The Inevitability of the Leadership of the Élite
Every social order is essentially a phenomenon of leadership, for leadership is one of the most important or significant things about it. As a scheme of purposes, a social order is mainly the expression of the composite will of a dominant class and, as a body of achievements, it is largely the result of the leadership, management, choices, social planning, and control exercised by members of a minority. It seems useful to give this minority of more than average influence and power a name. That name will be “the elite.” This term or classification is not like that of the literate, for which every one can be submitted to a uniform test. It is, however, unimportant whether a few million doubtful cases are classified on one or the other side of the line dividing, for our purposes, the elite from the rest of the population.
The elite may be defined roughly and arbitrarily as including capitalists deriving most of their income from property, business enterprisers and farmers, the professional classes, and, generally, the employed whose salaries are considerably above the average, or, say, above $3,000 a year for the entire country.
Of course, thousands within the classes just named are knaves and fools, or apparently without any real influence or power. But one cannot find a meter to measure the influence and power of every individual. And one cannot go far wrong in working on the assumption that all those in the above mentioned classes, or say roughly one-third of the gainfully employed, or over fifteen million persons (not counting their dependents) are properly classifiable as exercising individually, and in various group aggregates, vastly more power and influence than the rest of the population. Any advertising man or organizer of anything for almost any purpose will readily appreciate why he can accomplish more with a given number of persons drawn at random from this third of the population than with an equal number similarly drawn from the rest of the population. The term elite as used in this connection does not express a value judgment on those so classed, but merely an attempt at factual classification. The term is applied equally to those who are potentially influential and powerful, and those who are actually influential and powerful. It is also applied equally to those who are influential and powerful in anti-social and illegal ways. It is the fact that persons are influential and powerful, not how they use their influence and power, that classes them with the elite. A Karl Marx, living in penury on a meager dole from the funds of relatives and friends, and spending his time reading in the British Museum Library, or writing books which to most people at the time would have seemed incomprehensible or foolish, is, obviously, a more powerful and influential figure than most statesmen in office or captains of industry. And a Jesse James or a Dillinger undoubtedly exercises a more powerful influence over the minds and behavior of hundreds of thousands of unfortunate youths than the average school teacher, whose influence touches far fewer youths and whose influence over those it touches is far less potent than the influence of the example of a Jesse James or a Dillinger over those susceptible to such influence.
It will doubtless shock some tender minds to have a worthy school teacher classed as less influential and powerful than a Jesse James and a Dillinger. But it is absolutely essential to useful social thinking to face facts, and to recognize power and influence wherever they are found to be exercised. A bad example which is made dramatic and notorious can be more powerful and influential than a good example which lacks the qualities that inspire emulation. And a man whose life is branded as a personal failure may, by his example or teaching, make a mighty contribution to the disintegration or destruction of the existing order. The term elite, as here used, does not refer, then, merely to the ins at the top, or only to the people judged good by any standards. It refers to the influential and powerful, and includes also the outs who are potentially, if not actually, as influential and powerful as the ins at the top.
The mischief of soft thinking about leadership and the elite of power is that it causes so many people to disregard the influence of the anti-social criminal of influence, such as the leader or the brains of a criminal gang, as well as the influence of malcontents and maladjusted persons who sow the seeds of social disintegration and revolution. The power of the maladjusted social revolutionary, of course, is more significant than that of the common law breaker, however thrilling the exploits of the latter. The exercise of this power by social revolutionaries is most effective when it takes the form of piling up in the hearts and minds of millions, often more in the subconscious than in the conscious minds, the combustibles of hate and fear to which, at some later date, a more celebrated personality may touch the spark setting off a revolutionary conflagration. Again, the power of the elite who are maladjusted and who are enemies of the existing order may take the form of spreading a corrosive doubt or cynicism as to the essential values of that order.
A wise social philosophy, such as that of fascism, strives to make a place for all the members of the elite. If they cannot be thus eliminated as instruments of destruction of the social order, then other methods for their elimination are followed. The objective of the humane and pragmatic State in its policies with respect to the enemies of the existing order is prevention and not primarily punishment, and it is understood that punishment is an inefficient means of prevention. Fascism, unlike liberalism, does not dramatize the punishment of crime with the sporting events of chasing, capturing and trying the culprit, on which a commercial press, legal profession and movies can make huge profits. Those who cannot be made safe for the community as cooperative members must be made harmless by effective methods which do not allow repetition of the offense or encourage imitation by others.
