Charles I hated calling Parliaments, but as that was the only way to raise taxes, during his so-called “personal rule” he came up with all kinds of revenue-generating gimmicks. One of the biggest was “distraint of knighthood.”
Theoretically, everyone with a sufficiently prosperous estate had to present himself at the king’s coronation to be personally knighted. By the 1630s, though, knighthood carried no real benefits but some very real, and very onerous, political obligations, so most men who qualified didn’t bother showing up. Charles dusted off an ages-old statute that allowed him to fine anyone who skipped, and since the law setting the qualification was as old as the law imposing the fine, seemingly half the men in the kingdom were in distraint of knighthood and got fined accordingly.
Our modern-day Cloud People seem to be up to similar shenanigans.
The first and most obvious parallel is the ongoing persecution of President Trump. They’re sure he’s guilty of something, so even though the Mueller Report was the big nothingburger everyone outside the Cloud knew it would be from day one, their zeal is undiminished. They haven’t actually accused him of distraint of knighthood yet, and I guess they plum forgot about the Tenure of Office Act, but they’ll get him eventually. It’s just a matter of digging up an obscure-enough statute. Maybe he once took a tag off a mattress in Trump Tower…
The other parallel, though, might be the ongoing college admissions scandal. Actual medieval monarchs didn’t have to worry too much about distraint of knighthood, because knighthood was a real, important status marker. But at some point, knighthood became more trouble than it was worth. The most striking thing about the college admissions scandal isn’t the stupidity, it’s the expense. Lori Laughlin paid $500,000 — that’s half a million dollars — to get her goofy kid into USC. They charge a hefty tuition at SC ($52K as of 2016), but by my math four years of that is still only two hundred grand. Lori Laughlin, then, paid more than double the kid’s total four-year tuition just to get her in the door.
How does that make any kind of sense?
The reason few Englishmen bothered with knighthood in the 1630s was that the route to real power was financial. Unless you had the king’s ear by virtue of the bluest of blue blood — your great-great-great-great grand-uncle and his, side by side at Agincourt — there was no point in bothering with the trappings of nobility. The Lord Mayor of London had more actual power than all but the biggest and most ancient nobles, and he was a commoner. Why bother with all the pettifogging duties of a knight of the shire, when you could rule the shire, de facto if not de jure, by being the richest merchant in the nearest big city?
In modern America, college degrees are basically worthless. The Cloud People don’t rule us because they went to Harvard and Yale; they go to Harvard and Yale because they rule us. Whatever Lori Laughlin’s daughter ends up doing after getting kicked out of USC behind this idiocy, in other words, is exactly the same thing she would’ve ended up doing had her mom bribed her onto the dean’s list every single semester.
More importantly, some kid from the sticks will not be doing that job, no matter how honestly she got into USC or how legitimately great her grades are. Those kinds of jobs are Cloud People jobs. You don’t get Chelsea Clinton’s resume by going to school, any school — you get it by being Chelsea Clinton. Lori Laughlin’s daughter certainly knows this, which is why she was on board a yacht owned by the chairman of USC’s Board of Trustees when this stupidity came to light. The only question is, how do the middle class parents who bust their asses their entire lives to get their kids into USC on the square NOT know it?
College is a giant scam… but it’s a multi-trillion dollar scam. Charles I knew enforcing the distraint of knighthood statute would be unpopular, but because he never stopped to think just why so many of his subjects were in distraint, he couldn’t see how fatally such a move would harm him. This college admissions thing has the potential to do similar damage to the Cloud. They won’t see it, of course — being the kind of people who’d pay $500K for the privilege of paying a further $200K for a piece of paper the kid will never actually use — but we’d be wise to think about it.
This started as a reply to Pickle Rick, but needs to be above the fold:
The problem for Charles I was that knighthood wasn’t just an honorific. In the 1630s the apparatus of local government was still in the hands of the lesser gentry. I don’t recall all the details, but I’m certain a guy with “Sir” in front of his name had to do lots of things — like enforce the militia ordinances, serve as sheriff, collect the taxes, etc. — that your average burgher didn’t have to. So being a knight meant that you had to do a lot of grunt work for a meaningless title, since real knights were either a) blue-blooded aristos who hated you for crashing the club, or b) actual military men who hated you for crashing their club.
After Charles chose to enforce distraint, you had it on record that you were qualified to be a knight, whatever that meant, but chose to duck responsibility by paying the fine… which meant that even the commoners hated you, because they couldn’t duck their chores by paying a fine. Thus putting the very people whose loyalty the ruling power must have into an untenable situation….
….exactly what our Cloud People are doing to the ever-shrinking middle class today.
That’s why I really don’t think people appreciate how serious this college scam thing potentially is. Either a USC degree means something, or it doesn’t. Yeah yeah, everyone knows that rich kids and famous people get in on their names, but Joe Schmoe is supposed to get in on merit. More importantly, his degree is supposed to be a Certificate of Merit, which means he has a fair chance at getting one of those Cloud People jobs, even when competing against a Legacy Cloud Person.
Bribing your way in, but pretending you earned it, is the worst possible thing to do. Straight bribery is “honorable” in its way, since nobody pretends that the kid whose Dad built a library annex got in based on his test scores. That’s what “legacy” means, and everyone is ok with that, since — paradoxically — the legacy system only exists because the meritocracy is so rigidly enforced. Chelsea Clinton would’ve gotten all those “jobs” with a degree from Hoboken Community College, or no degree whatsoever, because she’s Chelsea Clinton. Nonetheless, we all pretend that it was her Stanford / Oxford / Columbia / NYU training that did it.* The system works, so long as everyone keeps up pretenses.
But now it’s obvious that there never was any such thing as “meritocracy.” The test scores, the varsity letters, the extracurriculars, they’re ALL fake. All of them can be had for cash on the nail, which means all of them are meaningless. What’s the point of doing any of that, when some rich twit can produce a resume that’s twice as good as anything your kid could possibly do, just by writing a check? Please note that though Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffmann are the ones getting all the publicity because they’re attractive(-ish) White women, the majority of the parents caught up in this caper are no-names. I fully expect my kid to lose head-to-head against Chelsea Clinton, but I’d sure like to think he’s got a shot against the children of doctors, jewelry store owners, and insurance execs.
Unless we’re willing to believe that this is the only time something like this has ever happened, there’s now zero point in sending your kids to any formerly prestigious university. Which means that middle class parents now have zero incentive to do… well, to do anything, because what’s the point of band camp and soccer practice and SAT prep classes and “enrichment” activities and the whole pre-pre-K “achievement” pipeline?
If the Powers That Be are smart, they’ll throw the book at Lori and Felicity. They’ll send them to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, and make sure their kids end up working as janitors at the same pokey. But the Powers That Be are stupid, and can’t see that far ahead. They never bothered to wonder just why anyone would go to all the trouble to fake a college app, any more than Charles I bothered to wonder why none of his potential knights were actually getting dubbed.
Remember: There are more than a trillion dollars outstanding in student loans. It’s going to be very, very bad.
*Christ but the Clintons are vulgar, aren’t they? It’s not enough to gerrymander their brat to one Ivy League school; they’ve got to do four. And a “doctorate” in “international relations,” including a 712-page “dissertation.” For those of you not familiar with the arcana of academia, 712 pages is about five dissertations’ worth, and no serious piece of original scholarship (which is what a diss is supposed to be) is titled something like The Global Fund: An Experiment in Global Governance. She should’ve just had her ghostwriter title it Fuck You, Pay Me, since that’s the gist of it.Loading Likes...