These days we hear a lot of nonsense about the ‘great classless society’. The idea that the twentieth century is the age of the common man has become one of the great clichés of our time. The same old arguments are put forward in evidence. Here are some of them: monarchy as a system of government has been completely discredited. The monarchies that survive have been deprived of all political power. Inherited wealth has been savagely reduced by taxation and, in time, the great fortunes will disappear altogether. In a number of countries the victory has been complete. The people rule; the great millennium has become a political reality. But has it? Close examination doesn’t bear out the claim.
It is a fallacy to suppose that all men are equal and that society will be leveled out if you provide everybody with the same educational opportunities. (It is debatable whether you can ever provide everyone with the same educational opportunities, but that is another question.) The fact is that nature dispenses brains and ability with a total disregard for the principle of equality. The old rules of the jungle, ‘survival of the fittest’, and ‘might is right’ are still with us. The spread of education has destroyed the old class system and created a new one. Rewards are based on merit. For ‘aristocracy’ read ‘meritocracy’; in other respects, society remains unaltered: the class system is rigidly maintained.
Genuine ability, animal cunning, skill, the knack of seizing opportunities, all bring material rewards. And what is the first thing people do when they become rich? They use their wealth to secure the best possible opportunities for their children, to give them ‘a good start in life’. For all the lip service we pay to the idea of equality, we do not consider this wrong in the western world. Private schools which offer unfair advantages over state schools are not banned because one of the principles in a democracy is that people should be free to choo