There is always some kind of spectacle of liberal elite insanity to gawk at. Recently, it was the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Davos—a circus of central planning that functions as a kind of trade show for dystopian projects. Davos is a staple of conservative media. If it didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. At Davos, world leaders, scientists, and activists propose things like genetic experiments to turn people vegan, vaccine microchips, carbon credits, and blocking out the sun to stop climate change.
Unfortunately, the unhinged plans of Davos speakers—or Ivy League academics, or Hollywood A-listers—give the right the wrong idea about how liberals think. Smugly, we thank heaven that we are not stupid enough to believe that money grows on trees, that cow farts are killing the planet, or that police can be abolished. The libs, you see, are the crazy ones. Their bleeding hearts can’t cope with statistics and don’t like facts. They haven’t yet been mugged by reality. They believe in Blue Anon!
But perhaps it’s time to admit that we cry “incoherence” incoherently, to borrow a title from the Muslim philosopher Averroes. Your average liberal might sound crazy if you get they/them talking about open borders or reparations. But making up rules as you go along is only crazy if you can’t enforce them—and liberals can. The caricature of Davos distorts the reality of the power that liberal elites possess as well as the incentive structure around that power.
Liberal elites are a fascinating species worthy of close analysis, given their influence. Sharing little in common with their serfs (or “voters”), these elites actually enjoy watching Rachel Maddow each night with a glass of chardonnay in hand. They feel comfortable talking politics at their white-collar jobs because they share all the same political beliefs as corporate America. They thrill at historic trailblazers like “the first nonbinary BIPOC airline pilot.” But they’re also quite rational, stable Americans—they may not be the salt of the earth, but they are its bleached, enriched flour.
You may be familiar with the “become ungovernable” meme. By contrast, liberal elites are instinctually governable, even the purported string-pullers and visionaries. The right tends to demonize their herd-like behavior, calling them “sheeple” or lemmings, but few creatures live better lives than cattle or swine. It’s called “hog heaven” for a reason.
Liberal elites typically stay married and often have a few kids (adopting from the global South is particularly smart). Aside from the childlessness of the current crop of world leaders and the debauchery of many liberal celebrities, most upper-class liberals tend to gravitate toward nuclear-family stability. They gladly vote and pay taxes, because they expect their elected officials to reward liberal interest-groups with both symbolic, ideological victories and monetary spoils. They maintain control of most leadership jobs in nearly every industry with any influence or power, and they cultivate a pipeline of new elites through secondary and post-secondary educational institutions. They impose the surveillance and public health mandates as well as the financial regulations and infrastructure that best fit their beliefs and way of life. They make ample use of tax loopholes and economic regulations that favor them. Does any of this seem irrational? These are the earmarks of a rational, functional elite. Their “crazy” ideas are working.
The key is that liberal elites swear by their own propaganda, but never act on it. They will sing the praises of democracy but are only satisfied when their side wins. They criticize “red lining” but live in gated communities. They decry oligarchy but are quietly grateful for Big Tech censorship and glad that George Soros buys local elections across the country. They attack the military and police but ally with the surveillance state and foreign-policy establishment. And so on.
This is not schizophrenic. It’s shrewd.
It also explains why the liberal regime—an order that celebrates contradictions and absurdities—is taking so long to collapse. “Shouldn’t nature should have reasserted itself by now?” is a common conservative confusion. The reality is, it’s not just the power of military empire or central banks or technocracy propping up some crumbling civilizational edifice. The organism that is liberal society does have internal coherence. Like a transgender surgery that actually succeeds, their regime has achieved a new, perverse homeostasis.
There is always a subtext in conservative commentary on Davos and the WEF that their liberal insanity is a source of humor, if not horror. But this only displays our ignorance of their incentive structures. Is there any reason a liberal statesman or CEO should not extract all the money he can out of the climate craze, the vaccine craze, the Ukraine craze, and so on? Nothing is saner than collecting billions just for endorsing the regime’s party line.
So if liberals are the rational ones, why shouldn’t we join them? Proponents of “civility” and “crossing the aisle” have already cracked this code—they make a pretense of supporting conservative policy, but concede their ideological ground to the liberal incentive structure. If racial headcounts are the new way of doing business, then so be it—conservative nonprofits will plaster a diverse poster child on every issue campaign. If ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance investing) is where the big money is on Wall Street, country club conservatives will call it market-driven. If Ukraine is the Current Thing, Republicans will wear blue and yellow pins. Monetary incentives make all these betrayals quite rational.
But there’s a silver lining: we can also use this rationality and herd behavior to our benefit. If someone is driven by rational incentives, they can be bought, shamed, coerced, and sometimes even persuaded. Conservatives should not merely ridicule Davos dreamers or rage against the enemy’s incentive structure: we should create our own system of status, money, and solidarity to compete with theirs. At present, we do this poorly—making conservative circles often seem like a competition for liberal approval. But this situation can be reversed. If liberals are motivated by base human incentives, that makes them different from leftist ideologues; it makes them persuadable and redeemable. The right must begin rewarding friends and punishing enemies. When our own radical ideas begin to yield connections, status, and funding, then we will find that our friends among the rational elite will multiply.