My friend Chris Hartjes sent me this article some time ago. I found it to be a powerful and accurate description of the U.S. that caused me adjust my world-view on some social issues. The article is difficult to excerpt. I am going to attempt to paraphrase and summarize, but you really should read the whole thing.
We're used to thinking of three classes: upper, middle, and lower. We generally catagorize them by wealth. But the author says that is an inaccurate system. Instead, he says the three classes to categorize by are the Economic class, the Political class, and the Praetorian class.
The Economic class is composed of your classic producers in a free market economy. They are defined not by wealth, but by open and voluntary activity in the market. I would call these your typical capitalists.
The Political class is composed of politicians, lobbyists, influence-peddlers, and other supplicants of government. They are additionally composed of "a patchwork of commercial entities that have learned that employing a politically well-connected pitch man replaces the need for an effective sales and marketing organization and in some cases even the requirement to have a desirable product." I would call these latter your typical crony capitalists. This class is defined, again not by wealth, but by how they exert power over the market using coercion, deceit, and government connections.
Comparing these two classes, the author says: "The arrangement can be summed up by saying that economic activity within the Economic Class places the bargaining power in the hands of the buyer whereas the economic activity within the Political Class places the bargaining power in the hand of the seller."
These two classes should be familiar. However, there is a third class that does not sound familiar: the Praetorian class. "The Praetorian Class includes members of the Armed Services, federal, state and local law enforcement personnel as well as numerous militarized officials including agents from the DEA, Immigrations, Customs Enforcement, Air Marshalls, US Marshalls, and more. It also includes, although to a lesser extent, various stage actors in the expanding security theater such as TSA personnel. The main mission of the Praetorian Class is to keep the order of the day. This requires displaying an intimidating presence in their interactions with the Economic Class."
Read the rest of the article to see how interactions between the classes play out. I found the descriptions recognizable and, for that familiarity, disheartening.