Twofish's Blog

April 13, 2008

How to rule the world

Filed under: academia, china, politics — twofish @ 4:35 pm

I’m actually getting a bit tired of talking about Tibet, so let me talk about something related.

How does a group manage to stay in power and end up ruling the world?

In the 19th century, there were two groups that were elites that managed to control their bit of the world. The Protestant Ascendency in Ireland and the Boston Brahmins in New England. No one hears about the Protestant Ascendency anymore (even in Northern Ireland, the Church of Ireland Ascenency lost control to the Prespertyerians that run it now), but it turns out that the ideological heirs of the Boston Brahmins managed to end up ruling the world.

The center of Brahmin power was Harvard University, and rather than fight the inclusion of new groups (like the Irish), the people running things came up with a new definition of “elite” that ended up incorporating any group that could possibility challenge them. Gradually, one ended up with an institution that ends up being one of the centers of power for the groups that rule the world.

Conspiracy theorists are right that the world is basically run by a rather small number of people (at most 10000 people on a planet of 6 billion). Where they get things wrong is they underestimate the ability of the people that run the world to get the cooperation of the remaining people in the world. Most middle class parents in the United States (and in fact most in China) are trying to get their kids in Harvard rather than trying to overthrow it. Also the most successful conspiracies are “hidden in plain sight.” Harvard has a website, with rather detailed instructions on how you can have your son or daughter join the people that run the world.

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5 Comments »

  1. I must say that that is a rather interesting and comical, if not somewhat true way of looking at things. : )

    Comment by remi — April 14, 2008 @ 5:36 am

  2. It is the same idea that CCP encourages all the successful ppl to join the party?

    Comment by stq — April 14, 2008 @ 7:46 am

  3. Yes, our understanding of what it means to be ‘successful’ is imposed by other people’s ideas. Come to think of it most of us are guilty of perpetuating the system we live in. And we deserve to live in this system as long as we’re not brave & determined enough to imagine and create alternative worlds.

    Mostly, we don’t act on our dreams of how to make the world a better place because we’re not willing to face the repercussions. These can be quite intense, as the current system is set up to punish ideas that threaten its legitimacy. But that’s no excuse.

    Comment by Peter — April 17, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  4. There is a story in a story and a story for everyone: the wealthy, the poor, the intellectual, and the not so. As long as you believe that you could get in by following what the site sayz you’ll never think of overthrowing it. There is of course the craziness of the will to power. When you have it, it does not matter where you went. Having your children go to Harvard sayz you have arrived, you have the power, and not the other way around.

    But anyway, most parents send their children to Harvard to gain prosperity and achieve status, not wield power.

    Love your stuff on the Setser blog…

    Comment by bionick — May 13, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  5. But prosperity and status is power.

    Comment by twofish — May 17, 2008 @ 4:25 pm


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