How did they get into the Establishment in the first place? Is one born into it? Is it something like a fraternity or a secret society? Is great wealth a prerequisite for admission? Or is membership in the Establishment a prerequisite for owning great wealth in America?
There is a great deal of confusion on these questions because of the sloppy but prevalent tendency to equate prestige and status — i.e., social rank — with power in our society. Things don't necessarily work that way. It is clear that the one meaningful criterion for distinguishing members of the Establishment from non-members is power — power to make independent decisions which directly affect the operation of the System. In applying this criterion, however, it is essential to distinguish between apparent power, or power of a purely formal sort, and real power.