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  • Important Reading

    Posted by David Foster on July 17th, 2010 (All posts by )

    The American Spectator has a long article, written by Anthony Codevilla, on America’s Ruling Class. It is a very long article, so you may want to print it out to read it…then kindly come back here and discuss.

    I think the article somewhat overstates its case, but points to some trends which are very disturbing and are moving, in the wrong direction, very fast. This is important enough to deserve careful reading and extensive discussion.

    Update: Grim has a useful summary of the article.

    Update 2: A couple of relevant links:

    RWCG on Modern Leftism as a Fine-Tuned Wealth Display Strategy

    My post explaining why paying higher taxes can be very profitable

    Also: The Booming Washington, DC Economy…related to my “profitable higher taxes” link above.


    32 Responses to “Important Reading”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      It does not overstate the case. It is at least as bad as Codevilla says. The Poles under Communism referred to “Them” — their rulers. This piece has pieced together a portrait of America’s Them. This piece may be of World-Historic importance, as the Marxists used tovsay.

    2. Curmudgeon Geographer Says:

      The article seemed to iterate very much the same case laid out in “Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy” by Christopher Lasch a couple decades ago.

    3. David Foster Says:

      Athens and Jerusalem has some thoughts on this.

    4. Ymarsakar Says:

      My response points here

      Grim has up the short digest of the article.


      So far, the power of the Left has only grown with the decades. They have suffered temporary setbacks, but in the end, they had a far longer and well planned end game. For they believed in something special. That the system by which America was born, can be replaced with a system of partial birth abortion, so that no new life may come into existence to become a threat to the greed of a few. All nations die but they are also forever renewed through new life and new birth. Most Americans thought that if they held to tradition and political compromise, working within the system to uphold the system, that the system would continue as it is for the benefit of all. The Left knew that this wasn’t the case. Or rather, they knew where the gaps were through chaos and revolution could flew. The system has been transformed into something unrecognizable by Ancient Americans.

      Dancing in the wind, with the music in her heart. American fall in an eyeblink, but so can the Left. People simply need to want it badly enough. It will be interesting to see who wants to survive and prosper more. Which side will have the benefit of divine intervention.

    5. Shakes Says:

      I don’t think he overstates the case at all. Codevilla hits the nail squarely on the head.

    6. David Foster Says:

      Some reasons why I think the article is somewhat (but only somewhat) overstated:

      1)There are still a substantial number of people who achieve considerable wealth (and a smaller but nontrivial number who achieve political position/influence) without passing through the gatekeepers of the “elite” universities.

      2)Although it is correct that these universities select for like-thinking people, most people who get in *are* fairly intelligent…I don’t think it’s accurate that it’s *all* about “committment to fit in.” Graduating from one of these places is not a certification of brightness to the degree that graduating from a French “Grand Ecole” apparently is, as the author points out, but it does mean *something* as far as intelligence goes.

      3)When the author says “Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind,” this is true only to the extent that differences between a vat of liquid nitrogen, a normal room, and the interior of a blast furnace as “differences of degree” only. There are vast differences among these men, and indeed, referring to “the Bushes” collectively masks the fact that father and son are two very different sorts of people.

    7. David Foster Says:

      Glenn Reynolds has thoughts on what to do.

    8. Anonymous Says:

      Nice metaphor, and completely false. The difference between Reagan and Obama is not that between subzero and solar furnace. If the difference between either Bush and Obama is so great, please list all important the government programs, functions, and bureaucracies the Bushes abolished which Obama promised to reinstate?

      The Department of Education which Reagan promised to end when it was only a few years old is still here despite allegedly Republican presidents and Congresses*. All these presidents may be different sorts of men, but they all rely on the same tools: more laws, more bureaucracy, more centralization, more control.


      *They are of the Republican party, all right, but not of the Republic.

