powerful people in your society have more of their children survive, which means you have a sudden surge in the lowest sectors of your population.
With the advent of a modern-type society, childhood mortality falls and so those who pop out the most kids dominate demographically. That means a shift from the wealthy and powerful, to the poor and less powerful.

In other words, you replace the founders of a society who could craft civilization out of raw wilderness. You replace them with the people who tagged along and ended up being unskilled labor.

The unskilled labor starts demanding that it be recognized, because it can. It now knows that the civilization you built is passing on to those who came along for the ride. This is as natural as a leech draining blood, or rats stealing grain, or snakes snagging the eggs of unwary birds. It’s class warfare of the unskilled labor against the skilled founders.

Eventually, degenerate members of the founders class — generally those with stern and judgmental parents — decide to “defect” and take up the cause of the poor. They invent theories of equality and the brotherhood of humanity to sugar-coat what is essentially a seizure of society by its least competent members.

A revolution occurs. Like the revolutions in France and Russia, as well as the political intrigues of old Rome and Athens, it is followed by executions of those with the wisdom to point out what is going on. Socrates dies alongside the Romanovs; the guillotine severs the head of Lavoisier and drops the average IQ by ten points.

Now the civilization enters its death cycle. The unskilled promote their Middletons own, who gain riches for their party-planning businesses relatively trivial acts. These nouveau riche are nothing like aristocrats; they squander wealth and use it as an excuse to be abusive. Society as a result enters into a downward spiral of class warfare that is actually not class warfare; you’re not seeing the hereditary upper classes versus the poor/unskilled, but the former-poor against the poor. This isn’t productive class warfare, but incompetents squabbling over social status as they try to divide up what’s left of the pie.

(Hat tip to Ilkka.)


  1. Those who presume a two-way street is a one-way street are likely to be hit by oncoming traffic from the way they presume doesn’t exist.

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