Criminals of the elite must not be made centers of sensational police and judicial dramas, the principal consequence of which is predisposing thousands of sub-normal or abnormal persons to crime. Their cases must be handled by a system combining many of the features of administrative law and practice with the criminal law. A large number of the criminal elite and the revolutionary elite can be made safe for society by the simple expedient of making proper places for them before they turn to crime or social revolution. Most of the criminals who are mentally or morally deficient could be made safe if detected by proper psychiatric examination in childhood as moral or mental deviates and thereafter institutionalized as long as necessary, which in many cases would be for life. Liberalism will not recognize, as does fascism, that, if a large number of the elite do not find adjustment to the social order and if, in one way or another, they become enemies of the social order, it is mainly the fault of the social order. The social order has the responsibility to fit people to places, and places to people, just as far as such fitting can be done. A social order which allows hundreds of lucky morons to make and keep millions of dollars, and keeps men like Karl Marx or Lenin out of a useful function because in their youth they displayed some innate queerness of personality, has only itself to blame if some of the frustrated conspire successfully its ultimate doom. A social order which allows success and riches for members of the elite having certain skills or aptitudes at a peculiar type of competition found in money-making, and leaves too many other members of the elite, not gifted for this type of competition, largely out of it, will last only as long as the in-elite hold the advantages of numbers, nerve, and lucky breaks. After all, the only good reason, ethical or pragmatic, why a social order can be run in a way to allow fortunes to be made as most of our great fortunes have been made, instead of being run in a way to allow robber barons and belted knights acting as bandits to operate as they have operated for centuries all over the world, is that the elite who have succeeded, or who hope to succeed, at the money-making game have outnumbered and been more lucky than the out-elite. The right and wrong of any social order, after all, is only a matter of how it suits the dominant section of the elite to have the game played. And who the dominant elite shall be can never be permanently determined by law, but must always be determined by force factors, the ultimate play of which, as in war, takes place outside the bounds of law.
The most humane social philosophy is that which recognizes that the rules of the game must, ultimately, allow enough of the elite to play successfully to keep the losers from changing the rules. In other words, to be quite blunt about it, all that will keep the world from going back to a pattern of banditry similar to that which prevailed all over Europe for hundreds of years, and which prevails today in large parts of Asia, will be such changes in the rules of the game as will keep enough of the now frustrated elite satisfied. The scheme of social organization can and should be changed from time to time in ways, never to be foreseen far in advance, to keep any considerable or dangerous number of the elite from being on the outside.
What is needed is a social philosophy of realism which recognizes that there can be no right for the elite of today based on legal theories agreeable to the dominant elite of yesterday but intolerable to too many of today’s elite. The legal right of today is always the physical might of the elite of yesterday. The legal right of today as a practical matter, however, always requires the support or acquiescence of the might of the elite of today. The right of some of the elite to hold wealth and exercise power, while too many more of the equally elite are denied these boons, and while they see no chance of attaining them, is sure to be challenged sooner or later by the over-numerous members of the out-elite. Aside from the final test of force in the eventual clash of interests in armed conflict, the standards are purely relative. just how many are too many elite to remain frustrated with safety for the existing order, it is always impossible to say in advance of the final clash. One can never tell with what exact degree of strain a complex structure like a skyscraper or a great bridge will collapse. One can only fix arbitrarily a danger point beyond which one can say there are serious probabilities of collapse which will increase as the strain increases. The best danger index today is the growing number of the frustrated elite. It is this danger signal which should dictate to the in-elite the necessity of changes in the rules of the game. Unfortunately, however, many of the in-elite look to the Constitution and a body of liberal principles guaranteeing the rights of property as the absolute safeguards of their privileged situation whatever may befall the out-elite, and however numerous these latter may become.
To say that the elite rule, or are socially influential, when the term elite is defined to mean such persons is clearly a piece of tautology. But to say that it is always a small minority of power-wielding persons (who may be called the in-elite) which rules directly, or with the legal instruments of social control, and that it is a small minority of others, also the elite, who are profoundly influential on social affairs (though many or most of them may be in poverty or in difficulties with the law) lays the basis for a wholly different social philosophy from that of liberalism. Liberalism says, “Let the people rule,” and defines such rule as there is as that of the majority, thus denying or disregarding many obvious and important facts by the simple process of definition and assumption.
Communism says, “Let the dictatorship of the proletariat rule,” and asserts categorically that a dictatorship of a small elite of the higher-ups of the communist party is a dictatorship of the proletariat, an assertion which is just as false as the liberal assertion of rule by the people or the majority. Fascism says that the elite, or a small minority, call its members by any term you will, always rule under any system. And fascism proposes a formula of national interest and national discipline under which power is exercised with responsibility to the State for the social consequences of its exercise and with a view to realizing the national plan.
