Age of Discord: Neo-Malthusianist rhetoric of the overproduced pseudo-elites

In the year 2018, 3700 PhD and 28,000 post-graduate degree holders only in one state of India applied for grade D job that requires minimum eligibility of Class V. In another state Maharashtra, Mphil and postgraduates applied for menial jobs alongside school dropouts in 2016.

On other hand, a cut-throat contest for high-end civil services is too big. Lakhs of people prepare day and night forgoing their mental well-being for the toughest exam of the country while barely 0.2% get qualified. There have been educational institutes coming up on an industrial scale over time to lure young aspirants. With a negligible success rate, the institutes eventually bid goodbye to students with the tremendous burden of loans, mental breakdown, and sometimes with irreversible self-harm.

This is not just an Indian phenomenon. Developed countries with a relatively enormous amount of opportunities end up with the same fate.

This is an immense economic loss for any rational society. Certainly, it’s the failure of the State in generating employment in which they could be rightly contributing to the society as per his qualifications. But why there are so many postgraduates when their demand in the workforce is quite low by now?

This phenomenon of bourgeoisie overproduction is quite modern. But its proto version can be attributed to the 12th century Chinese Imperial Examination system to countervail hereditary aristocracy so that the emperor can enjoy the ultimate power in the Capitol politics.

The multi-level written entrance test was the gateway of elitism with multiple social and economical benefits supplying the most loyal ones to the Imperial courts (just like discretionary monetary compensation provided to the government employees and pensioners to counterbalance the impact of inflation and worker class are left only with the burden of indirect taxes to pay). The candidates with Jinshi degrees (similar to a modern PhD degree) were given preferences in higher posts. In response, Shengyuan as an entry-level licentiate became oversupplied by the 18th century. Due to credential inflation, the authority introduced newer complex eligibility criteria that made no sense other than eliminating a large section. The highly educated majority couldn’t find jobs even lower than what they deserved as per their academic credentials. This large equally educated lot couldn’t clear the civil service entrances, also had no authority over the traditional professions. That frustration came out as a national outrage and civil war turning on the system that had rejected them.

To make the incident more relevant to the present day, the government-funded universities acted as preparatory institutions for civil services. To get into those universities through the students had to get mastery over vernacular Mandarin—a foreign dialect to Southern China. Although the entrance was free to all in theory, the competitive entrance systematically favored wealthy social classes who were already in civil services. This was not nepotism or favoritism, the candidates are selected on merit, but the initial privileges favored the elite class. If more people strive for limited slots, a child born of two meritocrats or hereditary elites will have slim advantages over others.

Now get back to July 2021. A Tiktok celebrity posted a witty caption on social media. Angry outrages on comments and retweets float alleging how they actually went to journalism school for five years, ended up being unemployed. The lady got canceled by Woko Haram as usual.

If you see this tussle isn’t that useless unlike most social media discourse. It tells the narrowing path of opportunities for those who opt for a decent career ladder over the social media stars who have acquired fame through the internet. Can be weird, but new eligibility criteria for these aspirational elites! Rae’s tweet just brought out the frustration of those average students neck-deep in debt who followed the standard route for a journalism career—toil hard to get through an Ivy League university entrance, complete 5-year master’s program, and left with no hope whatsoever.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

There is a diverse range of professions. Each profession has its place in society. Each person has an equal place in decision-making and in a democratic system. Everyone has a piece of the franchise, their voice will be heard. This is the common gospel by a liberal ideologue. Is it true?

No, never was and never can be. There’s an Iron law of oligarchy: No matter what kinda government you say your country owns, in the end, you are always gonna end up with an oligarchy. It doesn’t matter whether you have a monarchy or you think you have a democracy, if you have a functioning country, it’s going to end up an oligarchy.

