16
Jan

Failing elites threaten our future

Written on January 16, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Foreign Policy, Op Ed

In 2014, Europeans commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the first World War. This calamity launched three decades of savagery and stupidity, destroying most of what was good in the European civilisation of the beginning of the 20th century. In the end, as Churchill foretold in June 1940, “the New World, with all its power and might”, had to step “forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old”.

The failures of Europe’s political, economic and intellectual elites created the disaster that befell their peoples between 1914 and 1945. Their ignorance and prejudices allowed catastrophe: false ideas and bad values were at work. These included the atavistic belief, not just that empires were magnificent and profitable, but that war was glorious and controllable. It was as if a will to collective suicide seized the leaders of great nations.

Complex societies rely on their elites to get things, if not right, at least not grotesquely wrong. When elites fail, the political order is likely to collapse, as happened to the defeated powers after first World War. The Russian, German and Austrian empires vanished, bequeathing weak successors succeeded by despotism. The war also destroyed the foundations of the 19th century economy: free trade and the gold standard. Attempts to restore it produced more elite failures, this time of Americans as much as Europeans. The Great Depression did much to create the conditions for the second World War. The cold war, a conflict of democracies with a dictatorship sired by the first World War, followed.

Epic failures
The dire results of elite failures are not surprising. An implicit deal exists between elites and the people: the former obtain the privileges and perquisites of power and property; the latter, in return, obtain security and, in modern times, a measure of prosperity. If elites fail, they risk being replaced. The replacement of failed economic, bureaucratic and intellectual elites is always fraught. But, in a democracy, replacement of political elites at least is swift and clean. In a despotism, it will usually be slow and almost always bloody. Read more…

 

Martin Wolf is chief economics commentator with the Financial Times. As published on Jan. 15, 2013 in http://www.irishtimes.com

Comments

Kiwibox.Com May 5, 2014 - 8:05 am

Je ѵaiѕ te dire que cce n’est nullement absurde ..

xbox 360 emulator for pc May 23, 2015 - 3:32 am

Today, I went to the beach with my kids.
I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to
her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had
to tell someone!

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