October 7, 2010

Sham Meritocracy and Cloaked Elitism

Filed under: Bailouts Only Reopened the Casino, Law — Tags: — Russ @ 5:41 am


Naked Capitalism recently had a guest post which falls into the category of well-meant but really pernicious, as it still wants to pretend there’s a “good” elitism and a bad elitism, and all we need to do is reform the elites.
Thus it centers on an alleged meritocratic argument, that we need to exalt “what you know” over “who you know”. In theory that’s right, but it has nothing to do with today’s kleptocracy or any other system where What You Know is largely dictated by a system based on Who You Know. So even if tomorrow we instated a meritocratic educational system, for example, the “merit” would still be measured according to a What which was dictated by the interests of the rich and powerful. “Talent” would remain the same Orwellian term and concept it is today.
What You Know vs. Who You Know is largely a false distinction by now, since more and more the “what” is not reality-based but rather dictated by the criminal interests of the “who”. (It’s the same as how we no longer have innovation but only “innovation”.)
This piece seems to think the “what” of today’s system isn’t simply extortion on top of embezzlement on top of robbery.
“Lobbying” is part of the extortion racket.
Therefore, this is absurd:
A plausible argument can be made that former staffers would be high earners even if political connections did not matter.
Mind you, that’s referring to Congressional “staffers” as these productive Randian heroes. But in fact the entire careers of most of these worthless persons are based on nothing but being functionaries of a parasitic criminal system which has been set up for the sake nothing but its own preservation and aggrandizement.
(I’d love to learn what the author thinks any of these people actually do even in principle, “even if political connections didn’t matter”. The answer is that if political connections didn’t matter, none of these “jobs” would exist. But there would be far more real jobs for real citizens.) 
It’s long been a truism (and is true) that the law is made intentionally complex for the professional benefit of lawyers. This is just a modern version of the Church’s old monopoly of knowledge on how to stay out of hell. This knowledge too was made gratuitously complex, was forbidden to be translated into the vernacular, etc.
Today we have the same thing with financial sector “products”, the whole insane complexity of the global financialization. None of it serves any purpose whatsoever but the direct profiteering of the banks and the tollbooths they’re able to set up everywhere thanks to their own totally artificial and unproductive system and the “laws” accompanying it.
Thus we had the many real-economy companies lobbying against the proposed changes in derivatives regulation, not because the system benefits them but because they’re unable to understand the existing system and are intimidated. The banks can always plausibly threaten to subvert or blow up the existing system if they’re not given free rein.
And we’re all too familiar with the fraudulent “state secrets” doctrine and the general Big Lie that we need to trust and obey our betters when they claim there’s some peril only they have the mystical knowledge to avert. The “war on terror” has been the main example in recent years, though they’re trumping up “cyberwar” as we speak.
Today when somebody says “you need to hire me to give you advice” it’s usually a stick-up. It’s someone who placed a bomb on your car now offering advice on how you can drive without detonating it.
Even where it’s not directly a matter of who one knows, most examples of what a lobbyist/consultant/professional etc. knows really boil down to which gang he’s from. It seldom involves any reality-based need for real knowledge.
The main piece of real knowledge today is that we don’t need any of these elite advice-givers and knowledge monopolists at all, for anything.


  1. The Transition Begins.

    Comment by rene — October 7, 2010 @ 7:15 am

    • That’s interesting stuff, Rene. That’s one of lots of things I’ve heard of but haven’t gotten around to checking out yet.

      Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 9:53 am

      • That’s a bit of a disappointment Russ 🙂 No, I understand that you very busy reading and writing. In his video’s, “Where are we now” and “Where are we going”, Peter Joseph clearly demonstrates that he has a deep understanding of our “system”. No doubt he got a bit of help from Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows, but nevertheless very impressive and inspiring material. It gives me hope that someone of my generation is able to lead such a movement.

        And yes, there is so much material to go through. It is mind boggling. If I remember correctly, in a previous post, you mentioned something about setting up a meta-site where all like-minded organizations/movements/blogs and their readers could interact. That would be a great thing, everyone on the same page.

