By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
In our everyday discourse, there are many tropes, narratives, and models for elites, elite behavior, and changes in the nature of elites: The eternal question: Stupid and/or evil?, the Greek’s cycle of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, and back to democracy again (OK, oversimplified); socio- and psychopathy; “big government vs. small government”; William Black’s accounting control fraud; kleptocracy; and the idea that statism as such is the problem. (Did I miss one?) The grand theories, and not conspiracy theories, a la Weber, Marx, Hegel seem not to figure in every day discourse at all (unless one considers religiously derived theories of government grand). The most rigorous model in that list — Black’s model of accounting control fraud — shows that a large number of the ruling elite (C-level executives of very large institutions) are unindicted criminals, and exposes their modus operandi — but that’s not the same as having a solidly grounded explanatory narrative of elite behavior as such. Is it?
It’s a very curious situation. After all, there are not many members of the ruling elite. For example, 25% of SuperPAC money comes from just five (5) donors. Suppose, just as a metaphor that, taken as a class, the 1% of the 1% who really have the billions are about as numerous as the coaches, staff, and players of the National Football League. Well, every day discourse about the NFL includes detailed analysis of the plays called the previous week, strengths and weaknesses of the teams, strengths and weaknesses of the executives, and so on. Why don’t we have similar discourse on elite “players”? Why can’t we even name the plays they’re running? Since they must certainly run them over and over again!
Bringing this back to Michael Hudson’s political economy: A “planned economy” for the 1%. And the “plan” seems to be that everything over subsistence goes to the rentiers. Fine, and epater le Hayek, too. But that’s really a plan only in the sense that “scoring more points than the other team” is a plan. It’s not a game plan against a specific opponent at a specific time with a specific set of vulnerabilities. For example, many have commented on the eerie similarities between Bush’s run-up to war with Iraq, and Obama’s run-up to war with Iran. It’s almost as if they took the same page out of the playbook! In football, we can name the play: “It’s the flea flicker!” In criminology, we can name the play: “It’s the long con!” Well, why can’t we name the play when constructing narratives of elite behavior? Or has this work been done, and I didn’t get the memo?
NOTE The idea that it’s helpful in winning to know the play your opponent is calling applies whether you’re playing offense of defense.