The class structure of America

I have been thinking about the social class structure/hierarchy in America. With the exception of the underclass, it’s not like one category is necessarily worse or ranks higher than another. For example, elites have the most power but the most responsibility and little autonomy.

1. Elites. As the title suggests, these people are at the very top and include congressmen, the executive branch, mayors of major cities, four-star generals, governors, CEOs of multinationals and big tech, top VCs, Forbes 50 billionaires, top hedge fund managers, top-ranking members of the Federal Reserve, Supreme Court justices, etc.

2. Sub-elites. These people have a lot of power and some are wealthy, but less than elites. This includes high-profile lawyers, ad executives, district attorneys, lower-ranking generals, editors at top publications, top employees and execs at large tech firms, well-known actors and media personalities, ‘power players’, etc.

3. The petty bourgeois, ‘blue collar professionals’. Such individuals have good incomes and maybe even own their own businesses or franchises, but otherwise are low status. They are successful professionally despite having much less visibility and influence in discourse than elites, sub-elites, priests, and PMCs. Their social influence only manifests at the voting booth or maybe local politics, not in op-ed pieces, or in academia, or national/state-wide policy, analogous to Nixon’s so-called silent majority. 10% of US households has a net worth of at least $1 million; it’s not just tech workers, bankers, doctors, and lawyers in that 10%. If you’re wondering who are buying those $80,000 lifted trucks or expensive football tickets, it’s these people.

They are also extremely specialized (so-called ‘l-shaped people’), usually at the skill that made them a lot of money. Maybe the football tickets guy is an expert at refrigerator repair. Or the truck guy is an expert at contracting, in contrast to the ‘well rounded’, college-educated professional.

4. The aspirational class. These are people who aspire to join the ranks of #1 or #2 but are not there yet, lacking the necessary status, visibility, or wealth. This includes recent Ivy League graduates and graduates from top-30 colleges overall.

5. The professional middle class, managerial class. This includes doctors, lawyers, mid or entry-level tech workers, consultants, engineers, and so on. I’m sure everyone is familiar with this category, as the initialism ‘PMC’ is commonly seen online to denote someone who has a middle class, white collar lifestyle/income. Members of aspirational class who fail to join the elite can become PMCs. By being more educated, PMCs tend to have more status and influence than blue collar professionals, but not necessarily more wealth.

5b. The sub-PMCs. This includes jobs that require degrees but have lower status and less pay than the PMC, elites, or other categories, with the exception of the underclass.

6. The underclass, proletariat, working class. These people do not have favorable prospects, nor much wealth. They have about as much social status and visibility as #3 but none of the wealth. These people are at the very bottom of the hierarchy.

7. The ‘warrior’, clerical, and judicial class. This includes lower-ranking officers, soldiers, clergy, pastors, lower-court judges, magistrates, FBI/special agents, and police officers. Despite lacking in wealth, status, or visibility, they command the most power, and warriors tend to be highly respected. Some have the power to arrest even elites.

8. The priesthood. Not as in Catholic priests, but intellectuals who have a lot of status and influence despite not holding any office and not employed in the private sector. Although this term is sometimes used pejoratively, in the context of this post it’s understood to be more descriptive than normative. Priests encompass the entire political spectrum–it’s not just left-wing. I posit that the priesthood is a more exclusive group than even individuals who have a $100 million net worth, to get an idea of how few there are and how coveted the position is. Priest are high status, have significant reach/influence (more than most sub-elites and even some elites), have considerable personal autonomy and creative freedom, and low responsibility and accountability (they don’t have to answer to bosses, superiors, etc.). Priests have the power to affect discourse and have their ideas propagate through ‘mimesis’.

The are sometimes found in academia, but many are independent–either as bloggers, podcasters, or YouTube personalities. High intelligence is necessary; as a whole, priests ere even smarter than elites (no one has even accused Biden of being exceptionally intelligent). Most priests are middle class, earning less than PMCs or sub-elites, but some make significant income through donations, subscriptions, advertising, and other means, by profiting from their considerable reach and influence and large audience size. Becoming a priest is very difficult and the odds are long, and requires a combination of timing, luck, intelligence, perseverance, and other factors. An example is Eric Weinstein or Tyler Cowen. The entire IDW ‘scene’ is composed of priests.

Unlike pundits and journalists, priests tend to have much more creative freedom and bigger personal brands and make more money. Former journalists such as Tim Pool, Matthew Yglesias, and Glenn Greenwald have graduated to priesthood.

Overall, being a priest is probably the best category, and by my estimation has the highest self-reported satisfaction and personal fulfillment. Unlike most careers, in which there is a disconnect between ‘the work’ and the purpose it has on society, priests directly realize the fruits of their labor through social media engagement, and by affecting discourse by having their ideas propagated. Having a lot of money is overrated anyway..if given a choice between autonomy or having a lot of money, without hesitation I would chose the former, and I think most people would agree. PMCs can make a lot of money but the hours can be long and stressful, and also having to deal with bosses and ‘office politics’.


Comments are closed.