In America’s ruling class – and the perils of revolution, Angelo M. Codevilla describes the ruling class from a conservative perspective.
Mr. Codevilla’s complaints about the ruling class are insightful. The American ruling class is arrogant and exploitive. Mr. Codevilla divides the nations into the ruling class, and the country class. Where Mr. Codevilla comes a cropper is his definition of the ruling class. To Mr. Codevilla, the ruling class is everything he doesn’t like about the government. It turns out that most of what Mr. Codevilla doesn’t like about the government is the progressives.
It is certainly true that the progressives are insular, arrogant, exploitive, and overbearing. It is also true that the progressives were instrumental in dramatically increasing the power of the state. But that does not mean that progressives constitute the whole of the ruling class. Mr. Codevilla wants to turn our present dilemma into a kind of red state versus blue state conflict.
Mr. Codevilla over emphasizes the bureaucracy as the ruling class, and under emphasizes business interests. The rich often get that way from government largess, and they use the government to protect themselves from competition. In terms of influence, the rich outweigh the bureaucracy. Bending the discussion toward the largely liberal bureaucracy allows Mr. Codevilla to downplay the hugely influential, and often conservative, wealthy class.
Mr. Codevilla sites polls showing that Democrats are more happy with the Democratic party than Republicans are happy with the Republican party. From this fact, Mr. Codevilla wants to derive that the Democrats are the natural party of the ruling class. Of course, the data point was taken when the Democrats are in power. When Bush was in office, and the Republicans held congress, the Republicans looked like the ruling class.
Mr. Codevilla thinks that the Scopes trial was an attempt by the ruling class to impose secular values on the country class. However, the main defender of the Tennessee law, William Jennings Bryan, was a progressive. In addition, the main public opponent of the Tennessee law, H.L. Mencken, was a vociferous opponent of the progressives.
Mr. Codevilla complains about the liberalization of divorce laws. However, if Mr. Codevilla was able to reconstitute the previous divorce laws, the liberals would have good reason to think they were being put upon. It is also worth noting that conservative Republican states have higher divorce rates than do liberal Democratic states. So, who is the better defender of marriage, conservatives or liberals?
Mr. Codevilla also complains, “The institution of no-fault divorce diminished the distinction between cohabitation and marriage — except that husbands are held financially responsible for the children they father, while out-of-wedlock fathers are not”. Mr. Codevilla is wrong here. Out-of-wedlock fathers are held responsible for child support, and the state is using increasingly draconian means to enforce compliance.
Mr. Codevilla thinks that the progressive ruling class is attempting to tear down the family. It is true that the ruling class is attempting to tear down the family, but that assault can just as easily be considered a manifestation of fascism as it is progressivism. The fascist motto, “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”, sums up our current condition quite handily.
Aside from assaults on the family, our country has become increasingly fascist since the nineteen thirties. The recent health bill is a good example. Many call the bill socialistic, but that is a misnomer. The health bill forces individuals to pay money to private corporations. This is an example of the kind of public-private partnerships typical of fascist regimes. Combine the economic aspects of fascism with ever increasing militarism and an assault on ancient liberties, and you have a prescription for fascism.
Mr. Codevilla complains that God has disappeared from public life. To Mr. Codevilla, the majority is being persecuted because overt displays of religion are being eliminated from public life. If tax supported religious displays were introduced, wouldn’t the non-religious minority be aggrieved?
The largest omission from Mr. Codevilla’s world view is the American empire. Mr. Codevilla only mentions the empire in passing when he talks approvingly about what amounts to red state patriotism, and when he complains rightly about wars without end. What Mr. Codevilla does not recognize is that it is empire that soaks up much of the tax dollars that he complains about. Total defense spending is over a trillion dollars a year. Defense spending constitutes a subsidy to favored parties just as much as any other government program. Conservatives often take the lead in promoting defense spending, and other aspects of empire.
Supporting the empire also results in assaults on the constitution. The red state denizens often take the lead in increasing the power of the government in the name of empire.
Mr. Codevilla calls for restoration of traditional police powers to control behavior in public places. It seems peculiar to bemoan a lack of police power when the nation is becoming a police state. People are regularly arrested, beaten, or even killed because they run afoul of the police over trivial matters. Just exactly what powers does Mr. Codevilla think the police are lacking?
Another issue that Mr. Codevilla fails to mention is the drug war. There are armies of police officers, doctors, prosecutors, prison guards, etc. deriving their livelihood from the drug war. In addition, corporations are making profits from private prisons. Surely the people feeding at the public trough based on the drug war are part of the ruling class. While the Democrats are not without sin in this regard, the Republicans have usually taken the lead in promoting the drug war.
The ruling class is not solely progressive. The ruling class consists of sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating groups based along economic and ideological lines. The thing the ruling class really has in common is the notion that that it should rule, and that the ruling class should benefit from ruling.
Mr. Codevilla ends by saying that he really can’t think of a conservative solution to an embedded power problem. He rightly does not want to use Jacobin means against his liberal enemies.
It is true that there is no solution to the vexations of power. The only thing that would fix the problem is to destroy the power. If there was no power to tax, there would be no need to fight over the tax revenues. If there were no public schools, there would be no need to fight over the curriculum. If marriage was by private contract, then the terms of a marriage would not be subject to public debate. If the government was not able to tax and inflate the money supply, it could not support the empire.
A conservative may consider the idea of giving up the government as too radical a solution. However, when the government is destroying your way of life, you either have to give up the government or your way of life.