        Comment by rene — October 7, 2010 @ 11:43 am

      • Yes, I’d do something like that if I had the capital and the expertise (I’m not a techie).

        I was thinking about it before and how I normally think, “I’ll work on my thing and let contacts come naturally; it would divide my energy to also do systematic research on who else is doing what.”

        That way of looking at things has alot of merit. But at the same time, if everyone feels and does the same way, it’ll delay and perhaps hinder movement coalescence. It’s that ol’ categorical imperative. And I do think that as a rule, if people come up with an idea which it’s possible for them to do, then they have to assume the right person to do it is themselves.

        As I’ve said elsewhere, if we’re going to field a team at all, I think we’re it. We in the blogosphere right now, and maybe in a few other places, are the nucleus. Who else is going to get it started? And when? (I think right now is always the right time to start doing whatever has to be done.)

        I do think we’ll coalesce one way or another, but I don’t know exactly how yet. I’m going to keep writing on what I think are the core battlefronts while I try to figure out how to get a real life movement going. (Offline I’m involved in relocalization and sustainability volunteerism, which is so far on an apolitical, “normal” basis.)

        Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

    • I’ve watched the film before.

      There were a lot of statements made in the film that I chose to track down and verify for myself. In most cases, I verified that the statements were false or merely regurgitated from the internet without any historical source backing it up. My favorite was the assertion that J.P. Morgan had admitted to causing the Panic of 1907, but when you go to the magazine article that supposedly held that admission, you find that the article says the accusation was made and then goes on to rebut it. Being that wrong about what the article says cannot arise due to a massive failure of reading comprehension, it can only happen if either you didn’t actually read the article or you’re lying. Either way, the assertion was dishonest because it was made in the context of a film that claims to be a documentary (which kinda means you need to look at the documents and verify that they back up what you say).

      I’m not impugning the film, I’m just saying it’s an advocacy piece that needs to be taken with a large dose of salt.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 7, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

      • Do you mean it was what pro-banksters would consider an overly tendentious interpretation, or do you mean it was false in an incompetent way that makes the film look stupid?

        For example, because James Jones and Leon Panetta have both publicly said there are only a handful of Al Qaida still in Afghanistan, I have said that the administration itself admits that any real war-on-terror part of the Global War on Terror has long since been won there, so they’re admitting that they’re continuing to prosecute the war for reasons having nothing to do with terrorism.

        But I suppose Obama hacks would claim they admitted no such thing.

        (I’m not comparing you to them, of course. Just giving an example.)

        As an advocate myself, I’m interested in how people see those lines. Where it comes to tactics my first criterion is what works.

        Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

      • I have heard similar criticism before. Don’t understand why you would want to make a documentary with false facts. It could be a mistake.

        You have to give TZM credit for reaching out to a wider audience though. Also, the part in Zeitgeist: Addendum where John Perkins explains about his previous job as an economic hit man is staggering to say the least. If you read around Centre for Research on Globalization, you do come across a wide body of empirical evidence, in essence backing up what is being conveyed in Zeitgeist: Addendum. And that’s only one website out of many.

        Comment by rene — October 7, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

      • @Russ,

        I meant false in an incompetent way that makes the film lose some of its credibility. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the film comes off as stupid, or that the film is a fraud. It just seems like the film maker was overreaching, which undermines his goal of persuading people.

        There were other things, like fabricated or frankenstein quotes (pieces from different documents over several decades stitched together) attributed to people like Jefferson and Madison, but these are everywhere on the internet, and I’m sure that most people don’t insist on tracking everything back to the source document in the way I do. Quoting people like Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton is something that is typically done to evoke an emotional response at some level. That’s why I have the complete works of Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison and others readily available in electronic form for easy searching.

        I think how sloppy you can be in your advocacy without losing serious credibility depends entirely on the forum. Blogs are very informal with quick turnarounds and no editors, so when cognitive biases creep in and cause somebody to find something they’re looking for but which really isn’t there, that’s understandable and forgiveable.

