In which I play a historian on the Internet

So how do you get people to join an army and learn a highly specialised skill set, in fact, several, if your elite as a society is trying not to be part of society?

Two links, both from Small Wars Journal. Plutocratic insurgency, starting with the Mont Pelerin Society – a far better framing than Harvey’s, damn, I’m really writing myself into doing that review. Fielding and Phasing In the Venture Capital Green Beret.

One thing I’ve learned from reading Erik Lund’s awesome blog is that if I’d only tried harder when the people who said “Alex, if you only tried harder…” told me to try harder, I too could still be working in a West Yorkshire KwikSave. That’s not really my point, but it is on topic.

Another thing I learned from reading Erik Lund’s awesome blog is that, in history, it’s only a start to talk about equipment and logistics rather than General So-and-So’s brilliant manoeuvre. So much is determined by the economy of skills, specifically, how armies find the craftsmen they need to be mobile, and also, what happens when they are reintroduced into the civilian economy. Joining up to get a trade is still an important British folkway to this day.

So, the rich don’t think they owe society anything, and in fact, they increasingly see themselves as rebels against conformity rather than the power behind conformity. They try to privatise the state services they need and withdraw from what they think of as political, public life. Of course, the nature of politics is that withdrawing from it is reliant on a massive investment of resources in politics – the great buildup of lobbying, fundraising, and wanktanking – just they don’t call it politics.

At the same time, they still want the army to fight for their interests, and the nature of those interests demands a certain kind of army. Alternatively, the politics that goes with the pursuit of their interests demands a certain kind of army. In fact, the enemy that the army fights demands a certain kind of army, and we are arguing about how the enemy is chosen.

The certain kind of army makes heavy use of its special forces, because it’s the kind of war that involves getting into odd political crevices and renders a lot of the heavy metal less useful than it looks. The special forces are recruited from the whole army, and are necessarily much more skill-intensive, in all kinds of odd specialities. Not only that, but they are multi-skilled. That’s the point. But why would you take on a job that requires many years more learning and tends to be more dangerous?

One reason to do something like that is if you think you’ll come back with a secure slot in society, a man worthy of respect, a citizen honoured by the republic. This is a status closely connected with the acquisition of skills. My grandfather, the communist sailor and valve-era radio hacker, escaped the Great Depression through the Royal Navy’s mobilisation of unemployed cockney youths fascinated by technology, and came back in 1949 as an electronic engineer, heading for the new town of Basildon with the wife he met at his test bench at the REME central radio workshops.

The government had decided to bet on the highest of high technology for the survival of its crazy island empire, and then the people who built the radars returned to the civilian economy equipped for a future unimaginable a few years before, not least because they replaced the government with one unimaginable a few years before on the way.

Robert Bunker’s post about plutocratic insurgency inevitably fingers the financial sector, but wisely, he doesn’t restrict himself to “the bankers”. There are plenty of guilty men who made fortunes in the 2000s out of finance without being bankers. Notably, our tech sector mates in venture capital! So, what better way to offer the special forces warrant officers a future after the war, than to make them into “Venture Capital Green Berets”? And, in fact, the detail of the proposal involves them getting MBAs.

The notion sounds repellent. Of course. It is repellent. It reeks of everything dreadful about the last 15 years, which is why it is worth writing about. After all, this is a society where getting a PhD or joining the Green Berets is no guarantee against a career at Kwikkie’s or the US equivalent and nobody seems to want to change that. Its author has apparently quit the VC world to join up, which is impressive and worthy of respect, but I suspect that part of the point here is that you can’t argue for a jobs plan without pretending it’s a new strategy from the people who brought you the iPhone.

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