A day after I had published my article in MINT on a manifesto for the global elites, Martin Wolf wrote a piece calling up on the global elites to heed the populist rage. He pegged his piece on a Mckinsey Global Institute – an institution of and for the elites, for the most part. He need not have waited to do so. Second, he has conveniently forgotten to admit that he is part of the elite against whom the people are raging.
He and I had a passionate exchange on this topic some months ago when he said that the ascent of Donald Trump signalled the end of the Republic.
In any case, better late than never. This was the topic of a rather passionate (in polite terms) email exchange between Yours truly and the columnist some months ago.
While Mr. Wolf is right to call on the Elites to see their own culpability in the current state of affairs, it is good if the cleanup begins at home – i.e., in the FT itself. Let me help.
Last week, FT wrote an Edit calling up on the Bank of England to cut rates by 0.25% and then follow it up with quantitative easing and helicopter drops of money. Such advice too is part of what has contributed to inequality and is indicative of all that is wrong with the world.
So, the best play to start to recognise the problem is for journalist-elites to begin with their columns and Edits.
One of the best comments, among the hundreds on this column by Mr. Wolf, was this by one ‘Brecon Clovis’:
You have written a short essay on how to save the elites. But the majority of people in democracies and elsewhere, and perhaps a majority of people reading this paper, don’t want to save the elites. They want to replace them.
Your essay seems to revolve around the dissatisfaction you believe people feel because of economic causes. It is true that most people are concerned with their income and their financial future. It is also true that every now and then at elections people tend to judge governments on the economy, because they are at loss to know what other good governments may serve. But actually, short of a disaster, most people do not consider economic questions as the most important issue in their lives.
What is most important is that people should be able to organize their affairs in the way they want; granting that economic independence is one factor in this. Western culture has been built on political Protestantism. This is the idea that each family, each village, each ward of each city, and each country, should settle their own affairs without outside interference. Henry VIII objected to being dictated to from Italy; Elizabeth I objected to instructions coming from Spain; and people throughout the UK were not inclined to be dictated to from Brussels. They were especially annoyed when they found, like the people of James II’s time, that their elites were receiving instructions from foreign leaders. Although nationalism is sometimes joined to political Protestantism, local control and nationalism are quite separate issues.
In the last 10-15 years, people who thought they lived in democracies have suddenly woken up and found they have been made servants in their own homes. They have been told that if only they will enjoy the new media, take their drugs as instructed, and listen to the experts, everything will be all right. However, assumptions about the death of political Protestantism have been misguided. It is precisely because experts quite genuinely believe that it is irrational not to follow their advice, that people want them to go.