Contemporary Colonialism

David Winer /​/​Flickr Contemporary Colonialism
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“The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of … colonized people are made and implemented by the … rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population, the colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule.” – Jürgen Osterhammel, Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (2005)

“Would it not be simpler if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?” – Bertolt Brecht

Back in the good old days (say, 1700 to 1950) every respectable Global Power had a bunch of colonies. Britain and France led the way, of course, but Portugal, Spain and Holland were hot on their heels. Even countries that should have known better – like the US, which started its own life as a colony – had colonies. In America these were places like (for example) Alaska, Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, Panama Canal Zone, Philippines, Midway, and Puerto Rico, along with quasi-​colonies like Haiti and Nicaragua.

The twin defining characteristics of colonial relationships, as noted in the quote that launched this post, were these: First, decisions were made for the colonized by colonizers who lived far away and who were insulated from the consequences of those decisions. Second, the colonizers were utterly convinced of their own superiority and had nothing but scorn for the cultures and practices of the colonized.

Today, of course, in a world awash in self-​congratulation and moral relativism, nobody would dream of, say, conquering Venezuela and milking it for its oil wealth. We are all much too advanced in our thinking to consider doing something so crude(!). We know, from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, that advanced civilizations, like us, should stay home and merely offer our example to the world’s great unwashed. We can’t rule Baghdad from Washington, and who is so wise as to claim that, say, Chavez and Maduro governed badly?

But does that mean that those glorious colonial days are gone forever? Not so fast! The colonizing instinct is as strong today as it was a few centuries ago. It’s just that it’s become hopelessly Politically Incorrect to try to dominate hapless tribes living on faraway continents. No, these days colonialism begins at home. Let’s take a look at how this works.

In my recent series of posts on Brexit I engaged in a thought experiment involving groups I called Working People and Highly-​Educated People. The former are people – those from about the middle of the middle class down – who tend not to have college educations, who tend to work in unskilled or semi-​skilled jobs, who earn a small fraction of what Highly-​Educated People earn, who have little or no influence on important policy matters in their own country, and who lean toward Donald Trump.

Highly-​Educated People – roughly the top 10% of the society by education and income – are folks who have at least a college degree and probably more than that and who probably went to a serious college or university, not a degree factory. They are folks who work in professional or managerial jobs and who earn vastly more than Working People. Whether they earn a lot or not, Highly-​Educated People dominate policymaking in American society, as well as what can be said or done or even thought. Every one of them is a Clinton voter.

Highly-​Educated People predominate in the big coastal cities – especially New York, DC, LA, San Francisco. They work on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley, in government and in Hollywood, for big foundations and think tanks, and on university campuses. Working People predominate in flyover country.

For purposes of this post, however, we’ll need to change the names of these two groups to better emphasize their core characteristics. Henceforth, Working People will be referred to as “Yahoos” and Highly-​Educated People as “Condescending Bastards.” Since I consider myself to be a member in good standing of the Condescending Bastards (I realize this may be a minority opinion), and since almost no Yahoos subscribe to my blog (not counting my family members), I think I can speak freely.

The fundamental problem us Condescending Bastards have is that we are a small (albeit superior) minority, vastly outnumbered, and therefore outvoted, by the Yahoos. Notice that this is the exact problem yesterday’s colonizers faced: tiny England, for example, had to find a way to dominate massive India. Modern-​day colonizers (us Condescending Bastards) therefore have a well-​tested playbook to guide our colonizing efforts. Our main strategies, updated to accommodate modern sensibilities, are described herein.

One core strategy can be summed up in the phrase, don’t let the Yahoos get a leg up. Not so long ago children of Yahoo families, at least those who worked hard or were good at football, could get college educations. To avoid this pernicious outcome, us Condescending Bastards have ensured that, today, higher education is reserved for the children of Condescending Bastards (who can afford it) and for minority kids (who can get scholarships). Yahoos need not apply, and are, in fact, by far the most under-​represented group on America’s best campuses.

Also not so long ago, adult Yahoos, at least those who worked in big, heavily-​unionized industries like steel or autos, made ridiculously large amounts of money. There were actually Yahoos who made more than college professors! Needless to say, this nonsense had to be stamped out, and it was. Unions were busted and the few remaining jobs available to Yahoos were shipped off to China and India.

Another highly effective strategy is glorifying globalization. For three decades every economist in America complacently assured us that globalization was a wonderful thing. And they were half right! It was a wonderful thing for Condescending Bastards, but it turns out to have been a disaster for Yahoos. Perfect.

We like to talk up the sharing economy. Ah, the “sharing economy,” it has such a gentle, think-​also-​of-​the-​comforts-​of-​others ring to it. Let’s all share our economy! Of course, what it actually means is that the lives of Condescending Bastards are infinitely eased while Yahoos get boring, part-​time, low paid jobs serving our many needs.

Finally, there is always that pesky democracy problem: the damn Yahoos outnumber us 5-​to-​1. As a result, the Yahoos think they can go into a voting machine, push a few buttons, and elect a government they like. Charming, but extremely dangerous – the damned Yahoos are always electing a bunch of grotesque bozos who have bad accents, vote the wrong way, and don’t subscribe to the New York Times.

Fortunately, this is where our Marxist friend, Bertolt Brecht, comes in. We simply ensure that the government will be now-​and-​always hopelessly deadlocked, rendering the Yahoo advantage moot. Instead of the Yahoos dissolving the government and electing a government they like, us Condescending Bastards have managed to dissolve the people and elect one we like better.


Greg Curtis

Gregory Curtis is the founder and Chairman of Greycourt & Co., Inc., a wealth management firm. He is the author of three investment books, including his most recent, Family Capital. He can be reached at . Please note that this post is intended to provide interested persons with an insight on the capital markets and is not intended to promote any manager or firm, nor does it intend to advertise their performance. All opinions expressed are those of Gregory Curtis and do not necessarily represent the views of Greycourt & Co., Inc., the wealth management firm with which he is associated. The information in this report is not intended to address the needs of any particular investor.

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