The Rise of the New Global Elite
... But todayâ€™s super-rich are also different from yesterdayâ€™s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunityâ€”and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.
... I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, heâ€™s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. â€?We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,â€? he told me. â€?So if youâ€™re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.â€?
... Wilsonâ€™s distinction helps explain why many of Americaâ€™s other business elites appear so removed from the continuing travails of the U.S. workforce and economy: the global â€?nationâ€? in which they increasingly live and work is doing fineâ€”indeed, itâ€™s thriving.By the way, just because Khodorkovsky is an SOB doesn't mean that his jailer, Mr. Putin, isn't an SOB-squared.
For the super-elite, a sense of meritocratic achievement can inspire high self-regard, and that self-regardâ€”especially when compounded by their isolation among like-minded peersâ€”can lead to obliviousness and indifference to the suffering of others.
Unsurprisingly, Russian oligarchs have been among the most fearless in expressing this attitude. A little more than a decade ago, for instance, I spoke to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, at that moment the richest man in Russia. â€?If a man is not an oligarch, something is not right with him,â€? Khodorkovsky told me. â€?Everyone had the same starting conditions, everyone could have done it.â€?
Though typically more guarded in their choice of words, many American plutocrats suggest, as Khodorkovsky did, that the trials faced by the working and middle classes are generally their own fault. When I asked one of Wall Streetâ€™s most successful investment-bank CEOs if he felt guilty for his firmâ€™s role in creating the financial crisis, he told me with evident sincerity that he did not. The real culprit, he explained, was his feckless cousin, who owned three cars and a home he could not afford. One of Americaâ€™s top hedge-fund managers made a near-identical case to meâ€”though this time the offenders were his in-laws and their subprime mortgage. And a private-equity baron who divides his time between New York and Palm Beach pinned blame for the collapse on a favorite golf caddy in Arizona, who had bought three condos as investment properties at the height of the bubble.Not surprisingly, the word "immigration" never comes up in the article. Dissent suppression seems to be working fine.
... The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth.
I've argued for citizenism as an alternative to the reigning ideologies in part because globalism is so endlessly vulnerable to manipulation by clever elites.