        When you have a major undertaking like a movie or a book, something that is supported by editors and researchers working over a period of months or years, and you make a flat-out false statement of fact (not opinion) that is easily refuted, then I start to question your credibility.

        I’m sure everybody has their own line in the sand.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 7, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

      • Thanks for the food for thought, Tao.

        I’m intrigued by your Founders’ database. Sounds like an excellent resource.

        Did you read any of my series on The Federalist? They’re all here, nine or ten of them.



        I have my own Jefferson research project on tap. In Arendt’s On Revolution she makes much of how Jefferson, in private letters and especially toward the end of his life, was according to her developing his own version of the All Power To the Councils idea. It was his “wards” idea.

        So I was going to start by reading her references to get the context, and see what else I could find.

        I thought it would be excellent and useful if I could find a bona fide councils advocate among the most famous founders. Arendt thought so.

        Thanks for your correction of my link. For some reason it got caught in my spam filter and I didn’t find it until now. I just made the fix.

        (I think the faulty link was the result of Yves’ little, er, problem this morning. I was able to use the search engine and identified the correct result but couldn’t click on it just to confirm. I figured it was just a glitch and copied-and-pasted the link anyway. I guess just doing that from the search result doesn’t work.)

        Clicking on the link just now to make double sure, I came on that page and spotted the headline at the top, that Obama’s going to veto that fraud-legalization bill?

        I’m didn’t read it yet; I’m going over there now. But I wanted to come back here first and say it here before I say it there that if that’s true it’s just ridiculous. People were saying in the comment threads “if Obama signs this, it’ll prove….” blah, blah, blah..

        I didn’t think for a second there was any chance at all he’d fail to sign it. So now are we supposed to believe the whole thing was kabuki for November? The Democrats orchestrated this seeming act of brazen Congressional lawlessness (and bamboozled the Republicans in the process) to set up Obama to look good by refusing to sign it? And the coattails of a bunch of idiots falling for that are supposed to help those same congressmen in November?

        Well, I’ll go read it now.

        Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

      • @ Tao,

        I agree with your criticism in relation to questioning the film-maker’s credibility when portraying false statements in a documentary.

        As I really appreciate the work of the TZM, I would like to make sure that anyone reading these comments understands that the main-thread of Zeitgeist: Addendum, its message if you will, is more or less accurate. I hope that everybody in the financial/economic blogosphere by now fully understands that the Western World is being hijacked by the international “elite.”



        Comment by rene — October 8, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  2. For 10 years my accountant in the States prepared my income tax form.
    I’m a dual national. The IRS income tax is a pain in the ass. The conventions between countries are unbelievably complex. NOBODY REALLY knows all the arcane ins and outs of all of this. MAYBE… some of those top notch corporate accountants/lawyers do, but nobody else does. (And do they REALLY KNOW, or.. do they just THINK they know ? I say to lots of people that you can just never win with the law. You will always come out on the short side.)
    I know that I COULD HAVE learned how to prepare this income tax form (that I used to pay her… big bucks to prepare…) but that, had I done so, I would have had to learn her job, and THAT WAS NO FUN IN MY BOOK.
    I’ve got OTHER THINGS TO DO.
    By the way… you might like to know that ALL U.S. citizens are supposed to file IRS forms, wherever they are (like in Afghanistan, living in a yourte…) and WHATEVER THEY ARE DOING, so don’t jump to any conclusions about my revenues.
    I could be slinging burgers in downtown home town, and STILL have to fill out that form.
    I think that my accountant was and is.. an honest person trying to make a living (a good, living, certainly…) in a system that has gone totally out of control.
    What would you do if you met an “elite”, or somebody qualifying for that ?

    Comment by debra — October 7, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    • As I said in the piece, the taxes are rendered intentionally complex to force you and so many others to go through a pointless but very expensive tollbooth.