The logic here is pretty simple. It always takes a group of elite who are closely held to make a reasonably sized country work. If you consider monarchy, the king can’t run the state entirely on his own. He needs a handful of elite people to actually control the country. The same is true for democracy where we assume the political power is in the hand of the people. People may pretend they are giving their consent through a voting process, it’s the elected nobles on whose inputs the government runs who can overlook the voter’s aspiration at will. It is also possible you can end up with the sets of political parties with differing ideology and none of them are actually for the development of people. It’s a certain class of people who will take control of what government be like, will promote their kins to take jobs that hold and maintain power. It’s no fault of one type of government or another. The iron law of oligarchy is valid everywhere and all the time.

Well, it says what’s most important in the government is to make sure that you have high circulation among elites. If you keep your elite class completely cut off from the public, ambitious brightest newcomers are going to be stuck outside of the elite class. There will be no fresh blood, the elite class hence the country becomes stagnated. When you constantly suppress the best and brightest they are going to create a class of disaffected people who deserve substandard continue to run the state institutions. They ultimately gonna realize there’s a rule of elites whose ranks they can’t join despite their talent and abilities. This is going to create a series of discontent in the society that will foment a rebellion against the State.

In a democracy, ministers are not the only elites. We put a lot of faith in the idea of credentialism. Like ancient China, colleges are an essential gatekeeper for the meritocratic process. Entrance by entrance, it becomes a filtration system by which elites can be siphoned out of the population and integrated into the liberal system along with those who are descendants of the ruling elite class. Colleges provide credentials that would prove you are entitled to an elite position or say at least in a low managerial position. You have proven your worth by making your way through many entrances, you have a right if not equivalent relationship with elite people. Aspirants assume they can be trusted with power.

Post-war era suddenly college was available to a broad swath of people for whom it had never a consideration. They were happy-go-lucky with their traditional livelihood, worker class lifestyle. In few generations, colleges moved from being a privilege of the elite ruling class to something every middle class habituates with. Again it went down to lower economic classes where the children aspired for degrees even at the cost of the family mortgage.

With the flood of new graduates and postgraduates, college credentials started to lose their charm. It is no longer a golden ticket to your place as a small part of an elite class. Ruling elites, on the other hand, suddenly discovered degrees are just needed to keep pace with the positions that their forefathers once held. Instead, it became a requirement for an increasingly large number of middle-class positions since more and more people began sucking into a frantically credential-obsessed rat race for your average middle-class managerial profession. The poor class who dropped their traditional livelihood to rise as bourgeoisie in one generation can’t adapt to their old profession again. In their absence, their profession has been taken over by capitalists or surplus graduates with additional adept expertise.

They are still being sold this illusion that college will give them access to a whole new world of opportunities. They will ascend to elites or at least will be placed in professional positions where they will be heard by the elites. Those students who acquired liberal arts studies that were never going to make them any money in the real world unless they are the best of bests. They were being told it was their job as newly minted elite to go out and fix problems in the society, now millions and millions of them with useless degrees didn’t even find a job to arrange bread and butter of two times for their family.

Then their frustration like Shengyuan degree holders burst out guessing how the country itself makes no sense, built on lies and blood. Stuck down with degenerates in the society whom they hate and wanted to upgrade, they remember what the professor social science class once told them what is wrong with their country. They yell out “Everything is wrong with society! Everything is wrong with the society!”

This may welcome another cultural revolution demanding the blood of millions. The pioneers will again end up building a society they desire. A new elite structure will emerge and will eventually get calcified like the former one. Another ambitious disaffected lot will plan for another revolt. Till the nation will continue to promote this achievement-obsessed race the cycle will go on.

“people people people”

In India, if you ask anyone from the middle class what is the biggest problem in India, the answer will be “Overpopulation”. Multiple platforms devote day and night to make people believe it’s not the fault of the colonial era state institutions, it’s not the fault of the colonial era constitution that has not yet been reformed in compliance with the native, it’s not the fault of political elites who crave the status quo, but obviously it is the people!