The central point is that it is useful to think of government and management as being the function of a minority, and that it is not useful to any good social purpose to proceed on the theory that the people or the majority rule. It seems idle to speculate as to the nature of a social order in which it would make sense to say that the people ruled. Such a scheme of things would probably have to approximate the conditions obtainable in the small Greek city State, in which there were slaves to do the drudgery, an extremely simple scheme of economic production, and a small group of citizens who could have the time, taste, and requisite personal cultivation, for the complexities of public administration. Such a scheme of social organization is clearly unattainable within the framework of most of the basic features of the present system-features like mass production and division of labor, for instance. The best proof that it is idle to discuss ideal conditions for liberal democracy is to be found in the fact that the trend of all that has been called progress under liberal capitalism during the past fifty years has been unfavorable to the working out of the theory of liberal democracy.
Discussing the questions of who run things, why and how they run things, and how they ought to run things, is almost wholly a matter of using concepts and terms. The same realities seem different as one reduces them to different concepts or defines them differently. The liberal theory can be made to seem reasonable and ethically beautiful by a few simple turns of supposition and definition. One has only to reason that, because the majority has the potential might to transfer, without violence, power from one minority to another, or as liberalism would put it, to delegate power to different representatives of the people, the majority rules. To reason thus, however, is merely to make the ruling class mean by definition that class which, if it is united about doing a given thing, can do that thing against any opposition. Obviously, an overwhelming majority always meets this condition, and any sort of a majority usually meets it.
But the definition, or the underlying concept, is not useful as an instrument of thought for many good reasons. The majority supposed to be agreed as to initiating any important social change is extremely rare, if ever it can be said to occur. And a majority rarely remains long agreed on any important enterprise except war. Social changes usually are wrought without majority knowledge or support of their initiation. But even when social changes seem to have majority support for their initiation, it is always a minority which is responsible for first turning majority support in that direction.
The majority is purely a thing of assumption or definition on the occasion of some event, like an election, a Saar plebiscite, a referendum vote on prohibition, or popular acclaim of a declaration of war. Minorities, on the other hand, are not just things of definition. They are active factors which, twenty-four hours of each day, are on the job of getting what they want. With minorities you can do things with majorities. Without minority initiatives you cannot get a majority act or expression. The minority is as real as an army in the field. The majority is real only as a definition of those who do some specific act, usually under minority pressure and direction.
Fortunately for the advancement of the fascist case for responsible rule by the elite according to some idealized scheme of national interest, less argument is required in 1935 than would have been necessary in 1914. We have not time to undertake the demolition, point by point, of the liberal case for majority rule. Current events make it seem superfluous. We can only allude briefly in this chapter to two important groups of facts and considerations which invalidate liberalism and indicate fascism so far as the question of who rules is concerned. The first of these groups of facts may be said to have to do with the limitations and inequalities inherent in human personalities. The second may be called matters of the sheer mechanics of administration and management of large numbers of people and the complex instruments of modern civilization.
Now, as for the limitations and inequalities inherent in human personalities, it may be said that the trend of conclusions based on scientific observation, experimentation, and measurement, in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, biology, and many other related areas of specialized study of human beings as physical organisms and behaving subjects, has been, and continues to be, in the direction of establishing important and irreducible inequalities in intellectual capacity, aptitudes, and character, of different members of any large group. Contrary to one of the major theses of 18th century rationalism and 19th century educational optimism, these inequalities are being increased rather than lessened as a result of more widely diffused educational advantages.
Thus, in the free public schools of great cities it has been found that the small percentage of gifted children among all those enjoying equal public school advantages remains more or less constant, and that over ninety per cent of the exceptionally gifted children come from the homes of the more privileged classes or the classes which we are calling the elite. Putting generations of children through the same educational mill does not change the distribution of gifted, average and sub-normal children among the privileged and underprivileged classes. Thus, one of the most cherished ideals of 18th century rationalism has failed of realization. Education accentuates rather than levels out inequalities of natural endowment. Intelligence tests made of the same persons before, during, and at the end, of either the four-year college course or a seven-or eight-year combined college and professional course, show that the inequalities between different persons increase rather than diminish after undergoing the same course of training.
