Brooke Harrington (@EBHarrington): Yes &: Behind those forms of capitalism are 2 forms of authority, at war in a much broader arena than the biz world. It's a war btwn what Max Weber called expert authority (based on merit) & traditional authority--patriarchal, senescent, the power of mafosi, oligarchs & warlords.

Why this matters: because the traditional, warlord form of authority is ANTITHETICAL to democracy & modernity itself.

Family firms--not all, but many--are infamous for putting incompetent ppl in charge & for engaging in corrupt practices w/no accountability.

That's not at all to say that non-family firms are free of incompetence & corruption--just that they are less so than family firms, bc there are means to enforce transparency & accountability.

Those mechanisms get lost in societies where the family firm/warlord ethos dominates.

When the warlord/family firm mode of authority is imported into democracies, among the 1st targets of destruction are the expert authorities--like judges & regulators--empowered to hold firms (or political leaders) accountable.

Remember how many lifetime judges Trump appointed who had never tried a case or were rated incompetent by the ABA?

How many regulators he appointed who had long track records of hostility to the regulatory agencies they helmed, & those agencies' missions? DeVos, Pruitt, etc.

Those were battles in the undeclared war of traditional/warlord authority against modern/expert authority.

As Weber noted ~120 yrs ago, expert authority is a radical force for freedom & progress, bc it allows individuals to rise to leadership roles based on merit, not birth.

That someone like Barack Obama could become POTUS (following many other extraordinary accomplishments) in a profoundly racist society was one outcome of a commitment--however flawed & only partially realized--to prioritizing expert authority over the traditional form.

As we learned in 2016, many Americans could only stomach a watered-down version of modern expert authority: one that drew exclusively from among the white male Christians who would ordinarily wield traditional authority in the US.

We had a kind of hybrid authority system.

But when Obama was elected--a signal that the US was going to prioritize expert authority & meritocracy for real, not just in half-measures--a big chunk of Americans were happy to abandon not just the ideal of meritocratic authority, but MOST OF MODERNITY w/it. Including science.

It's also linked to the insanely vitriolic response to HRC's POTUS nomination, despite her being acknowledged (even by many opponents) as perhaps the most qualified candidate ever. A woman POTUS is a challenge to traditional authority that many men, R & L, can't abide.

Hence the 10s of millions of Americans who not only voted for a white guy, but for THE most flamboyantly incompetent & corrupt white guy in the entire race on both sides!

They were voting for restoration of traditional authority. That was Trump's real platform, even in 2020:

It's why the Access Hollywood tape didn't destroy his candidacy & possibly helped it.

Restoration of traditional authority means--worldwide--restoration of men's right to abuse & prey on women w/impunity. Hence the support for Trump among many men of color, despite his racism.

In the US, "traditional authority" also means white supremacy, so of course Trump leaned hard on that before, during & after his time in the WH.

So what does this have to do w/family firms? Ofc not every family firm is led by racist misogynists! Ex: @Carhartt & @PenzeysSpices.

Think of this as a Venn diagram of grps with investments in traditional authority (vs merit), leading many to align w/Trump: That diagram includes family firms ("you must obey bc I'm the son of the founder!"), and also churches ("you must submit bc God/Pope/etc. annointed me!").

As Weber noted, the old mode of traditional authority never went away, but was sidelined by the forces of modernity that select for authority based on expertise.

This was tolerated in exchange for the benefits of democracy & econ development, which made everyone better off... long as those benefits, & access to power, were shared unequally.

That is, modernity was tolerated--including new forms of authority--by creating more resources for everyone without fundamentally disturbing the pecking order of traditional authority systems.

But as soon as it became clear that the benefits of modernity might have to be shared...all bets were off.

Reactionary opposition to Civil Rights was led by white small business owners like Lester Maddox, future GA governor.This guy, invoking George "segregation now" Wallace:

60 yrs later, the same coalition remains committed to restoration of traditional authority against the incursions of modernity & expertise.

Many recognize the stake white evangelical churches have in this. But the support of fam firms is often misinterpreted as purely economic.

What I'm arguing is: the support of small business owners for Trumpism is not just abt $, but ALSO abt the belief system underpinning the whole enterprise; that's the "because I'm the daddy, that's why" form of authority.

Expertise, science & meritocracy all threaten that.

Trump put the toothpaste of modernity back in the tube: running the WH like a family business, w/his unqualified children in key positions; disabling key mechanisms of accountability in regulatory & judicial positions;& prioritizing "believe me" over science during the pandemic.

So that even after 100s of thousands died from his flamboyantly incompetent & corrupt handling of the pandemic (remember Jared seizing PPE for his cronies?), millions of small business owners were eager to give Trump another term.

When that failed, they stormed the Capitol.

This reactionary politics of small family firm owners is nothing new.

The same people in 19thC France used their votes--hard won after a bloody revolution brought democracy to a country crushed for centuries by absolute monarchy--to re-install Napoleon's nephew as emperor.

This self-immolation of democracy by the "petit bourgeoisie"--as the small business owners were then called--led even a firebrand like Karl Marx, who was optimistic enough to think "Workers of the World Unite!" would lead to revolution, to throw up his hands in despair.

Fast forward 170 yrs & the 21stC US cousins of the people who burned down their own democracy to install Emperor Louis Napoleon have used their democratic rights to impose their own wanna-be imperial regime.

Hard to believe anyone took the "economic anxiety" claim seriously.

This ideology of authority is why so many small family firms joined the revolt against science.

Science is among the forces in modernity challenging tradition in favor of expertise.

Hence the bizarre coalition of alt-right & small business owners against vaccines & masking.

What I've written abt Weberian ideas of authority ties in w/ongoing conversations led by better-known commentators, esp:

  • @RadioFreeTom on the "death of expertise"

  • @ruthbenghiat on the psycho-dynamics of authoritarianism, esp "daddy issues"

  • @dcherring on Ivanka/Jared

@RadioFreeTom @ruthbenghiat @dcherring I've published on authority in family firms, based on my research in the offshore financial system. Many family firms employ experts (wealth managers) to dodge taxes & other laws they find inconvenient--creating conflict w/firm patriarchs.

Per our convo last week, @saliltripathi.