The Ruling Class malady

by Jeff Taylor on August 16, 2010 · 6 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

I’ve come across an interesting summary of the U.S. ruling class via LewRockwell.com.  It’s written by Angelo Codevilla of Boston University.  Despite being lengthy, it doesn’t include every relevant aspect of the subject, and I disagree with an occasional detail and interpretation, but Professor Codevilla does an excellent job of laying out what an LRC poster calls “the sneering arrogance of the ruling class.”

The technocratic mindset, the elitism, the smugness, the love of power, the educational insularity, the atheism and simultaneous credulity, the progressivism and accompanying intolerance, the bipartisanship—it’s all there.  Even well-meaning liberals conditioned to trust the federal government and to fear disgruntled average Americans might benefit from reading this overview.

He makes some wise recommendations regarding what a Country Party ought to do, and not do, if it were to acquire power, but he does not explain how such power might be acquired.  Given the obstacles of organized wealth, the mainstream media, political party cooptation, a successful divide-and-conquer strategy (or conflict displacement, as E.E. Schattschneider called it), and a bread-and-circuses propensity on the part of those who should be natural opponents of the ruling class, it’s difficult to see how we move from Here to There.  Beyond living our lives as best we can, and remembering Revelation 22:20, what can we do?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Robert August 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm

As far as I’m concerned, the problem with Codevilla’s article–like pretty much everything ever posted at LRC–is that it takes what would otherwise be solid points and proceeds to drown them in libertarian claptrap.

Case in point, currently it is fashionable for libertarians to blame the financial crisis on the government’s attempt to extend home ownership to low income families. Basically, they say the government held a gun to the bankers’ heads and told them they had to loan money to poor people. Codevilla, as if on que, repeats this baseless claim in the aforementioned article. I call the claim baseless because several economists, including one of my favorites–Paul Craig Roberts–have pointed out that the value of all the underwater mortgages on primary residences (that is homes in which the mortgage holder actually lives) was around 300 billion dollars at the height of the crisis. While this is not an insignificant sum, it is miniscule when compared to the value of the derivatives and mortgage backed securities the Wall Street banks created and sold over the past decade.

Then there is always the environment. Libertarians like to use this topic, in much the same way those on the left use race, to brow beat anyone who doesn’t happen to agree with their worldview. If you happen to think that we humans are indeed capable of doing severe damage to our planet, then what you really want is to see all of mankind thrown back into the dark ages where everyone died of horrible diseases and starvation.

avatar Steve K. August 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I don’t think you were reading the same essay as the one at Jeff’s link, Robert. Codevilla did not argue anything like the point you attribute to him that the financial crisis was caused by government efforts to get housing loans extended to the poor. He brings that up as an example to a different point: that government has used legislation to turn the economy into a vast patronage system, where government seeks to award prosperity to political supporters, and that bailout efforts went to the clientele of the ruling party (i.e. the very wealthy and the poor). He is talking about dependence economics, not why the latest economic bubble burst.

avatar Robert August 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Steve K,

I understand Codevilla’s larger point about dependence economics, and in large part, I suppose I agree with it. However, that doens’t excuse the fact that he is using suspect data to support his contentions.

I often find that libertarians are more concerned about ideology than reality. Paul Craig Roberts, who I mentioned earlier, has a fairly large following in libertarian circles, but he too thinks they tend to focus too much on scoring ideological victories.

While I enjoyed Codevilla’s article, and think it raised some valid points, I still think the strength of his arguments are dilluted by unnecessary ideological point scoring. Fred Reed, another writer with a following among libertarians had a column on his site a few weeks ago called “Commentator’s Disease,” in which he made similar observations.

avatar John Médaille August 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I find this incoherent. “Ruling class” seems to be defined as “people I don’t like but who have more influence then me.” And the idea that Ronald Reagan wasn’t part and parcel of the ruling class beggars belief. He has some interesting things to say on small business, but corporations barely get mentioned as part of the ruling class, when they seem to be the major component.

avatar Chris D. August 18, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Oh, boy. I can’t believe he didn’t find a way to mention NASCAR. If Jeremiads could be converted into votes, the nostalgics would rule American politics. You can stand athwart history and shout “Stop!” but history ain’t listening. I’m with Mr. Medaille on this one. A corporation is now the legal equivalent of a “person” which can only mean that people no longer have distinct value.

avatar Robert August 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, has a post on his site titled, “Honk if you Love Caviar,” which deals with the same subject matter as Codevilla’s article. In fact, I think Bageant references Codevilla’s article at one point. However, Bageant’s article, in my opinion, is not encumbered by the shortcomings that have been pointed out here.

I must warn anyone who links over to Bageant’s article that he is very plain spoken.

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