There is great social significance in the fact that the elite of exceptional natural endowment, who, as a matter of course, become the elite of power and influence, actual or potential, are a fairly constant percentage of the total population. From this fact it follows that no social system can long survive, once it tends strongly to declass more and more of the elite. In other words, the elite are more vital or resistant to suppression as wielders of power and influence than any social system. Civilizations come and go, but the elite go on forever. This point will recur in another connection in the discussion of the next chapter.
There is nothing really depressing about these facts concerning the elite. Nor is there to be deduced from these facts any good argument against more and better education for everyone. These facts, however, do indicate a revision of liberal ideals in education and social policy. They indicate the social convenience of non-liberal values. From the purely humane point of view, it is indicated that the chief object of education, as well as one of the highest group values, should be that of making each person realize his full potentialities and prove a good citizen within the role for which he will be best suited by reason of natural endowment and with the aid of the best training. It is not to make all men equal, or to enable every one to follow a more highly remunerated calling than that of his father.
Liberal education may protest, but in vain, that its chief objective has always been to fit people for the kind of life and work for which they are naturally best fitted. The values exalted by liberal education, and the influence of the liberally and expensively educated, have caused the vast majority of people in the liberal countries to think of education as an instrument to qualify every one to make more money. Hence we find our institutions of higher learning so overrun with the unfit for such training that the fit do not receive the training they merit and require in the best interests of the community.
To effect a necessary revision of cultural values in this respect many drastic measures are indicated, adequate discussion of which would exceed the limits of this chapter. The conscientious performance of the most commonplace tasks must be exalted through all the agencies forming social attitudes. A cult must be made of simple labor and faithful performance of duty. Those admitted to the pursuit of higher studies must be made to do fairly long tours of service at elementary forms of labor in connection with their course of training. The rationale of the new values in this respect must be that only character ennobles a person, while rank is but a convenience of administration.
From the inescapable fact of the inequalities of human endowment, it also follows that any well-ordered society must train and condition its elite under an efficient and hard discipline of national interest. Fascist theory, by recognizing personal inequalities and their full social implications, can be much more humane than a liberalism which assumes that all men are born equal and which, in practice, affords to those born with superior endowment, or favored with better luck than the majority, virtually unlimited opportunities to acquire and use power with irresponsibility for social consequences and in ways further to increase social inequalities.
The other important group of facts which invalidate the liberal theory of rule by the people, or the majority, and which indicate fascism, are found in the sheer mechanics of administration or management, political and economic. If one thinks in terms of the mechanics of running things, and not merely in terms of the hypothesis that, if the people were angry enough against their government, they could change it, either legally or violently, one soon realizes that the machinery, political and economic, inevitably must be run by a minority of technicians whose functions are mainly those of managing and choosing. The orthodox liberal would admit that the people cannot manage, management being a function which must be delegated to specialists in management. But he would insist that the people can choose the objectives of management and that, therefore, in their exercise of choice, they may be said to rule or govern.
It is precisely in the matter of making choices or decisions, however, that the liberal theory is so untrue to the realities. For one thing, they who manage, also, by reason of the very mechanics of power and management, make most of the choices and decisions which liberalism, by definition, imputes to the majority of the people. A majority vote at the polls or in a legislative assembly is, in the largest number of cases, nothing more or less than the product of a minority interest managing things and wielding power.
Then, for another thing, there is the fact that the really important or crucial choices or decisions are seldom made by a majority vote, even formally, or by a majority of selections in the so-called free market. Wars and depressions, for instance, are really important events. In so far as the cumulative choices or decisions which hasten or precipitate either event are concerned, it cannot be said that they often express the wishes or will of a majority of the people. The American people could choose in 1916 between President Wilson and Judge Hughes, but, as events and the since-disclosed correspondence and secrets of Mr. Wilson abundantly reveal, the American people could not vote in the elections of 1916 to keep us out of war, although that, undoubtedly, was their wish.
There was no candidate in 1916 with a chance of getting a majority vote who was committed to, or, if elected, would have been capable of, carrying out an effective policy of American neutrality. Similarly, it may be said that, while the people undoubtedly wish to avert depressions, they have no means, under the liberal system, of giving a mandate to the political and economic powers to do the things which would help to prevent or minimize depressions.
The chief reason, perhaps, why the American people cannot give an effective mandate to their political and economic rulers to do what may be necessary to keep the nation out of war or to minimize depressions is that the system does not allow the needful power to the people’s elected or provide the requisite mechanisms of control. It is as though a national legislature were to vote a declaration of war while the Constitution forbade the maintenance of military discipline, and while the courts exercised the right to enjoin and restrain the military authorities under circumstances in which they require large powers and wide discretion.
