In a recent article for the Economist Will Wilkinson makes an unintentionally solid case for the idea that “Getting a College Education is just a Scam.” His article, “The Road to Plutocracy,” explores the idea that
the mighty top 10%, or top 1%, or whatever insidious sliver of the income distribution is thought to constitute the moneyed power elite, is upon us, or nearly so.
But Wilkinson isn’t so sure. While he readily admits that the top fraction of 1% have enormous influence over our political system, it’s also difficult to know what this “elite” really want. He goes on to claim:
Recent research using relatively rough-hewn income categories so far offers little by way of evidence that the preferences of the relatively wealthy are at odds with the rest of the electorate.
Basically, Wilkison admits the super-rich have much more influence in the political arena, but the good news is their interests are our interests. They share our concerns. In fact, since they did go to such fancy schools and learned so much more than the rest of us, they actually know what’s best! Wilkinson explains:
“…the richest of the rich are actually a band of saints concerned above all with the commonweal. As voters, the highly-educated super-wealthy may have a better bead on policy in the public interest than the rest of us, as well as more admirable other-regarding motives. Their donations to think tanks and universities may reflect a sincere desire to promote good ideas.”
We actually have out own band of saints! How thoughtful of them. How wonderfully saintly of the ruling class to look out for all of us. Why bother with Democracy when our saintly ruling class has our best interests at heart anyway?
Wilkinson uses some pretty standard techniques in his dismissal of a plutocratic elite. The first thing he does is tell us that we don’t really know what on earth the elite actually want:
Indeed, it is difficult to know what the top 1% want. Evidently, as Mr Salam suggests, they don’t all want the same things.
There you go. They don’t all want the same thing so there obviously is no ruling class. Wilkiinson either purposefully ignored or is unaware of the work of political scientist Thomas Ferguson. In his pioneering work, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics, professor Ferguson utilizes a slew of compelling empirical evidence to demonstrate just how the moneyed elite rule through our political system. And, of course, they don’t all want the same thing.
Essentially what we have, according to Ferguson, are blocks of investors represented by the two party system. There are very real differences between Manufacturing Interests and Finance Interests. But not so different they want to upend the system that provides their class privilege. Professor Ferguson succinctly explains the Investment Theory of Politics in the clip below:
Whether you’re a janitor or a billionaire CEO of a multi-national corporation, chances are you pursue your self-interests. People like Wilkinson want us to suspend that basic fact when we consider the richest of the rich. We are to believe that they are saints, merely pursuing the common good. But even a casual look around this planet reveals what a lie that is, as our infrastructure and environment crumble around us. Wilkinson’s narrative is completely at odds with reality.