Letter #12: Manufacturing Elites
The Bronx Is Burning Again
Sixteen elite colleges are the subject of a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago. The suit claims that these universities essentially collaborated to fraudulently inflate the financial needs of scholarship recipients, thus inflating the cost of education and shutting down a major avenue of self-improvement (education) that has lifted generations out of poverty. This is a market manipulation technique known as “price fixing”, and it’s been illegal (but hardly enforced) for a long time.
Anti-trust regulations are by definition very hard to enforce in a capitalist society. Our rulers want to encourage people to get wealthy, which necessarily tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and they typically balk at any attempt to rein in the excesses of this system - even when the benefits are obvious and there’s little risk of turning into North Korea. This is also because the United States government has been wholly captured by lobbying interests, which disincentivizes using state power to rein in harmful, polluting, or otherwise predatory industries.
Seen in this context, this lawsuit is a rare bright spot in a cloudy history of lax anti-trust enforcement and an innovative way to try to break up what has been referred to as the Ivy League Cartel. Elite theory postulates that at the end of the day, a society governed by an aristocracy will necessarily seek to perpetuate said aristocracy at any cost, including democracy. America was founded pluralistically; it should be obvious that with so many different groups vying for power in this country, democracy is the only way to reconcile their differences without ending up in something similar to China’s Warring States Period.
Robust anti-trust enforcement is how you prevent that.
A fire in The Bronx has killed nineteen people - 10 adults and 9 children - on Sunday. Reports indicate the fire was caused by an electric heater which malfunctioned and sparked the blaze. Even more tragically, this is only the latest in a series of historically deadly fires that happen to disproportionately affect, injure, and kill the residents of large public and private apartment buildings there, most of whom live in poverty and do not have the power to pressure their property managers and landlords to keep buildings up to fire code and prevent unnecessary death and destruction.
New York City, like London, is really two Dickensian cities. America’s largest metropolis is strictly and starkly segregated by class first and foremost, which results in de-facto racial segregation at the institutional and residential level. Entire neighborhoods of working class and poor people are frequently neglected and underinvested in, in a pattern that grew out of the “white flight” phenomenon of the 1970s-90s and stubbornly persists to this day. That’s where “the ghetto” comes from. It was deliberately created by policy.
The key difference today is that the city has been re-invested in little by little, in targeted neighborhoods, in response to a more recent influx of young professionals with upwardly-mobile careers (like this writer, despite being a NYC native with roots in the city going back generations. Nothing is black-and-white.) - a demographic reversal that is commonly referred to as “gentrification”. This piecemeal approach, with real-estate interests following the more-adventurous young people into previously-condemned neighborhoods, has been politically controversial for years.
We are seeing, in the lack of decent affordable housing concentrated in these areas, a stark reminder that for all the soi-disant progressivism in this city, the benefits of NYC’s renewed image as a safe, hip tourist destination are only reserved for the wealthy. Everyone is expected to pay the exorbitant city taxes, however - a classic “socialize the costs, privatize the benefits” regime to keep the proverbial boot on everyone’s neck.
So what can you do to help? Here’s a GoFundMe campaign for the Gambian Youth Organization, whose members were particularly affected by the fire because many of the building’s residents were Gambian immigrants. Or you can show up in person:
Rest in Peace to those who lost their lives, and a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
Also RIP: Sydney Poitier. And a belated one to bell hooks.