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In his book, “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,” Joseph Schumpeter
offers a sly plug for aristocracy. He suggests that without the protective
function of an aristocratic (i.e., warrior class), the free market and its
denizens have no practical means of defense. In other words, if a
money-minded society does away with aristocratic privilege and status, it
also does away with its own “protective strata.”

The truth or falseness of Schumpeter’s proposition is not easy to
determine. But a casual acquaintance with history leads me to suspect there
is some element of truth in it.

Even if one looks at the founding of our country one finds a soldier
of the aristocratic type – His Excellency, George Washington. Our nation’s
first president was even accused, in his lifetime, of being a “high flying
aristocrat.” After all, he was of the warrior class, dedicated to serve and
protect. He was the father of his country, a true “patrician” in the Roman
style.

Our founding fathers inherited many notions of nobility and freedom
from the aristocracy of ancient Rome. If not for this aristocracy it is
doubtful we would have known the language of freedom – derived from the
speeches of Cicero as well as the histories of Livy and Tacitus. It is no
accident that our founding fathers, in their political letters, often signed
themselves “Publius” or “Cato” or “Brutus.” These were Roman names
associated with Republican virtue. For ancient and Medieval thinkers, Rome’s
aristocratic Republic exemplified the ideal of “liberty.”

Of course, at this late hour nobody in America or Europe would
seriously argue for the establishment of an aristocracy. Today we have a
vast system of bureaucrats, functionaries, elected officials and the
superrich. Today we have a lower class and a middle class. Every man is a
commoner in America. For that matter, aristocracy is quite defunct in Europe
as well. Those who for centuries defended the West against Vikings, Mongols,
Turks and Arabs are no more.

Liberalism brought a revolt against the authority of barons, dukes and
kings. “Economically,” wrote Schumpeter, “all this meant for the bourgeoisie was
the breaking of so many fetters and the removal of so many barriers.”
Politically it meant the rise of democratic (or Republican) institutions,
where leaders were chosen by vote rather than by inheritance or combat.
“But,” wrote Schumpeter, “surveying that process from the standpoint of
today, the observer might well wonder whether in the end such complete
emancipation was good for the bourgeois and his world.”

This is a curious thing for a 20th century economist to say. How
could anyone possibly suggest that the elimination of aristocratic privilege
was an error?

According to Schumpeter, Europe’s aristocrats nourished the
bourgeoisie. They nourished and protected capitalism in its cradle. That
capitalism would turn against the aristocrats was not foreseen. But that’s
what happened. With the destruction of aristocracy in Europe, argued
Schumpeter, socialism became inevitable. “The aristocratic element continued
to rule the roost right to the end of the period of intact and vital
capitalism,” argued Schumpeter. It was the aristocracy, he added, that “made
itself the representative of bourgeois interests and fought the battles of
the bourgeoisie.”

Without being dominated by aristocrats or an aristocratic culture, the
bourgeoisie would be vulnerable to the barbarians of the 20th century – Nazis, communists, anarchists and nihilists.

It is very interesting, in this respect, what Gustav Le Bon wrote
about the bourgeoisie’s willingness to defend itself. According to Le Bon,
“Skeptical indifference … is the great malady of the modern bourgeoisie.
When, to the declamations and assaults of an increasing minority … nothing
is set up in opposition, one may be sure that the triumph of the minority is
very near at hand.”

Le Bon was troubled by middle class indifference to the requirements
of social defense. He asked the question: “Are the worst enemies of society
those who attack it or those who do not even give themselves the trouble of
defending it?”

What if egalitarianism and the elimination of class distinctions has
succeeded in destroying what was, according to Schumpeter and Le Bon, Western
Civilization’s protective strata? Can our MBA’s and bureaucrats defend the
Anglo-Saxon archipelago as admirably as George Washington or the Duke of
Wellington?

“The stock exchange is a poor substitute for the Holy Grail,” warned
Schumpeter, who added that the middle class is “rationalist and unheroic.”
In fact, middle class man “can only use rationalist and unheroic means to
defend his position or to bend a nation to his will.”

These are disturbing words for Americans, who are egalitarians to the
core. The notion that “all men are created equal” is branded into our
consciousness. But let us be honest for a moment. Men are hardly created
equal in reality. If you factored in education and training, men would not
long remain equal even if they were created so. Some are naturally gifted
from childhood. Some benefit from hard training and long study. It used to
be that aristocracy, under the best circumstances, was a training in
leadership that would begin at infancy. What we are now left to is the
training of opportunists by state functionaries.

If you wonder why our society increasingly gives way to enemies,
foreign and domestic, why decades have elapsed without the building of any
national missile defense, or why we have allowed Marxist professors to give
history lessons to our youth, perhaps Joseph Schumpeter and Gustov Le Bon
have the answer.

Just trace the line of leadership in this country from George
Washington to George Bush. The gradual progression downward should be
evident to any thinking person.

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