The Great Class Swap
America’s wealth inequality is at an all-time high with an increase in poverty, a more stratified class structure, and an overall decline in social mobility. There are many political and sociological factors with the two main angles being economic and demographic.
Besides egalitarian concerns there is the broader populist narrative of the middle-class being squeezed out from both the top and bottom. Pro middle-class populists won’t outright say this but too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while too much population growth is concentrated in the underclass. Both trends place greater strain on the middle-class and have dire implications for maintaining a cohesive society.
Existing policies that exacerbate these trends include privatization, globalization, and the financialization of the economy all of which consolidate wealth at the very top. On top of these plutocratic economic policies there are economic and political incentives for a downward spiral in fertility correlating with a rise in income. Additionally: we see a shift in population growth towards the proletariat due to immigration policy and economic incentives for higher fertility among the poor.
Put forth as a thought experiment is a scenario where wealth is redistributed from the top down to the masses while the genetic makeup of the upper bracket is also redistributed downwards: The Great Class Swap. Basically this would be socialism but fused with eugenics so that the masses get both the wealth and genes from the top. While this scenario is purely hypothetical and not politically palatable what kind of society would this arrangement create and who would benefit the most?
Despite the potential for civil rights abuses if these hypothetical policies were to be fully implemented, in the long run, the quality of life would be improved for all. Many of the poor would benefit economically from the immediate redistribution of resources in the short term but in the long term the size of the underclass would be vastly smaller. The middle-class would benefit the most by gaining access to the economic resources of the wealthy without being exposed to the underclass. The wealthy would have to make major economic sacrifices in the short term but in the long term the descendants of the moderately wealthy would benefit by being able to enjoy a high quality of life without the cutthroat competition.
This theoretical arrangement would completely change how wealth and class are viewed beyond a monetary measurement. There is a moral and political taboo of viewing people as a resource, both from an egalitarian or humanitarian standpoint and also from a capitalist standpoint. Thus, society and the entire political spectrum rely upon wealth as the only metric to base the debate on economic equity.
The current dichotomy on class neglects that much of the cutthroat competition of capitalism is largely a result of competition to secure one’s place and strive to move up in class by having access to the “right kind of people” while avoiding the “wrong kind,” the idea being that the worst part of poverty is being around other poor people. For instance, the wealthy would rather pay more in taxes for welfare programs for those who they never have to interact with than have their neighborhood’s zoned to accommodate middle income housing.
Neglecting these concerns only exacerbates the hyper-competitive nature of modern society but the endgame of The Great Class Swap is for the average person to live the kind of life that one strives for under capitalism. While many Leftwing economic policies such as free healthcare and a guaranteed income make sense, any redistribution of wealth will fall short if implanted without addressing these concerns and could very well bring the middle class down to the lowest common dominator.
While never explicitly linked to policy there is a historical precedent for this arrangement on class and population dynamics. For instance up until the Industrial Revolution in Britain there was downward mobility among social classes where aristocrats --who had the highest fertility, due to low infant mortality-- ended up repopulating the Yeoman farmer class who had much lower fertility. This was in large part because inheritance was passed down to the eldest male, so younger males would be pushed in a downwardly mobile direction toward the middle-class. This demographic trend helped build up the successful middle class societies of Britain and America. On a darker note, the Black Death’s culling of excess populations also helped end feudalism in Europe by giving the surviving smaller pool of peasants more economic bargaining power.
Economics serves as a metric for genetic and personality traits, both positive and negative. Certainly IQ and beauty are desired traits that are selected for by class and in a society where everyone is high IQ and attractive there would be greater social cohesion and more economic equity with the only potential downside being compensating those with high IQ to do menial tasks that can’t be automated.
As for the genetic and personality traits that are selected for under managerial capitalism, the current economic system rewards traits with potential downsides such as hyper-conformity but also dark triad traits. Some of these selected traits would not necessarily bring about a greater society but a shift away from cutthroat competition could minimize those traits. For instance hereditary aristocrats are by stereotype more magnanimous than capitalist elites; in the scenario of the Great Class Swap we could end up with a populace that is attractive and high IQ but lacking the negative traits selected for under capitalism.
