I thought it was put well by someone that goes by the name of "t" over and Pink Scare (thanks Sheldon). Throughout history those with wealth sustain their grip on power not just by controlling means of violence. They do it also by attempting to legitimize their wealth. The kings of old were justly endowed with their riches by divine right. The role of the scribes and priests was to justify the king's position to the masses.
Economist at George Mason University Bryan Caplan gave a lecture that you can watch here. In it he talks about his new book. New at the time. It was 2007. It's "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies". In this talk Caplan tells us that economics departments have been beating into the heads of students the glories of neoliberalism for 30 years, but the public stubbornly refuses to accept it. It's baffling. Why won't the public go along with expert opinion? It's hard to say.
Take NAFTA. Like this NY Times article explained, it's going to be really great. Corporate lawyers, PR firms, the financials. They are going to really benefit from this. Of course (read the end of the article) there will be some losers. Women, blacks, Hispanics. You know, like 70% of the population. It will be tough for them. But all in all it's really great. Why is the public opposed?
Or take immigration. The public seems opposed to large scale immigration. They seem to think that it would depress wages. What are they, racist or something? Large scale immigration is really good for the economy, says Caplan.
Which it is. If by the economy you mean it's really good for the short term profit of wealth. Productive outputs require labor and equipment. On capitalism the equipment is owned by the capitalist and he hires labor to operate the equipment. He pays labor with the revenue generated by production and keeps the remainder for himself. If you can get a lot of unskilled labor to come into the country the capitalist of course can pay the labor less and keep more for himself. So this is unquestionably a better scenario for wealth, at least in the short term. If you're more poor and don't generate income from ownership but rather you live by the income gained from labor, this is a tougher situation. Prices could come down, but does this compensate for your depressed wages? That's not clear. Clearly though capital and wealth stand to gain. So this is really great for capital and not clearly so great for the bulk of the population. Caplan can't understand why the bulk of the population doesn't want to go along.
So what can be done? Here's Caplan's solution. And I'm not joking. People are so stupid that we need to undermine democracy. We need to force everyone to accept economic arrangements that they think are harmful to themselves. An independent panel of priests for wealth. That's the trick. Lower tariffs, free trade, financial deregulation. Look how great things are thanks to the independent Fed (remember, this is in 2007). The masses are asses.
Not that there's anything new here. The kings have always paid the priests in order to prevent the common man from having a voice. The cathedrals are now the economics departments at our universities.