Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ruling class are not the right people

But they are, you know, "the right people," as determined by themselves. The Ivy degrees, the social connections, the families that intermarry. Angelo M. Codevilla describes some of what's going on in America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution. Jerry Pournelle says the article is important, and goes on to say,

There have always been elites in America, and there have always been local ruling classes and aristocracies; but it is only comparatively recently that there has been "a ruling class" of the kind we have now. Codevilla traces its development and some of the consequences.

This development was predictable and predicted. The authors of The Bell Curve understood the phenomenon, and postulated some of the causes; of course the development of the ruling class was well under way when The Bell Curve was published, and interestingly enough the establishment, although created in large part by the process described in The Bell Curve, soundly and roundly rejected the book, its principles. and everything about it. That's because the authors of The Bell Curve were not part of the ruling class and never could be; and besides, part of their thesis was wrong. The US hasn't become a meritocracy; but the pretense of creating one did bring together the elements of the ruling class.

Some of this development was, if not predicted, at least strongly implied in some of my earlier papers on The Voodoo Sciences, all written long before the current crisis or indeed before "the global warming consensus." And of course there's The Iron Law. Codevilla's thesis isn't all that new (nor does he claim it to be) but this presentation is done well. It's particularly relevant on what has to be done.

The main thesis of Codevilla's article is that America's majority -- an overwhelming majority -- is not represented by the Ruling Class and is increasingly unhappy with it -- and the remedy is not merely turning the Democrats out in November. The storm clouds are gathering.

Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg's tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well.

Sooner or later, well or badly, [the national] majority's demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace's taunt "there ain't a dime's worth of difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.

Codevilla also agues that the ruling class is busily dumbing itself down. Having been created in theory as a meritocracy, it never really was that, and is less so now than ever. I might note that the collapse of the public school system works toward that end. We've discussed this in previous essays, and coincidentally there's relevant mail today. As to the consequences:

Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith's characterization of America as "private wealth amidst public squalor" (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest's complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).

There's a lot more, some of which you will have encountered here, such as Adorno's influential book that few have ever heard of, and other stuff from the Voodoo sciences, or our discussions of education.

The question is, what to do about it. A large majority of Americans rejects the current ruling class. Codevilla (who came to America from Italy unable to speak English as a youngster, and was thoroughly assimilated by the time he was a graduate student) summarizes the task for Americans this way:

[The] greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough.


Ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are signs that the rulers fear and mistrust the people. The occasional victory for liberty, e.g. the Heller case, shines like a lantern in the darkness. And of course all the usual ruling class suspects are trying to extinguish that.

The story of John Kerry's failed attempt to dodge some Massachusetts taxes on his boat nicely illustrates the point that the ruling class is not a meritocracy. It only pretends to be one. Glenn Reynolds says:

TAXES ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE (CONT’D): Sen. John Kerry Docks Luxury Yacht In Rhode Island To Avoid High Massachusetts Taxes. A reader calls it “not-so-swift” boating. Yeah, you have to be grateful for John Kerry, who illustrates the problems with his class so well, and who isn’t bright enough to hide it.

UPDATE: Check out the Boston Herald front page, which is giving it the full Thurston Howell treatment.

There's more at the WBZ-TV website, with videos and comments. Kerry is doing that thing Obama does, where he says "It's not an issue." and expects that all who hear will obey.

By the way: in case you have not clicked those links yet, that's a $7 million yacht, making the Senator liable for close to half a million dollars in Massachusetts use tax. Will he pay the $70,000 annual property excise? I suspect not.

I wonder why a Massachusetts Senator would have a yacht designed in Rhode Island and built in New Zealand? Are there no yacht builders in Massachusetts or any nearby states? Has he been in Washington so long that he has forgotten that seven million dollars might make a difference to the economy of the state he represents? Represents in some sense. Local boosterism is so déclassé, isn't it. And it's all about the class. Ruling class, that is.

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