Interestingly most of the complaints come from the middle class that constitutes almost half of the country’s population including the bourgeoisie and the wanna-be bourgeoisie (pseudo-elites). While affluent people at the top deliberately want to justify repression of the underprivileged of the society, the middle class in the rat race also cry that the poor reproduce too much, it costs too many resources. In theory, a huge lot is officially considered economic middle class, but for the uncertainty they have beckoned, it won’t take even a generation for them to fall into economic backward class. Any Tom, Dick, and Harry can come up with university degrees and reposition them downward. The middle class craves to get rid of the poor because they believe it will check credential inflation and make their socioeconomic position stable. A decrease in the number of poor people will increase their share in the economic pie. Thus, the poor are recognized as an unwanted burden on the rest of society.

This imbibed racism of Malthusian argument is propelled along with environmental concerns to give it a human face. Forget about any assistance to the poorer section improving their basic need of food, cloth, and shelter, this ecofascist lot believes in revoking civil liberties and with no rational basis legally enforcing them to drop the cost-effective traditional practices they follow. Dragging them into own hell so that they will give up!

An Indian Civil Servant defending record high petrol price when the relative burden of regressive taxation system harming the poor more owing to the pandemic-induced economic recession

In reality, this is not a “population problem” due to the poor, but for the elites. This is Elite overpopulation. In 1960 TFR of India was about 6 children per woman while now it has dropped to 2.1 per woman today which is pretty ideal to the replacement level. It is, in fact, the ever-widening elite class threatened by ambition of the growing number of commoners that can lead to future conflict over their own elite positions. 19th-century economist Veblen proposed the term ‘Conspicuous consumption’ to denote the excess consumption of goods by the middle class fueled by competition for social status. Greed has no end. ‘Want’ eventually became ‘Need’. Proportional growth in elite appetite made the competition more rigorous. The ambitious non-elites from the worker class with university credentials joined the race, hence the elite population in relation to the overall population dramatically increased. Intra-elite tussle leads to more chaos and instability in this swelling elite section with swelling over-consumption.

Possible solution?

To deal with reality as it is. What if we restore the natural constraints around everything? Political overlords are tone-deaf and out of public touch. What if there would not be central planning “experts” who know a little of what the ground worker actually wants? What if the ruling elite won’t try to solve any issue at hand they haven’t faced in life and let the people means to solve it themselves?

The market system comes in form of commodity exchange. The current system in India considers cash-to-product transactions while the much progressive era of the past included both cash-to-product and product-to-product transactions. The conventional system leads to more wastage of the unsold products due to the absence of their economic utility or aesthetics. The world grows enough food for 10 billion people still we can’t feed the poorest 2 billion. The excess with no economic value can be distributed among have-nots. The poorer section doesn’t imply they are deprived of skills. Suppose we consider aboriginals. They had their system of government, ethics, and rich economic activities. After integration into the mainstream, their liveliness was restricted steering them into poverty. It will take them a few generations to spring back to past glory if they are allowed to do the earlier form of commerce in the abundant environment they live in. Isn’t Malthusianism nothing more than an excuse not to end scarcity? An excuse to boost up own superiority complex? An excuse not to keep our economic betters accountable?

Ending basic scarcity doesn’t mean the end of the lower class. Wealth inequality will persist, the class divide will persist. This is the natural order. The market will operate via a profit motive but need-based economy without mindless overproduction or overconsumption. Transitioning to an economy controlled by the people is that we will be able to more adequately redirect our time and energy towards environmental priorities since our very lives are affected by it. It will be different from equitability nonsense but will be more just and more content. In a content society, there is competition, there is individual progress, but no pointless pursuit of degree fetish and waste of human capital.

As Bryan Stevenson says:

The opposite of poverty is not wealth;

the opposite of poverty is justice.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    Really good post… long, I am half way through

    Thank you for posting, as always…

    Liked by 1 person

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