The rise of progressive oligarchy

The result, intentional or not, has been the creation of the very oligarchic state Progressives claimed to oppose. By arguing and governing as if politics is principally about the distribution of wealth (“who gets what, when, and how,” as leading Progressive political scientist Harold Lasswell put it), they managed to assemble, in the federal government, all the means necessary to control that distribution. As a result, controlling the state means controlling wealth.

In such circumstances, the rich will certainly have good reason to seek–and, no doubt, find some success in achieving–political power. But, more importantly, political power has become an essential (if not the exclusive) means to acquiring wealth. Rather than an oligarchy of market winners, we get an oligarchy of the well-connected–and, with the rise of the permanent administrative state, one that is largely immune to any meaningful popular accountability.

The convergence of intentional (mostly Democratic) and accidental (mostly Republican) progressives and the happy peace between the bohemian cultural left and financial elites has deepened and institutionalized the difference between the “ins” and the “outs.” The move from Occupy Wall Street-type community organizer to Martha’s Vineyard celebrity has proven to be unexpectedly easy, at least for President Obama. A few true believers aside, at the end of the day most progressive elites have come to accept that Chappaqua mansions are built on welfare state mudsills and willingly assumed their place in the new oligarchy.