The bullshit American Narrative to the contrary, America is and has always been a ‘class society’. There are basically three classes: Rulers, Mandarins and Peasants.
The Rulers care only about acquiring and increasing their own personal wealth and power. To that end they will enslave, oppress, plunder, exploit and murder, from individuals to entire countries and populations. One thing that has traditionally held them in check has been competition from rulers in other countries, but with economic globalization, national distinctions are vanishing and we can speak of a trans-national elite, a ruling class no longer limted to one country.
The job of running the world for their benefit is too large and complicated for them to accomplish directly. They have therefore established a class of Mandarins – the professionals who actually do the day-to-day work of making the Rich & Powerful richer and more powerful and otherwise supporting the status quo. They do this for the sake of crumbs from the Rulers’ table and the few benefits that place them above the class of Peasants. Joe Bageant nailed it: “The truth is that when we are looking at the political elite [and Mandarins in general], we are looking at the dancing monkey, not who calls the tune”.
If the Rulers constitute the top .1% financially, the Mandarins constitute perhaps the next 20% or thereabouts. They are the visible aspect of the Ruling Class; the pundits, politicians, opinion-shapers, and technicians. As long as they are kept well fed and housed and given the [false} hope of rising to the status of Ruler, they will labor mightily to keep the wheels on the wagon and the Rulers in power, It has been the Rulers who have called the shots politically, economically and culturally for centuries and it has been the Mandarins who have enabled them. They are as guilty as the Rulers, since they facilitate the Class System.
The Peasants? Well, they have provided the actual labor to create the true wealth and have provided the cannon fodder for the Rulers’ wars of conquest and plunder. Both the Rulers and the Mandarins keep the Peasants distracted and provided with the minimum necessary to keep them alive and useful (to the Rulers), but only the minimum, since giving Joe Redneck more than a living wage would reduce the Rulers’ profit margins.
There have been isolated periods of time and place when the Peasants have rebelled, sometimes with temporary victory and sometimes suffering horrendous defeat. However, never having exercised the wheels of power, they are inexperieced in wielding it and the resulting regimes soon fall prey to the machinations of Ruler Class survivors or Mandarins (trained to administer) newly elevated to Ruler Class. Note that educating the Peasants in how to run the world is taboo – can’t have the rabble thinking thoughts above their station. Which partly explains the state of the educational system in America today (along with the desire of the Rulers to reduce taxes and privatize for profit).
BTW: The widely-touted success of the American Revolution was not a matter of Peasants throwing off Rulers. It was about replacing Rulers three thousand miles away with local Rulers. George III & his ministers vs New England mercantile interests and Southern Plantation owners.
Fortunately or unfortunately, some things are self-limiting. The obsession with cheap energy. for example, (to net them every penny in manufacturing and distribution) has triggered Global Warming. The only thing that will limit climate change is the collapse of the mechanisms that drive it. But in the process, billions of people will die and billions more have their lives reduced to precarious day-to-day survival. The Rulers don’t care. They. Do. Not. Care. They themselves will survive in style, in well-protected enclaves (on high ground), served by (fewer) Mandarins and protected from the Peasants by other Peasants.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould
Ultimately, greed is self-limiting, a la the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg. The social, political, economic and human equivalent of Golden Eggs is playing out in slow motion today. We are witnessing the gradual (but accelerating) collapse of economies, politics, societies and nations. This is not new. It has happened repeatedly over the centuries. What is depressing is that it will likely continue to happen as long as the species lasts. And if anyone believes that one leader, one politician, one party can somehow reverse, avoid or prevent historical processes from running their course, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell them.