I recently gave a speech entitled “The Four Reasons Freedom is Losing the Current Battle for Liberty,” and during it I mentioned that the real battle isn’t between conservatives and liberals, or the Right and the Left, Hawks or Doves, or Red versus Blue states.
It’s between the Establishment and the Remnant.
I found that there was little need to define “Establishment.” Even people’s private definitions or semantical oddities seem to sum it up well enough. However, I did have several people after the talk ask me to elaborate on my definition of “Remnant.”
The Establishment perspective is promoted by the two big political parties, the mainstream media, much of mainstream academia, and many in big business. It is sometimes called the Military-Industrial-Complex, the Washington-New York-Boston Establishment, or the East Coast Establishment. It is seen by many as the collective culture of Big Business and Big Government.
The term “The Establishment” was used by Emerson in the 19th Century, but became popular mainly in Britain — where it means the combined interests of the upper classes, and is made up of a network of elites rather than any specific political entity, party or group. As one British journalist put it:
“By the ‘Establishment,’ I do not only mean the centres of official power — though they are certainly part of it — but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised.”
In the United States it operates in the same way.
In contrast, “the Remnant” is a term first used (in this sentiment) by political philosopher Albert Jay Nock to describe the minority of people in any society who understand what freedom is, when it is in decline, and how to restore it.
Nock argued that the number of people who fit this definition in a society — who really understand freedom, its current status, and how to rekindle it — and how deeply they truly understand freedom, determines whether or not freedom can flourish.
The challenge is that the political party system grows when each party can claim to be the bastion of freedom while simultaneously vilifying the other party. This is the normal Establishment approach.
When people think their party and their candidate hold the answers to the nation’s problems, or that the other party and its top leaders are the problem, the Establishment is flourishing.
That’s where we are right now.
Nock suggested that trying to increase freedom by supporting this Establishment conflict of the parties is a waste of time. Worse, it creates false hope in your own party and overly zealous anger against the other party. All of this helps the Establishment grow, while freedom steadily declines.
In addition, Nock pointed out, it is easy to identify who supports the Establishment: they trust what the media says without examination. Those who trust the media are always fooled by the latest Establishment agenda, whichever party is in power.
Those who look deeper than the media, who automatically assume that media reports are part of an agenda and instead of believing them realize there is pretty much always a deeper story, are the Remnant.
In fact, this is the starting point because only those who think beyond popular opinion can ever understand what is really happening. Nobody else even bothers to look past media reports.
These are two of the biggest differences between the Establishment and the Remnant:
1. The Establishment believes one of the current political parties is the best chance for the nation and the other party is the problem (thus, supporters of both parties are part of the Establishment), while the Remnant believes that both parties are flawed and unlikely to fix things.
2. The Establishment tends to believe the media, while the Remnant generally mistrusts most media reports.
There are several other significant differences:
3. The Establishment tends to think that political changes will fix the nation, while the Remnant believes that politics are a natural reflection of the people — and that, therefore, real fixes mean the people must change.
4. The Establishment looks to changes in Washington to bring solutions, while the Remnant believes that real change will only come from the choices of regular people across the nation.
5. The Establishment believes national leaders and government officials must lead using political policy, while the Remnant believes that individual men and women must lead out in their personal lives.
6. The Establishment believes in a meritocracy, where the most educated and accomplished should lead, while the Remnant believes that any elite group — even a meritocracy — is a worse leader than the people themselves, and that principles (not experts) must be understood and applied by the regular citizens of any free nation.
The future of the nation depends on the knowledge, wisdom and actions of the Remnant: regular people who don’t expect government officials to solve our nation’s problems.
If the Remnant doesn’t do its job well, freedom declines. If it does, freedom flourishes.
We can’t wait for Washington or politicians to fix our current decline. They won’t. That’s our job, and we’re doing it poorly right now.
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.