    9. tehag Says:

      This new form of government needs a catchy name, the accurate-but-old standbys of fascism and communism won’t do. This new form is durable (it’s lasted in Europe since WW2), probably at least as durable as feudalism, which, by its interlocking relationships that serve the ruling class, it resembles. Will its hatred of Jews prove its undoing?

      Has that mankind would choose poverty through self-oppression and self-exploitation be given as the cause of its decline and extinction?

    10. renminbi Says:

      Oops,Angelo Codevilla.This is being linked all over the net and that is good. This is going viral which is great news.

    11. Mrs. Davis Says:

      There is no new form of government yet. In fact we are just entering the death throes of the New Deal social contract. As Codevilla documents, the ruling class established in that settlement is demonstrating for all that it is no longer fit to rule. And in so doing it is making it inescapable for the mass of otherwise disinterested citizens to become involved in the creation of a new contract. This happens with a certain regularity, think 1787, 1865, 1945. No one can know what the world will look like after we are finished. When I look back to 1964, things seem not to have changed all that much. But life under the new settlement will be as different as 1945 was to 1928, or 1865 to 1849, or 1787 to 1773. Because of all the awe full events that are shortly coming.

    12. cjm Says:

      its my feeling that more and more people are going around the two establisment parties, and directly supporting candidates that will genuinely support their concerns and wishes. both parties — and the notion of political parties — are anachronistic.

      this same process of eliminating middle men and gate keepers is going on in many other arenas, the music industry being a great example. for too long the gop has been an enabler of the dems, but their little game is just about over. look at all the old guard incumbents being pushed out, to be replaced by candidates chosen by the *local* Tea Party.

      the extremes at both ends of the political spectrum (maybe 20 – 30 percent of the population) are about to be steam rolled by the 70% that just want to get on with their lives, and not be herded by their ‘betters”.

    13. dearieme Says:

      “Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.” That’s a very fine observation, but let me make a blunter one. Laws and regulations nowadays are long because they instruct; good laws are short because they forbid. “Thou shalt do no murder.”

    14. Mitch Says:

      I’m going to have a tee shirt printed that says “The government has taken over the government!”

      It’s useful to hear this and I’m glad it’s getting attention. The idea has deep roots: Milovan Djilas’s “The New Class,” Bakunin’s criticism of Marx, “The Road to Serfdom,” Karl Popper, the gloomy close of Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,” etc. The mechanism by which political and economic power is enlarged and protected is well-described in Public Choice theory (Buchanan & others).

      It’s probably the same impulse that led to the term limits campaigns of the 1990’s. However, when that was implemented in California, the politicians created numerous boards, agencies, QANGOs, independent commissions, and so forth where they could continue suckling at the public teat. We’re going to have to come up with something else.

    15. david foster Says:

      Dearieme…”Laws and regulations nowadays are long because they instruct; good laws are short because they forbid.” Yes. The point about shortness is very important. While a relatively simple system (set of words or machine) can be used to prevent a range of bad things from happening, it is much more complicated to create a system to cause good things to happen. An analogy–for more than 100 years, railway interlocking switch/signal systems have been used to mechanically prevent an operator from setting up a situation in which a collison can occur. Although interlocking systems are complicated, the problem of designing a system which doesn’t just prevent collisions, but tells trains where to go without human direction, is far *more* complicated.

      Another reason for very long laws & regulations, though, is that it takes a high level of intelligence to abstract the common factors out of a lot of individual problems and/or opportunities…just as while a mediocre programmer might write 5000 lines of code for a given problem, a smarter programmer might write only 500 lines, because he sees commonalities. The Founding Fathers had this kind of intelligence; the typical present-day CongressCreature is utterly lacking in it.

    16. renminbi Says:

      Maybe the cure is Law 5.56 or Law 7.62.

    17. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Those are the ultimate adjudicators.

    18. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I am agreeing with cjm, about people being motivated to go around the gatekeepers, especially since I saw indy-writers take a page from the indy-musicians books … and just go and do it, get published and put their books in front of readers.

