If You Want To Be An American, Be An American For The Long-Run

By Alex Gonzalez

The wealthy are abandoning the United States and buying new national identities. In the meantime,  the American elites are behaving like a counterculture movement confined to their Ivy Leagues universities and Wall Street. Sadly, this trend among the elites and the political class is hurting our finances, national identity and our political civil discourse.  This is bad news for America because unlike what the current populist wave of  conservatism in America may say, the elites are–or used to be– to being the main protectors of our national identity, but now they have become a “transnational cosmopolitan” class of whiners without love for our country, and  they lack the character to lead this nation.

According the WSJ, America’s rich are renouncing their citizenship at record levels to escape high taxes. The data from Uncle Sam shows that defections by Americans are expected to double this year, largely to avoid any stiff tax bills as well as the likely expiration on Dec. 31 of the Bush era tax cuts.  Globally, 1,780 Americans renounced their citizenship last year, compared with 742 in 2009, according to U.S. government records.  Even if U.S. tax rates increase slightly, they would remain historically low. The superwealthy are also worried the possible future passage of the so-called “Buffett Rule” that would ensure high earners pay at least 30% in federal tax.

Any Burkean conservative knows that the elites are essential to the  financial and intellectual well-being of this nation. For example, according to David Brooks, our America elites are abandoning their traditional role as leaders and have now embraced a type of populism with no moral conviction or character.  Their attitude is contributing to the decline of our civility and national character.  Brooks argues that in the past:

The Waspish elites sat atop and small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.  Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment… The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.   Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment…Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character.    

The elites were once the protectors of our national character and our finances, but now they play the rebel game to abandon  their responsibilities. Consequently, they now lack the character to veer the nation back to its moral seriousness.  The fact they now opt to leave the county, signals that they no longer  even willing to protect our finances or our national identity. Moreover, with the wealthy Americans renouncing their American citizenship, America too is weakening its national character since these wealthy elites are becoming more international elites and cosmopolitan citizens  with no loyalty to the United States.  Brooks is not alone in underscoring the importance of the elites for protection of  our national character other intellectuals are criticizing these abondoners.

Samuel Huntington

According to Samuel Huntington’s book, Who Are We, the elites were the chief promoters of our national identity, but that changed in the last 50 years. According to Huntington, in the 19th and 20th century  American nationalism was inherently promoted by economic elites and intellectuals. The elites developed a sophisticated emotionally charged appeal to generate, among those whom they saw as their compatriot, a sense of national identity and to rally them for national causes.  But the development of global economies and global corporations has led  many elites to develop a supranational identity and to downgrade their national identities.  Previously, mobile individuals pursued their careers and fortunes within their country by moving from city to city.   “Now they increasingly move from one country to another; and just as intracounty mobility decreases their identity with any particular locale within their country, so their intercountry mobility decreases their identity with any particular country. They become international, multinational, or cosmopolitan.”

If Huntington is correct, the fact that America is losing its economic elites may be an indication that the nation also may be losing the protectors of  our national character. These new elites no longer have a single loyalty to the United States. Instead, they have a supra-national identity whose only loyalty is to their profit, which is the main reason  they renounce their citizenship  and adopt other countries as their homeland.

Furthermore, as David Brooks underlines, we now have morally decayed elites in Wall Street, Ivy Leagues schools, in the corporate boardrooms acting like countercultural rebels who have abandoned  the Waspish  codes of discipline  and moral conduct.   This lack of moral conduct among the elites, their transnational identity, and rebellious child-like attitude has diluted the meaning of American citizenship.  They can now simply opt out and buy a new national identity. So for all us–the not super rich–left behind in this great nation,  we must ensure you make a claim that you are an American, make sure you are int it for the long-run.

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