We are witnessing a surge of popular outrage and even revulsion against an onslaught of ideologically liberal changes affecting the lives of millions of Americans. This outrage is fueled, among other things, by the following:
- decisions of activist judges favoring homosexualist or private property-denying socialist agendas and showing complete disregard for public opinion;
- junk science academics whose unwarranted and twisted findings are celebrated in the liberal media and establishment and are subsequently used to justify society-changing legislation and regulation;
- out-of-touch, liberal politicians using legislation or the raw power of government to intervene more and more inappropriately in the lives of Americans, creating in the process a leviathan Socialist State;
- ideologically-motivated media run amok, showering notoriety on leftist and opportunistic intellectuals, politicians, and entertainment celebrities willing to trumpet the “politically correct” line on a spectrum of controverted issues.
Do Not Confuse “Liberal Establishment” with True Elites
Undoubtedly, the individuals targeted by this furor can somehow be considered as elites. However, they do not represent true elites. Rather, they represent the latter’s corruption. They act contrary to the mission of all true elites which is based on service to the common good and the positive influencing of others, so as to foster goodness and virtue.
There is therefore a danger of conflating the “liberal establishment” with true elites and, while attacking the evils of liberalism, to play inadvertently the game of the left by favoring social egalitarianism. In sum, if we do not make the necessary distinction, we will “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Thus, it is imperative to have a clear notion of what a true elite is so as not to confuse it with distortions or caricatures. Since society cannot live without a ruling class, the destruction of natural elites will cause them to be replaced with a new class of bureaucrats forming a nomenklatura, as happened in socialist countries.
Elites, Excellence and Altruism
The French word élite was incorporated into the English language in 1823 but has its remote origins in the Latin term eligere, “to choose.” It is employed to designate individuals or groups who stand out in a special way in a certain social setting or activity. Thus, elite is used to designate “a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence;” and thus we speak of “the elite of the entertainment world” or “members of the ruling elite;” and “the intellectual elites of the country.”1
The philosophical Encyclopedie de L’Agora defines elite as “the best of the best.” Littré2 cites fleur [flower] as the first synonym of elite. “The elite of an army is the flower of the army. In the words of Tocqueville, an intellectual elite is distinguished by a disinterested love of truth; and in the sphere of action, an elite is distinguished by courage, as Plutarch teaches us in his Lives of Illustrious Men.”3
Distinguishing Between True and Decadent Elites
According to Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “countries which have an elite that is conscious of its responsibility are countries that rise in the firmament of history and brilliantly accomplish their mission. On the contrary, however, nations whose elites are unaware of their responsibility and mission are nations that inevitably fail and plunge into the great catastrophes of history.”
The reason for this, the illustrious Brazilian thinker explains, is that if the “elite has the privileges it has” it must not live to enjoy these privileges but rather “to serve society entirely,” which supposes “that the elite be disposed to make the necessary sacrifices to accomplish its mission.” And, he continues, “The main responsibility or mission of an elite individual—whatever may be the area of his excellence—is to dedicate himself to the common good. This donation of self to the common good consists in having a clear concept of what the elite must do.”
And that is why “if the elite renounces its responsibility to be the social class that sets the tone in society—a moralizing and Christian tone rather than a de-Christianizing and paganizing one—it ceases to be a true elite.”4
Combat Socialism, Not True Elites
Given the confused state of notions in many minds today, we need to insist that a nation cannot exist, or at least it cannot develop normally, without true elites; because a nation progresses only with the impulse of the best, the most skilled, and the most virtuous.
Because of socialism’s egalitarian essence, it loathes the natural elites that rise thanks to the development and use of talents, free enterprise and the hereditary perpetuation of family values and merits.
What outraged Americans ought to do when corrupted elites favor socialism is not to condemn all elites indiscriminately but to combat the former. In other words, they should target the specific elites that allowed themselves to become corrupted. Without this special care to distinguish between false and true elites, one ends up by inadvertently playing into the hands of the enemy we are trying to defeat: socialism.
Outrage against the liberal establishment has sparked increased talk about America’s Founding Fathers. However, few remember to note, much less ponder on how they were members of the social, cultural, and political elite of their time.
We live in dangerous times that require great clarity of vision and strength in action. Let us eschew all muddled, anti-elitist thinking and rhetoric and remain faithful to America’s principled and battle-seasoned anti-communist and anti-socialist past. Should we do this, the troubles we are going through may well become America’s “finest hour.”
- Merriam-Webster.com, s.v. “Elite,” //www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elite; cf. Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. “Elite,” //www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=elite&searchmode=none.
- Émile Maximilien Paul Littré (1801–1881) was a French lexicographer and philosopher, best known for his Dictionnaire de la langue française, commonly called “The Littré.”
- S.v. “Elite,” in Encyclopedie de L’Agora, at //agora.qc.ca/mot.nsf/Dossiers/Elite [our translation].
- Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “O importante papel das elites a serviço da sociedade,” [The Important Role of Elites at the Service of Society] May 6, 1968 speech in Buenos Aires, //www.pliniocorreadeoliveira.info/DIS_680506_importanciadaselites.htm; Cf. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites, //tfp.org/tfp-home/books/nobility-and-analogous-traditional-elites.html.