      The Tea Party movement has circumvented all the old political gatekeepers, almost without being noticed by the mainstream media and the established political experts. Now, of course, they are either trying to catch up, or squash it by playing the raaaaacist card … or even just flat-out denying the power and reach of ordinary, Tea Party-motivated citizens. But either they left it too late, or they are too far gone in denial.

      The next six months is going to be very interesting. In the sense of the Chinese curse interesting.

    19. onparkstreet Says:

      I’m seeing this piece linked everywhere. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing carefully, but will take your advice to read through it with greater care.

      Two things are key from here on out:

      1. Think local. (Circumvent gate-keepers, get involved locally, get involved in building the parties and institutions from the bottom up. This is a lifetime project and not simply about the next electoral cycle.)
      2. The education system – or circumventing it – is of vital importance. (Again, a life long project, a moral project, and not about the next election cycle.)

      The complete and utter ineptness of the current Republican Party operatives and politicos is evidenced by the the general lack of traction the education issue generates for Republicans, outside of local races and governorships. It should be a flagship issue nationally.

      That our poorest and most vulnerable are subject to the worst schools – and as an important tangent, the unsafest streets – is an abomination. The right should “own” this issue. Only Governor Christie seems to be making the case in the way that it ought to be made.

      The main lesson is this: we must do this ourselves. Step by step, brick by brick, local party precinct by local party precinct, and so on.

      – Madhu

    20. onparkstreet Says:

      Er, to clarify: by “brick by brick,” I meant building blocks, building foundations, etc. I was not advocating throwing any bricks at anyone.

      Just wanted to clarify that point for the internet dullards that will take this thread as evidence of anything more than frustrated citizens wanting to make their towns and cities and country better by becoming involved in the political process, peacefully, legally, and with great enthusiasm. You know, just like the Tea Parties. Must be having a major effect, or else we wouldn’t see the gnashing of teeth, the wailing, the attempts to smear honest citizens.

      – Madhu

    21. Michael Kennedy Says:

      almost without being noticed by the mainstream media

      On the contrary, they have been noticed and the counteroffensive has begun.

      The question of racism in the amorphous Tea Party movement is, of course, a serious one, since so much of the Republican Party seems to be in the thrall of its activists. There have been scattered reports around the country of racially charged rhetoric within the movement, most notably just before the vote on the new health care law last March, when Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, the legendary civil rights leader, was showered with hateful epithets outside the Capitol.

      This is no accident. The battle has been joined and the tactics are despicable but they seem to have no other weapons but lies.

    22. whee Says:

      Yeah, because the Tea Party is totes pure of heart and not mostly a horde of disgruntled people from Statist Party A angry that the Wrong Kind of People (being of course folks from Statist Party B) get government cheese instead of People Like Them. Since the Tea Party does not desire to cut spending at all beyond trivialities like foreign aid, I take their claims of fiscal conservativeness with a raft of salt.

      The Tea Party and its fandom online are elites in much the same vein as those spoken of in this article– they just come from a different pool of elite institutions and also play at caring about the rank and file. It’s a charming game and distracting enough to keep any actual broaching of gates from occurring.

      There is a smattering of libertarian sentiment in local Tea Parties here and there, but in general, it is just a pretty coat of paint on the usual Statist Party A bromides.

    23. David Foster Says:

      Relevant thoughts from the farmer/professor Victor Davis Hanson

    24. David Foster Says:

      Arnold Kling makes some good points about the misnamed “financial reform” bill:

      “On the most important issue of “too big to fail,” the legislation does exactly the wrong thing. It gives regulators discretion to use resolution authority to break up at-risk institutions. But the regulators already had that. What they need are hard and fast rules that require them to use resolution authority under well-specified conditions. On a case-by-case basis, it is always is safer to do a bailout, just as on a case-by-case basis it always seems easier to just pay ransom to the kidnapper. Resolution authority that is discretionary is resolution authority that will never be used. And the big banks know it.”

