There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.
The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.
[The protected] are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.
Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.
Similarly in Europe, citizens on the ground in member nations came to see the EU apparatus as a racket—an elite that operated in splendid isolation, looking after its own while looking down on the people.
[The protected] let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.
… we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.
Perhaps the central story of our time therefore is “inequality,” though not simply “who is a rich enough douchebag to have a penthouse next to the lift at Beaver Creek and use it twice a year?” Could it be that the most consequential inequality is between people who have government jobs, especially high-level ones, and people who don’t have the connections, education, or skill to get those jobs. My hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, where the ruling class tends to move after having kids (don’t want to pay for private school; don’t want your children to encounter any poor kids), has become spectacularly posh over the past 40 years. Baltimore, Maryland, by contrast, is plagued by violence. Baltimore, however, is just far enough away that nobody in Bethesda has to care what happens there (see this chapter on Maryland family law, in which a state legislator from Baltimore described the laws of Maryland as having been made to benefit “wealthy lawyers who represent people in Montgomery County”).
- “It takes a lot of personal courage to dismiss the security concerns of others when you have Secret Service protection for life and will never board another commercial flight.”
- Is it fair to refer to Barack Obama as King Obama? (“recent American presidents are like kings in that their experience of life bears no relationship to that of a commoner.”)
- New York Times article on 258 presumably luxurious trips taken by Justice Antonin Scalia during 10 years on the Supreme Court: “Justice Scalia went on at least 23 privately funded trips in 2014 alone to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, …”