Monday, May 23, 2011

Aristocracy?

Ross Douthat--a columnist whom I ordinarily find a bore--has an interesting column this morning. He takes the DSK affair and tries to tease out its larger meaning. And what he comes up with is this:

Moreover, no creative mind could have dreamed up an allegation better calculated to vindicate the perception that today’s Eurocrats are just a version of the old European aristocracy — exercising droit du seigneur in high-priced hotel rooms while they wait to catch a first-class flight to Paris.


His argument is that high-minded "cosmopolitan" technocrats have for decades attempted to counter the will of dozens of distinct "peoples" by creating and managing a social-democratic super-state dependent on a large influx of immigrants to sustain its generous welfare measures while fending off global competitive pressures. This technocracy, isolated from "ordinary" people, evolved into an "aristocratic" elite with its own mores and an arrogant assumption of privilege, extending, in the case of Strauss-Kahn, and if the charges against him are true, to a sort of droit de cuissage.


Douthat may be excused for dramatizing the issue--the demands of the column format are severe. And I'm not sure that the division between certain elites and "the people" is worse in Europe than in, say, the United States, where the Tea Party reaction demonstrates that anti-elitist sentiment can be virulent even if the elite considers itself entitled only to bailouts and not to women's bodies. So perhaps the problem should not be formulated in terms of the European welfare state, which is Douthat's target because it suits his prior ideological commitments. But there is a germ of an idea here that bears further reflection.

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