      Comment by Russ — October 7, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    • Along your line of thinking, you would be proud of me.
      I gave up my practice as a shrink because… 1) AT THE TIME, working for money as a shrink in my constantly retracting practice did not boost my self esteem enough to satisfy my personal need for identity and 2) I no longer believed in… making people PAY to have me listen to them IN AN OFFICE setting. I no longer believe(d) in making people pay for what I CAN AND WILL GIVE THEM FREELY.
      Two years ago, I recontacted a woman psychoanalyst who I had politely informed that I did NOT want to do a stint of psychoanalysis with her (even though both of us really hit it off well…). Through her answering machine, I proposed that we get together over lunch and NOT AT HER OFFICE.
      There was a screw up, and she set me an appointment at her office. I CHOSE to show up out of politeness, and when I took her to task for setting an appointment for me which is not what I had proposed, and said… “I don’t see WHY i should pay YOU to be saying things that… are very interesting, and that in another context maybe… somebody would pay ME to hear ?
      Her face decomposed, and she said… “But if you don’t pay me, THEN HOW WILL I LIVE ?”
      I feel for her… Her panic in OUR world is very understandable for me.
      The ducks have it better than we, and they are not nearly so dumb as we are, with our self proclaimed “intelligence” that we idolize right now.
      THEY have not organized their own alienation on a grand scale…

      Comment by debra — October 8, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  3. Russ,

    Your link to Yves’ site got messed up (it refers to your own blog, and the page is not found).

    I think this is the link you meant to include:


    Comment by Tao Jonesing — October 7, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  4. TJ, => “Error 404 – Not Found”

    Comment by tawal — October 7, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    • It works now, doesn’t it? It has since I changed it, for me at least.

      Comment by Russ — October 8, 2010 @ 3:02 am

      • Russ, it did last night, but not now… (Article is from 9/30, folks.)

        Comment by tawal — October 8, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

      • I just tried it again and it works for me.

        Comment by Russ — October 8, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  5. The roots of the word aristocracy mean “rule of the best”. As in rule of the self-evidently superior. Not only does the ruling class doom most of humanity to grinding poverty and early death but as aristocrats they added a punch in the face: We who do this are your betters. Well, the meritocracy myth is a cloak cut from the same cloth. We who merit it, deserve it, rule over you. The village on the Potomac truly believe they are a meritocracy. As usual this is only self-evident to themselves. Any objective observer can see the blatant nepotism and connection currying. But I’m sure it’s great for their self-esteem.

    Privileged parents bequeath every possible advantage to their children. And grinding poverty is passed from parent to child. How is this a recipe for meritocracy? The very idea is absurd. Without equality of opportunity, without sufficient equality of outcome, such a thing is impossible.

    I doubt it’s possible to completely rid any system of favoring “who you know” over “what you know”. “Who you know” is much easier to evaluate. And people naturally accept the testimonials of people around them. Of course, a system as corrupt as ours can drop even the pretence of honoring “what” in favor of “who”.

    Comment by reslez — October 7, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

    • What we need is the Who You Know of the true community, non-hierarchical and self-managing, the way the vast majority of people lived throughout history. (Perhaps the biggest of all Big Lies is that self-management “doesn’t work”, when in fact it has worked throughout history wherever not smashed by violence. It’s the way most people lived, while the alleged modern need for hierarchy is just another ahistorical aspect of the ahistorical Oil Age.)

      If there could be such a thing as a true meritocracy which produced a true “rule of the best”, like Plato’s Republic, maybe that would be the best system, trickling-down and all.

      But of course nothing remotely like that could ever be achieved in reality. In practice, far from being self-evidently superior, aristocracies as soon as they congeal are self-evidently corrupt and inferior.

      That’s why the Republic is a utopia, “no place”.

      Comment by Russ — October 8, 2010 @ 2:58 am

      • Hmm.. and “Democracies” as soon as they congeal ?
        Maybe some corruption there, too..
        That’s why ANY republic is a utopia.

        Comment by debra — October 8, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

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