Interesting article in The Nation today on elitism, its evolution and eventual decline. The summary is that eventually all elites become corrupted oligarchies. This is a very similar conclusion to Friedrich Hayek's conclusions about capitalism and, of course, The Nation, draws the comparison to the current situation in the U.S.
The article draws heavily on the writing of German social theorist Robert Michels, who was a contemporary of Hayek. Michel's “The Iron Law of Oligarchy” states: “It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization says oligarchy.” Organizations naturally evolve toward oligarchies.
Michels second idea is the Principle of Mobility. "Over time, there must be some continuous, competitive selection process that ensures performance is rewarded and failure punished. That is, the delegation of duties cannot simply be made once and then fixed in place over a career or between generations. People must be able to rise and fall along with their accomplishments and failures."
However, rather than drawing a positive conclusion about mobility and meritocracy, he concludes:
"Over time, a society will become more unequal and less mobile as those who ascend its heights create means of preserving and defending their privilege and find ways to pass it on across generations."
The increasing concentration of wealth in the U.S. could be the evidence for Michels views. The increasing inability of Congress and the Executive branch to effectively address issues could be evidence that "preserving and defending their privilege" is the inevitable corruption both Michels and Hayek predicted.
One alternative to spiraling down into corruption is a charismatic leader with a new view who can rise above the monied interests. Unfortunately, the best example of such a leader is Hitler. Another alternative is a revolution, but I doubt we have the heart for it. Maybe we should advocate for an enlightened oligarchy. Not many examples exist in history of such behavior. Looks like a tough problem to solve.
Remember it is not the concentration of wealth that is the problem. The problem is that the wealthy oligarchy corrupts the process of government and eventually free markets. The inability of Washington to address global warming might be the perfect example to demonstrate this issue.
This article from Ribbon Farm, "Hall’s Law: The Nineteenth Century Prequel to Moore’s Law", might argue for a contrary view. We may be in the third stage of a new technology (Moore's Law) which will inevitably be followed by a period of disruption (today) until the next new technology cycle begins.
Regardless of whether you care about the subject of this post, the Ribbon Farm article is a good read. It outlines the technology cycle that preceded Moore's Law and how it is almost identical to what happened with Moore's Law. Some very good insights into how to identify business opportunities.
Another view on the subject of government is from Rationalist Conspiracy, where the writer asks why government does not do anything. That writer might enjoy the above post.