America’s Ruling Class, Part 3

According to Dr. A.M. Codevilla, the only serious opposition to America’s Ruling Party is coming not from establishment Republicans but from what might be called the Country Party — and its vision is revolutionary. Part 3 — The Ruling Class.

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Every so often you stumble across an opinion piece that, after reading several paragraphs, causes you to stop and consider the profundity of its message before absorbing more. So it was this week with an article in the July/August 2010 issue of The American Spectator (TAS).

Dr. Angelo M. Codevilla is professor of international relations at Boston University, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and a Senior Fellow at The Claremont Institute. He recently published a lengthy essay entitled America’s Regime Class — And the Perils of Revolution which was just reprinted and re-titled in the aforementioned TAS. To paraphrase, Codevilla details how the elite have advanced in power and station as the nation has declined — and what is now brewing as a result.

Since Dr. Codevilla essentially serves us up a pre-election symposium along with his dissection of prevailing elitism and the forces gathering in opposition, B2Journal considers it an American public service to share his notable effort here. Due to its prodigious length, it is offered in several sections — posted as quickly as time permits. Those of you with stamina may read The Regime Class in its entirety in .pdf format. This is a must read for Tea Partiers and conservatives:

America’s Ruling Class, And The Perils Of Revolution

Part 3 — The Ruling Class

by Angelo M. Codevilla

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

The most widespread answers — by such as the Times’ Thomas Friedman and David Brooks are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is David Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist, and"Our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude." the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.

Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County Maryland to Palo Alto California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oil men or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class who rule universities seldom associate with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “non profit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socio-economic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even President Ronald Reagan, and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity – being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs."Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity – being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs." Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably between our Establishment’s parts.

If, for example, you are Lawrence Tribe in 1984, Harvard Professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can “write” your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistants, Ron Klain and Barack Obama. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was “inadvertent,” and you can count on the Law School’s dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that “closes” the incident. Incidentally, Obama ends up as President and Kagan a justice of the Supreme Court. Not one of these people did their job: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S Fred singer) who question “global warming” are not enough for them to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.

Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and People get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale de l’ Administration or the Ecole Politecnique and the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires actually outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail,"Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges." getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile.

American secondary schools are generous with their A’s. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.

End of Part 3. Next, The Faith

Review America’s Ruling Class – Part 1 — Introduction.
Review America’s Ruling Class – Part 2 — The Political Divide.

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