    25. David Foster Says:

      From The Telegraph, a U.K. publication: American politics has caught the British disease (of class resentment)
      America, in other words, has discovered bourgeois guilt. A country without a hereditary nobility has embraced noblesse oblige. Now, there is nothing inherently strange or perverse about people who lead successful, secure lives feeling a sense of responsibility toward those who are disadvantaged. What is peculiar in American terms is that this sentiment is taking on precisely the pseudo-aristocratic tone of disdain for the aspiring, struggling middle class that is such a familiar part of the British scene.

    26. NedLudd Says:

      Codevilla’s article is very impressive. I have the following comments upon it.

      1. Although very long and sometimes repetitive on the main theme. It makes an important point that MUST be remembered. There is this fundamental division in our country and it must be faced and not ignored. At times, however , the author fell into the same habits the progressives have; verbal diarrhea.

      2. I have a basic optimism for the current situation in our country. Going to Fukyama’s “End of History and the Last Man” and “Trust” as well as Fogel’s “The Fourth Great Awakening”, I feel that despite the insistence of the ruling class, they cannot create a government better than what we have. There are historical and human principles at work that will ultimately put the ruling class in a place they don’t want to be.

      3. I believe David Foster said it above that not everyone part of the class came from the same view. It is more related to the natural tendency of some people to want to run things. That occurs at all levels of our government. Bureaucracy is just the all you can eat buffet that services that human hunger.

    27. david foster Says:

      Also see Foseti on the fake scientific veneer.

    28. tyouth Says:

      From Foseti (link above) “This scientific veneer allows the ruling class to claim truth. It therefore allows them to write history. Thus, no politicians will challenge the core beliefs of the ruling class as doing so will put them on “the wrong side of history.” The ruling class, after all, writes the history.

      My favorite example of this is Joe McCarthy. During McCarthy’s time in the Senate, it became clear to any well-informed, unbiased observer that the US government had been infiltrated by lots of Soviet spies. To be clear, we now know this to be true. McCarthy stated this fact . . . and is considered a pariah. No politician will ever be able to speak out about something and be more factually correct than McCarthy. No American politician is more reviled by mainstream history than McCarthy. What is the lesson?”

      Foseti’s conclusion (and title of his comments) is that more participatory democracy is not the answer, but only provides more of the same. That leaves us ….. where? Will “the country” wait for things to get to some boiling point of reuolution with, most likely, some type of more authoritarian culture? Or will we live indefinitely in a dog-house-society with (what might be described as) the serf-like behavior of our citizens and concomitant degradation of knowledge, belief, and behavior? I mean, “they” elected….well, you know what they did.

    29. Robert Schwartz Says:

      The closest historical analogue to the system described (accurately I believe) by Professor Codevilla (and I should add by Professor Hanson and by Michael Barone) is the Chinese neo-Confucian system of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, with its bureaucratic ranks filled by “examinations”. In the Song Dynasties of the tenth through the 13th centuries, China had been a dynamic society at the forefront of innovation (e.g. gunpowder, magnetic compasses, printing). The Ming and Qing became introverted and steadfastly reactionary, largely a tribute to the neo-Confucian bureaucrats. Of course, they probably couldn’t have done it without the trauma of the Mongol invasion and rule of the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

      I note that 45 years ago, Professor McNeill (picture above sometimes) warned us that it could happen here.

      The model that most American Mandarins want to follow is that of France. In France, at the last quarter of the 19th century, the country was divided along lines similar to those described by Codevilla. The “left” was republican and socialist and was made up of the working people of Paris and a few other cities, the “intellectuals” and the bureaucrats of the leviathan state. The “right” was the church, the provincial peasantry,a on the military. The left won the struggle because of a series of unforced errors by the right. The Dreyfus affair, World War I,
      Vichy, and the Algerian war destroyed the credibility, and even the personnel of the right.

      In contemporary France the Leviathan State managed by the “énarques“* is unchallenged. The American Mandarins see it as their model.

