Saturday, July 31, 2010

America's New Ruling Class

I don't know about you, but whenever someone tells me that I must read something because everyone else is reading it, I start thinking about how I can avoid it.

If they are that insistent, I reason, then the article probably can't defend itself. Besides, whatever makes them think that I want to be like everyone else.

To be honest, when push comes to shove, I am probably going to read the thing anyway. With this week's must-read article, I'm glad that I did.

I am talking about a long, intricate, impassioned article by Boston University Professor Angelo Codevilla in The American Spectator. It is entitled: "America's Ruling Class-- and the Perils of Revolution." Link here.

If you want the short version of Codevilla's concept and want to know whether or not you belong or aspire to belong to the ruling class, you need but ask yourself a simple question.

If you are evaluating two candidates for political office, one of whom went to an Ivy League college, the other of whom went to Idaho State, would you naturally assume, based solely on these academic credentials, that the Ivy Leaguer was intrinsically more qualified to govern the nation? And would you maintain your belief if you knew that the Idaho Stater possessed far more executive experience?

If you said Yes, then welcome to the American ruling class. You belong to or sympathize with an oligarchy that has taken power in Washington and beyond and that is hard at work perpetuating its influence and authority.

You may be a Wall Street banker, a titan of technology, or a media mogul who is as rich as Croesus... still you will be in awe of academic credentials that you mistake for signs of unquestionable genius.

Given their adoration of credentials, masters of the financial and economic marketplace become rubes in the marketplace of ideas.

But if they work in conjunction with the government they will happily and wholeheartedly worship the brilliance of those who can make their lives very unhappy indeed.

And they are not being cynical about it. Somehow or other the world's greatest bankers can persuade themselves that someone who would never be considered to run a company, who has no executive experience, is just what the nation needs in a president.

The rest of the country-- Codevilla calls it the country class-- has recently coalesced around the Tea Party movement. It has finally understood what is happening and is beginning rebel against the fundamental insult that founds this oligarchy and its claim to authority.

That insult would  be: if you do not belong to the ruling class, the ruling class does not believe that you ought to be freely deciding how to conduct much of your life.

This, just in case you were wondering why so many people are so angry these days.

How do you get to belong to the ruling class? It is not based on family ties or ethnicity; it is not even based on raw intelligence. It is based first on ideological conformity. You start by embracing the ideology that is being peddled in our best universities, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

But it is not just ideas, it is also about being part of a culture. Joel Kotkin might say that the ruling class is a tribe and that it demands tribal loyalty. 

As Codevilla describes it: "Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as taste and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters... serves as a badge of identity."

But don't think that those who belong to the ruling class are the best and the brightest. The credentialing system has been corrupted by the ruling class and they dole out honors and plaudits more to those who are like them than to those who have earned them.

Codevilla explains: "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 in 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."

Think about that for a second. Many of the shining lights of the ruling class are nowhere near as bright as they think they are or as they have been told they are. But then they must harbor a deep sense that they are impostors. The last thing they want to find out is that their vaunted sense of their own importance and genius is really a fraud. For this reason, they are often violently loyal to their ruling class.

They will defend their false status vigorously because if they had to make their way based on their real achievements they would suffer repeated indignities.

Look at it another way. When have we ever seen a Supreme Court nominee with as flimsy a record of judicial achievement as Elena Kagan? She never really practiced law; she published three law review articles; she is anything but an authority on constitutional law.

But, her defenders will say, she taught at the University of Chicago; she was a successful administrator at Harvard Law School. What else do you want? She must be very smart.

By definition, the ruling class hates the disorderly order of the free market. How could it be possible that a mass of inferior minds could ever work together to produce anything at all? Inferior minds need to be led; they need to be told what to do; they have no real right to independent, rational judgment.

Thus, the ruling class holds the rest of the country in utter contempt. It has no truck with claims for freedom and rational decision-making. It knows better, and if you do not agree you will be mocked and ridiculed mercilessly.

In Codevilla's words: "This dismissal of the American people's intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance is the very heart of what our ruling class is about. Its principal article of faith, its claim to the right to decide for others, is precisely that it knows things and operates by standards beyond others' comprehension."

Just wait until more people figure out that the reason it is beyond their comprehension is because it is really unintelligible.

Codevilla writes: "While the un-enlightened are stuck with the antiquated notion that ordinary human minds can reach objective judgments about good and evil, better or worse through reason, the enlightened ones know that all such judgments are subjective and that ordinary people can no more be trusted with reason than they can with guns. Because ordinary people will pervert reason with ideology, religion, and interest, science is 'science' only in the 'right' hands. Consensus among the right people is the only standard for truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them."

He offers the following example: "Parents are not allowed to object to what their children are taught. But the government may and often does object to how parents raise children. The ruling class's assumption is that whatever it mandates for children is correct ipso facto, while what parents do is potentially abusive."

Members of the rule class constitute a group of philosopher-kings. They are in love with their abstract theories; dependent for their livelihoods on maintaining their membership in an elite tribe; and simply do not care what you or I think about them.

If no one accepts their ideas because these have a tendency, when put into practice, to fail spectacularly, that is a sign of stupidity. It simply means that they did not go to the best schools, do not think the right thoughts, and are not one of ours.


Unknown said...

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Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the invitation. I'll happily take you up on it.

GM Roper said...

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