De Jouvenel said it all in one profound paragraph:
“From the twelfth to the eighteenth century governmental authority grew continuously. The process was understood by all who saw it happening; it stirred them to incessant protest and…reaction. In later times its growth has continued at an accelerated pace…And now we no longer understand the process, we no longer protest, we no longer react. This quiescence of ours is a new thing, for which Power has to thank the smoke-screen in which it has wrapped itself…Masked in anonymity, it claims to have no existence of its own, and to be but the impersonal and passionless instrument of the general will.”
Let’s break this down, point by point, to understand it better:
- “From the twelfth to the eighteenth century governmental authority grew continuously. The process was understood by all who saw it happening; it stirred them to incessant protest and…reaction.”
As kings, rulers, and aristocratic upper classes took more and more power to themselves, and increasingly more over the regular people, the regular people saw what was happening and tried to stop it.
This culminated in the American Revolution and French Revolution, which happened within a few years of each other.
The American Revolution focused on replacing the old monarchial-aristocracy with a new, constitutionally established government of freedom for all classes. In contrast, the French Revolution emphasized killing off the old — literally executing royals and aristocrats in the hope that with their demise the regular people would gain liberty.
The American method quickly proved more effective in promoting freedom.
- “In later times its growth has continued at an accelerated pace.”
Today’s regular citizen has less power than people did even a few generations ago, and our grandchildren will have even less — unless something changes very soon.
- “And now we no longer understand the process, we no longer protest, we no longer react. This quiescence of ours is a new thing, for which Power has to thank the smoke-screen in which it has wrapped itself…Masked in anonymity, it claims to have no existence of its own, and to be but the impersonal and passionless instrument of the general will.”
When those increasing their power were kings and aristocracies, the regular people knew what was happening.
Today, when the new ruling class is a nameless, faceless, unknown elite, the regular people do nothing. They don’t know who is taking away their freedoms, or what to do about it.
Yet power is being lost by the regular people — and gained by the ruling elite — at higher rates than ever before. The gap between the 90 percent and the 10 percent is drastically increasing, but not nearly as much as the gap between the 10 percent and the 1 percent. In fact, the power and wealth gap between the 1 percent and the .1 percent is widening even more rapidly than the others.
If current trends continue, a tiny, ultra-powerful elite will rule our formerly free nations in a way never known before in history — and hardly anyone knows who the new rulers are. They rule by policy, influence, spin, currency transfers, behind the scenes. But their power is still growing.
De Jouvenel wrote of this in 1945, and today the power of this ruling elite only increases. In the conclusion to his great book, On Power, he warned:
“We are the witnesses of a fundamental transformation of society, of a crowning expansion of power…A beneficent authority will watch over every man from the cradle to the grave…controlling his personal development and orienting him towards the most appropriate use of his faculties.
“By a necessary corollary, this authority will be the disposer of society’s entire resources, with a view to getting from them the highest possible return…Power takes over…the whole business of public and private happiness and…all possessions, all productive energies, and all liberties should be handed over to it…The business is one of setting up an immense patriarchy, or…a matriarchy, since we are now told that collective authority should be animated by maternal instincts.”
Today’s Americans are the recipients of this prophecy come true. Today’s newspaper of record, The New York Times, announces that the new “Health Care Law May Result in 2 Million Fewer Full-Time Workers.”
Because Obamacare requires much higher costs for employers to maintain full-time employees, there is a nationwide trend to downsizing employee workweeks. People are supposed to tighten their belts, make do on less income, and pay higher taxes. This is a massive shifting point for the economy.
Many corporations are avoiding the increased taxes and health care costs by moving their operations offshore, to other nations, citing less regulation and more business-friendly tax codes. It’s hard to blame them for seeking greener pastures and shores with more freedom.
Families that were once supported by one wage earner now can’t make ends meet with the incomes of both parents — so they go deeper into debt.
The American Dream is dying.
A new ruling class is rising behind the scenes.
A different future — a lowering standard of living — awaits our children and grandchildren.
Unless something changes.
Regular Americans walk past dusty books on shelves (full of real solutions for our current national problems), click on the television, and settle in for an evening of entertainment…
Somewhere there is a fading memory…of fiddling while Rome burns.
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.