OH, how we all enjoyed the appointment of the EU commission two short weeks ago! Libertarians such as Allister Heath and Andrew Neil fulminated in righteous indignation at the anti-meritocratic nature of it all. Meanwhile those of us with more atavistic prejudices muttered darkly that it was all reminiscent of the College of Cardinals choosing the next Pope. Then from nowhere a distinctly blonde, blue-eyed German popped up as leader, fanatically wedded to the idea of a pan-European Army. Priceless! She might as well have held her first press conference in feldgrau singing Das Panzerlied. Those pesky continental types had plainly never really moved on at all. Vastly inferior to Anglo-Saxon liberty and democracy. Pull up the drawbridge. Better off out.
Now back to reality. We British now live in our own Imperium. Just days ago, Labour fully converted to a Remain position, in the process utterly betraying not only the EU referendum result but its working-class voters and the Left’s proud tradition of fighting for universal suffrage. Meanwhile Parliament arrogantly imposed same-sex marriage and abortion rights on Northern Ireland. Not to worry, because in the main the civil service is running the show: its Sir Humphreys, not content with undermining Brexit, now pontificate about the fitness for office not only of the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition but also the President of the United States!
As is painfully apparent to anyone not living on Mars these past few years, the awful truth is that Parliament and our institutions have become Imperial bodies, imposing a hyper-liberalism upon an unwilling population. Much the same sorry situation is to be found all over the Western world, and such is our fall from grace that even Vladimir Putin can give us lectures concerning the failure of the ‘liberal idea’. As tempting as it is to blame all our travails on the EU, the historical forces that have created this situation have little if anything to do with it, and are perhaps far more powerful and intractable.
Instead, its roots lie in the information age where economic success relies greatly on cognitive ability. The communication revolution and globalisation has allowed elites to communicate and network together as never before. At the same time, a powerful social filtering has taken place, where men and women are matched at university or in the professions to people of similar ability and status.* Consequently their young inherit not just huge advantages in wealth, connections, education and so on but also genetics, which may account for between 40 and 80 per cent of intelligence.
What is now happening is something the world has seen before – what might be termed meritocratic dynasticism – where increasingly impermeable cognitive elites are drifting apart from the people in even the most free market societies. Far more dangerous and lethal than the EU’s rather quaint and old-fashioned conspiracies are the subconscious assumptions and prejudices this new elite has absorbed through the constant interaction the global communications revolution has brought about. Made insufferably smug by their wordly success and unmoored from their host societies, they have plainly fallen prey to a grotesque narcissism, seemingly addicted in a psychological and perhaps even a physiological sense to imposing ever more insane policies on the rest of us.
As the Roman Catholic commentator Ed West stated, liberalism is the new ‘high status faith’ of our times. As such it combines obedience to its canons, the ecstasy of grace and the terror of being cast out for heresy. The effect on politics has been truly catastrophic: policies are not formed on the basis of empirical rationality but have become, quite literally, tests of faith. I doubt if even medieval magicians would have claimed that a person can change sex at will, but such lunacy is now seriously countenanced.
Representative democracy was never designed for these new societal structures and consequently has decayed into what would more accurately be termed ‘unrepresentative shamocracy’. Some may pin their hopes on new insurgencies such as the Brexit Party fighting and winning within the existing structures, or that sacking a few quangocrats and civil servants may solve the problem. Even if true, how long would it be before the process of ‘cosmopolitan capture’ reasserted itself? Just look at the sad decay of the Labour Party: an institution, as someone put it brilliantly, that has gone within the space of one generation from viewing the working class as the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth.
After Brexit, another huge and pressing challenge awaits. For people to be heard, we need new direct democratic structures to replace the once democratic, newly imperial Parliaments and institutions of today.
* Interestingly, since 2000 this cognitive filtering effect may have gone into sharp decline due to the exponential growth of online dating, the huge future sociological impact of which we can only now guess at. However, in the meantime the cognitive filtering effect will plainly strongly affect the sociological structure of the next generation.
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) July 12, 2019