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  • 28 October 2022
Who wields the most power in the world? Many would probably point to political leaders or extremely wealthy individuals or families, and they would certainly have a case. But if one follows the money trail, identifies where the tens of trillions of dollars are, it becomes clear that four types of managers exert the most power. They are: fund managers, managers of corporations, managers of the executive branch of government and managers of institutions and multilateral organisations. Western societies have become ruled by a new type of aristocracy: a management aristocracy.

The greatest prophet of this development was British writer C.S. Lewis, who saw both its direction and ethical blankness:

‘I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin”. The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.’

(Preface, The Screwtape Letters)

Most of the management aristocracy are fond of claiming that they are the true face of Western capitalism, top business or financial players who are ‘the smartest guys in the room’. Even managers of bureaucracies like to present themselves as observing true business and economic disciplines, even if they are not entities specifically focussed on profit.

Their claim is false, at least based on any reasonable definition of what capitalism is. Capitalism is usually understood as a system in which owners have control and reap rewards from that ownership. For example, Investopedia says:

‘Private property rights are fundamental to capitalism. Most modern concepts of private property stem from John Locke's theory of homesteading, in which human beings claim ownership through mixing their labor with unclaimed resources. Once owned, the only legitimate means of transferring property are through voluntary exchange, gifts, inheritance, or re-homesteading of abandoned property. Private property promotes efficiency by giving the owner of resources an incentive to maximize the value of their property. So the more valuable the resource is, the more trading power it provides the owner. In a capitalist