      *Graduates of the École Nationale d’Administration one of the (Grandes écoles), who monopolize the top positions in French Government and industry.

      Nothing is given and America is neither China nor France. There will be no Mongol invasion, nor is there a Paris in the US.

    30. david foster Says:

      Additional thoughts from Athens and Jerusalem.

    31. Jonathan Says:

      Codevilla’s discussion of the disease is good. His proposal for treatment is much less well developed. Perhaps that’s as it should be. As a matter of political activism the important thing is to analyze the situation in a way that is accurate, comprehensive and catches the imagination. Ideally it becomes fuel for an ongoing public discussion from which, perhaps, practical plans for action emerge.

    32. Ymarsakar Says:

      1)There are still a substantial number of people who achieve considerable wealth (and a smaller but nontrivial number who achieve political position/influence) without passing through the gatekeepers of the “elite” universities.

      And I say they are easily dealt with, coerced into, or assimilated into the power structures of the ruling elite. After all, did BP find it in their hearts to fork over 20 billion when they wouldn’t spend some couple of K on safety equipment and procedures for a drilling platform? Or did something else happen that involved threats and extortion.

      It doesn’t matter if a substantial number of people achieve wealth, when that wealth is simply the government’s to redistribute as the aristocracy sees fit. In point of fact, this is good cover for the oligarchy’s propaganda claim that they are the representative leaders of the entire nation. When in fact, they are a few rich foggies who control much through government intimidation and threat of violence.

      2)Although it is correct that these universities select for like-thinking people, most people who get in *are* fairly intelligent…I don’t think it’s accurate that it’s *all* about “committment to fit in.” Graduating from one of these places is not a certification of brightness to the degree that graduating from a French “Grand Ecole” apparently is, as the author points out, but it does mean *something* as far as intelligence goes.

      Meritocracies and skill is not based upon intelligence, however. It’s based upon end goals, specific end goals and having the means required to achieve such goals. Intelligence is only a tool in a box full of tools. It has no superiority relational to any other facet of the human experience.

      To a certain extent, intelligence is one of the last hold overs of a racist and eugenicist cultural background. The idea that DNA derived intelligence, passed on through the generations in Blue Blood and aristocratic finery, is what makes a ruler, is too pervasive in certain societies. It’s more pervasive in Japan’s testing procedures, but it is also present here in America and Germany and the rest of the Western World. There is no denying that some people are quicker than others on some matters. The difference is where people then use present sociological or economic conditions to say that people deserve their suffering because they’re stupid and aren’t intelligent enough to make decisions.

      People don’t notice the philosophical ramifications of this belief, because they hear it all the time. They think it is normal. They don’t think about the problems inherent in such beliefs. Just as the Left doesn’t think about the problems inherent in oppressing the majority of Americans.

      There are vast differences among these men, and indeed

      Which I agree, though Bush’s collaboration with Chirac, the UN, and Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, usually ends up where the Left wants us to be. It just takes a little longer than an Obama regime.

      If the difference between either Bush and Obama is so great, please list all important the government programs, functions, and bureaucracies the Bushes abolished which Obama promised to reinstate?

      A certain government called Saddam’s regime is lacking its head, literally and figuratively. That’s one thing Bush abolished that Obama wouldn’t have. Nor would his father. Nor would Clinton.

      The Founding Fathers had this kind of intelligence; the typical present-day CongressCreature is utterly lacking in it.

      It is not that they lack the intelligence, it is that they use it for a different purpose than the Founding Fathers did. You’re confusing people’s goals with their mental resources to accomplish such goals.

      Those are the ultimate adjudicators.

      I have to disagree.

      The ultimate adjudicator is the fratricide of nuclear armed MIRVs.

      The Tea Party movement has circumvented all the old political gatekeepers, almost without being noticed by the mainstream media and the established political experts.

      They were noticed. The Main Sewer media simply didn’t want anybody else to notice them in a positive light.