The Power of Ideas
By Duncan Whitmore
A fundamental misconception concerning the cause of social and political upheaval is that the masses are driven down to such unbearable depths of exploitation and poverty that they rise up to overthrow their masters. In truth, most political revolutionaries, movers and shakers were not peasants storming the palaces with torches and pitchforks. Instead, they usually hailed from the comforts of the aristocracy or the middle class – i.e. the social layer not at the very top but just below it. Given such a circumstance, their motivation was usually a sense of iniquity inflamed by frustrated aspirations rather than grinding poverty. Moreover, while, in principle, it is conceivable that an absolute majority of people will be active and passionate in the demand for political change, it has seldom been necessary. The ruling class is always, at any one time, a minority that can be unseated by an equally small but motivated minority. Indeed, as many a military coup has shown, it’s often enough to gain the support of the “working class” elements of the state such as the army – or, as in the case of the Russian Revolution, to have them neutralised. While, of course, it helps to have the masses on your side in the long run, their only necessary role in this process is to stand on the side-lines.
Another common feature of these movers and shakers, however, is that they were intellectuals or were otherwise under the influence of intellectuals. Amongst the reams of tripe spewed by Keynes in The General Theory he did manage to slip in one nugget of timeless wisdom:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.1
Such “madmen” included not only all of those politicians hypnotised by Keynes himself; the Founding Fathers of the US grappled with the questions of natural law and individual rights; Lenin and Trotsky devoured Marx and Engels; Lenin, in turn, influenced Castro and Mao; Margaret Thatcher slammed on the table a copy of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty at a Tory Party policy meeting; socialism in modern Britain traces most of its influence to the insidious Fabian Society, the past and present membership of which reads like a roll call of Britain’s most prominent leftist politicians, authors and intellectuals. More recently, it has been pointed out that most Western leaders seem to be in thrall to the World Economic Forum’s proposal for a “Great Reset” or “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, initiatives largely orchestrated by its founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, a professor from the University of Geneva.Continue reading