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Thorstein Veblen on Leisure Class Government

by gmoke Wed Jun 22nd, 2022 at 06:09:51 PM EST

from The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
Mineola, NY:  Dover, 1994 [originally published 1899] (ISBN 0-486-28062-4)

(page 49)  So, those offices which are by right the proper employment of the leisure class are noble;  such as government, fighting, hunting, the care of arms and accoutrements, and the like, - in short, those which may be classed as ostensibly predatory employments.

(123) The leisure class is the conservative class.
... The office of the leisure class in social evolution is to retard the movement and to conserve what is obsolescent. This proposition is by no means novel; it has long been one of the commonplaces of popular opinion.

(152)  Moreover, the ostensible serious occupation of the upper class is that of government, which, in point of origin and developmental content, is also a predatory occupation.

(153)  It is only the high-bred gentleman and the rowdy that normally resort to blows as the universal solvent of differences of opinion.

(157)  It is noticeable, for instance, that even very mild-mannered and matter-of-fact men who go out shooting are apt to carry an excess of arms and accoutrements in order to impress upon their own imagination the seriousness of their undertaking.  These huntsmen are also prone to histrionic, prancing gait and to an elaborate exaggeration of the motions, whether of stealth or on onslaught, involved in their deeds of exploit.

... Except where it is adopted as a necessary means of secret communication, the use of a special slang in any employment is probably to be accepted as evidence that the occupation in question is substantially make-believe.

(165)  From the evidence already recited it appears that, in sentiment and inclinations, the leisure class is more favourable to a warlike attitude and animus than the industrial classes.

(184)  The predatory habit of mind involves an accentuated sense of personal dignity and of the relative standing of individuals.  The social structure in which the predatory habit has been the dominant factor in the shaping of institutions is a structure based on status.  The pervading norm in the predatory community's scheme of life is the relation of superior and inferiors, noble and base, dominant and subservient persons and classes, master and slave.  The anthropomorphic cults have come down from that stage of industrial development and have been shaped by the same scheme of economic differentiation, - a differentiation into consumer and producer, - and they are pervaded by the same dominant principle of mastery and subservience.

(234)  In point of derivation, the office of government is a predatory function, pertaining integrally to the archaic leisure-class scheme of life.  It is an exercise of control and coercion over the population from which the class draws its sustenance.

More notes from Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2022/06/notes-on-thorstein-veblens-theory-of.html

Perhaps this kind of leisure class government is why the authors of Democracy in America?  What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It (Chicago:  Univ of Chicago Press, 2017  ISBN 978-0-226-50896-2), Benjamin I Page and Martin Gilens, found in their study of 1791 proposed policy changes from 1981 to 2002 that proposals with 61-80% approval have a less than 40% chance of passing, up to 90% approval passes a little more often than 40% of the time, and even a proposal with 91-100% approval has less than 60% chance of passing.   (Source:  2016 UMich lecture by Benjamin Page https://youtu.be/hJ1UmicB7qM).

It's probably worse now.

This is not to dismiss electoral politics out of hand.  This is meant to present the political reality.  

We need to do more than vote, more than elect good politicians, more than pass good legislation.  We need to deal with the problems on the ground, where they occur, and stop spending the vast majority of our time appealing to Washington DC or the local state house because, in all likelihood, the people we are appealing to are the leisure class with no thought except conspicuous consumption and the record shows that such people will support 100% of public opinion maybe, if we're lucky, less than 60% of the time.

More leisure class government?
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