Briefly, in reality the people can choose or will only such results as their public agents are empowered and equipped to bring about. When the people choose Tweedledum instead of Tweedledee, or Woodrow Wilson instead of Charles Evans Hughes, they are not registering any significant choice as to important social results, like keeping the country out of war. The more power and the more efficient and adequate instrumentalities the people allow their public agents, the more nearly correct it is to say that the people rule through their agents.
A powerful State guided by a capable elite loyal to some scheme of national interest is far more expressive of the popular will than a weak liberal State, because the powerful State can do more than the weak State to shape social events of importance, and also chiefly because the powerful State can make the people genuinely like or assent to what it does. Under the weak State, all sorts of things (like our entry into the war) happen against everyone’s original wish; many things which every one wishes, fail to happen; and the weak State succeeds in making the people enthusiastically endorse its administration only when at war.
A further explanation why a majority vote (expressing the desire of the people for some important given result, and issuing a mandate to that effect to those elected) is so often meaningless is that there is no satisfactory means of proving relations of cause and effect in political or economic administration. It is asserted here, as the sincere belief of the author, that President Wilson and the international bankers were chiefly responsible for the initiatives or decisions which contributed most to getting us into the World War. It is also asserted here that the leaders in government and big business were mainly responsible for the initiatives which contributed most to the inflationary boom of 1927-1929.
But neither of these assertions can be scientifically proved as certainties. It is just never possible to prove in politics or economics, where important policies and events are in question, that a plus b equals c. Liberal theory assumes that it can always be proved that a plus b equals c in governmental or business management, and that, accordingly, if a government or banking house does a plus b, with the result that c happens, the people will hold certain parties in government or the bank responsible for having done a plus b things. As everyone should know, the liberal statesmen and the bankers always have an alibi for every political and economic crime which is committed by them.
To sum up, then, it may be said that the elite do rule, as liberal theory does not recognize; that they, and not the majority of people, make most of the important choices; that their acts are not subject to rational control by a cause-effect process of, reasoning; and that their acts are not subject to popular control by the ballot or the enforcement of the Constitution in the way liberal theory supposes possible. All this, however, does not amount to saying, by any means, that the elite are subject to no control by the people, or that the rule of the elite under any modern social order is wholly capricious and irresponsible. If, as so seldom happens, the majority is agreed that one set of the elite in power must give place to another, and if the majority is capably inspired and led by the out-elite, it is self-evident that the majority can replace one set of the elite in power by another. In this way the majority can be said to determine a change in rule.
It is, however, equally self-evident from history and clear thinking that one set of the elite which happens to be out of power can organize and lead a successful overturn in which they will replace the elite who are in power — all without having the majority of the people with them. This is precisely what happened in the communist seizure of power in Russia in 1917. In elections held under the most liberal government Russia has ever had, the communists polled less than one-third of the total number of votes cast just a few weeks before they seized power at the point of the bayonet. The out-elite, of course, try to enlist and use as many people as they can get, but they do not need a majority in order to seize power. After they have seized power, as we have already stated, the out-elite can quickly and easily secure the appropriate majority vote ratifying their regime — as Napoleons one and three, Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler, to cite a few well-known examples, fully illustrate. In parentheses, it may be added, also, that historians are now pretty generally agreed that the American Revolution was fought and won by a minority.
The problem of order and welfare, in the light of the fore-going considerations about the inevitability of the leadership of the elite or a minority, appears to be largely one of getting the right elite or minority in power, and having their administration shaped by the influence of certain fundamental ideas and by certain effective personal motivations. These basic ideas for good government by the elite can be expressed in writing in terms of general principles or social ideals.
But it will serve no good purpose to have this expression take the form of written law or constitution subject to judicial ex-position and interpretation. Any written statements of prin-ciple, serving chiefly the purposes of popular education and propaganda, must be subject only to interpretation by the combined legislative and executive agents of the people. Such interpretation will then be in terms of current needs and cur-rent opinion, whereas interpretation in terms of juridical canons must soon become static and expressive mainly of a body of theory or a system of logic developed by a caste of learned clerks or technicians in a logical system, and a procedure of their own creation. These technicians of their own peculiar logical system, however, are not technicians in social management. Most important is the consideration that the ruling principles governing the elite must be made a part of their conditioned reflexes, or their habitual and almost involuntary reactions, rather than a part of a legal code. In the next chapter we shall examine the question of safeguards for the rule of the elite, and the bases of the fascist appeal to the ins and the outs of the elite and to the masses.