Bled dry by the New Class: ‘Bureaucrats push pencils at the expense of real workers’

Greeks protest in Athens in 2010. (Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis, AP, 2010)

Greeks protest in Athens in 2010.  (Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis, AP, 2010)

For USATodayGlenn Harlan Reynolds writes:

Life is hard. It’s harder still when an entire class of people with their hands out stands between you and success.

Unfortunately, that’s increasingly the problem, all around the world. A recent New York Times piece tells the story of a Greek woman’s efforts to survive that country’s financial collapse. After losing her job, she tried to start a pastry business, only to find the regulatory environment impossible. Among other things, they wanted her to pay the business’s first two years of taxes up front, before it had taken in a cent. Whennew-school the business failed, her lesson was this: “I, like thousands of others trying to start businesses, learned that I would be at the mercy of public employees who interpreted the laws so they could profit themselves.”

[Reynolds‘ book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]

This phenomenon isn’t limited to Greece, or even to capitalistic societies. Dissident Soviet-era thinker Milovan Djilas coined the term “the New Class” to describe the people who actually ran the Soviet Union: Not workers or capitalists or proletarians, but managers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and assorted hangers-on. This group, Djilas wrote, had assumed the power that mattered in the “workers’ paradise,” and transformed itself into a new kind of aristocracy, even while pretending, ever less convincingly, to do so in the name of the workers. Capitalists own capital, workers own their labor, but what the New Class owned was political control over other people’s capital and labor. Those Greek bureaucrats’ power didn’t come from making things. It came from being able to make people — like our pastry chef — jump through hoops before they could make things.

In the Soviet Union, the situation was even worse. The problem was that what was good for the New Class — rules, programs, and ever-expanding bureaucracy — wasn’t good for the workers, who mostly wanted enough meat, and maybe someday a new washing machine that worked. But despite the system’s formal dedication to equality, the resources, prestige and a variety of legal privileges flowed to the New Class, not to those the New Class was supposedly intended to help. But sadly the New Class isn’t limited to the Soviet Union or Greece.

Here in the United States, a lot of programs officially aimed at the poor look suspiciously like subsidies to the New Class, too…(read more)


Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.