This thought experiment does not fit into any moral or ideological framework of either the left or right. For instance, the right generally takes a view that those who are better rise to the top, thus competition should be encouraged, while the left places value on equity and takes the view that the poor are righteous but oppressed. Modern Conservativism’s response to the left’s moral framework is to virtue signal against eugenics by taking a blank slatist position that everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This is in stark contrast to the view that genes rather than moral failings cause economic and social ills, an alternative view that has the potential to fuel Social Darwinism of the right, but ironically could lead to a more compassionate or socialist stance. The Great Class Swap is simultaneously elitist and egalitarian.
The current framework of neoliberalism neglects both left-wing and right-wing concerns about egalitarianism and advancing civilization and mankind. Despite institutional power, neoliberalism lacks a strong philosophical and moral framework to maintain the current arrangement with extreme inequality and failure to address people’s material and social needs. Wokeness is in large part a new moral framework to mask inequality and manage the decline.
Even though neoliberalism has lost much of its moral legitimacy no other framework has yet to fill that vacuum as the left has given up on egalitarianism in favor of wokeness. Any alternative framework would have to be a third position, merging the right’s spirit of advancing mankind while also addressing the left’s material concerns by making a moral case that the alternative would better address people’s basic needs in contrast to neoliberal virtue signaling.
Neither the left or right offer any serious solutions to inequality so any new philosophy that reconciles both views, equality and advancing mankind, must be paired with humane and palatable solutions. The Great Class Swap social experiment taken to an extreme would obviously require authoritarian policies but there could be a watered down version that is compatible with a kind of pro-middle class centrist populism. Such as platform might include overall high taxes on wealth offset by coercive natalist incentives and a basic income without the added welfare incentives for having more children.
These policies would still require strong centralized power to implement and are not viable in a society that is as politically divided and demographically diverse as our own. One Billion Americans advocate Matt Yglesias admits that this future of America won’t be one giant Denmark in that it will be extremely diverse and thus a certain level of inequality is inevitable. The ongoing changes in income inequality and demographics will likely continue and social engineers are putting forth their own solutions to manage these changes. Wesley Yang, predicts that “people who understand the social construction of race are engineering a new elite ethnogenesis: assortative mating at Ivies will create racially mixed elite overclass as remaining legacy and athlete whites mate with "POC" majority.”
This push to diversify elites is almost like a form of woke of Social Darwinism—the selection of the strongest within each ethnic group—and is the very essence of wokeified capitalism. This is a version of social engineering that is the polar opposite of the Great Class Swap. Inequality is maintained by changing the aesthetic and shifting the genetic makeup of inequality rather than solving inequality.
There are many different future scenarios with Wesley Yang also predicting a populist backlash against this new blended power elite. What will likely happen is a greater bifurcation of the elites, a breakdown of one centralized elite into more regional and ethnic elites. This was the case in the past and is in large part due to the problem of elite overproduction with more severe competition over a limited number of elite spots.
Elite overproduction creates many problems such as a fertility decline in the upper classes and political instability. Now the push to diversify the elites will only exacerbate these trends as many of the White upper class could be pushed aside in favor of the new wave of diverse strivers. The long term trend of disintegration, however, creates many opportunities. For instance: the existence of more local and regional elites provide more opportunities to return to a healthier arrangement where more can thrive through parallel and alternative institutions. When it is not just the working classes that are pushed aside, but the educated and those with high IQs, there is a fertile ground for such ingenuity. Neoliberal institutional power benefits from the current arrangement but will likely also come apart due to elite over production.
Besides economic trends, Crisper gene editing could very well play a big role in the future. This all depends on whether Western Elites overcome longstanding taboos and adopt it, but has the potential to shape the demographic trends of the future. This could be positive or negative depending on what traits are selected for. Regardless, the future of the West is not the one blended humanity that cosmopolitans envision but rather a further Coming Apart including greater stratification by class and demographics with assortative mating. The Great Class Swap is purely a thought-experiment but the politics of the future will have to take into account a more stratified, neo-tribal arrangement that is based upon smaller decentralized units.