Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Robert Higgs on Codevilla's Call to Revolution

Robert Higgs comments on Angelo M. Codevilla's essay "America's Ruling Class - and the Perils of Revolution" that was published last month in the American Spectator. I commented on this essay here, but I thought that Higgs' summary is excellent and well worth reflecting on:
Codevilla cuts immediately to the core: the United States today is divided into (a) a ruling class, which dominates the government at every level, the schools and universities, the mainstream media, Hollywood, and a great deal else, and (b) all of the rest of us, a heterogeneous agglomeration that Codevilla dubs the country class. The ruling class holds the lion’s share of the institutional power, but the country class encompasses perhaps two-thirds of the people.

Members of the two classes do not like one another. In particular, the ruling class views the rest of the population as composed of ignoramuses who are vicious, violent, racist, religious, irrational, unscientific, backward, generally ill-behaved, and incapable of living well without constant, detailed direction by our betters; and it views itself as perfectly qualified and entitled to pound us into better shape by the generous application of laws, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and unceasing declarations of its dedication to bringing the country—and indeed the entire world—out of its present darkness and into the light of the Brave New World it is busily engineering.

This class divide has little to do with rich versus poor or Democrat versus Republican. At its core, it has to do with the division between, on the one hand, those whose attitudes are attuned to the views endorsed by the ruling class (especially “political correctness”) and whose fortunes are linked directly or indirectly with government programs and, on the other hand, those whose outlooks and interests derive from and focus on private affairs, especially the traditional family, religion, and genuine private enterprise. Above all, as Codevilla makes plain, “for our ruling class, identity always trumps.” These people know they are superior in every way, and they are not shy about letting us know that they are. Arrogance might as well be their middle name.

The ruling class, not surprisingly, is also the statist party:

[O]ur ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government – meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc.

Despite the rulers’ chronic complaints about people’s exercising “discrimination” of one kind or another, they have no intention of treating everybody equally. Hence, “[l]aws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.” As the recent health-care and financial-reform statutes illustrate perfectly, however, much of the inequality is achieved not directly, but by the statutes’ delegation of authority to countless regulatory and administrative bodies, which will use their ample discretion to do the desired dirty work.

But what I really want to call attention to is Higgs' stirring conclusion:

I heartily recommend this magnificent essay, which is one of the most intelligent, forthright discussions of America’s current socio-political condition I have ever read. If we serfs are ever to escape the grip of our overbearing, self-appointed nobility, the first requirements will be to recognize correctly our current condition, to denounce openly its injustice and idiocy, and to deride every claim of legitimacy or entitlement our rulers have the temerity to make or presume.
Every revolution begins with the oppressed refusing to recognize the legitimacy of their self-appointed, self-aggrandizing overlords. To recognize and reject the legitimacy of the Ruling Class - as if operated under some sort of Divine Mandate - is where the road to justice, equality and freedom starts.

The Evangelical Left has spent the past few years deriding conservative Evangelicals for supporting the Republican Party only to become, themselves, slavish supporters of the left wing of the Democratic Party. It should be pointed out that the Ruling Class has dominated major sections of the Republican Party and that the goal of true conservatives is not to support the Republican Party establishment; it is to take over the party and make it the vehicle for a conservative revolution in much the same way that the New Left seized control of the Democratic Party at the beginning of the 1970s and have triumphed completely through the Obama wing of the party.

The Ruling Class would have its own left and right factions define the political just as in Europe, the "Conservative Parties" have come to mean roughly "conservative socialist parties" as opposed to more consistently socialist parties. Everybody agrees with socialism; the only disagreement permitted is on how fast we should move in that direction. The Communists want it immediately by revolution; the democratic socialists think it should be done gradually by votes, and the conservatives just want to slow the process down a bit. Real conservatives are labeled extremists and dismissed. This is what the Ruling Class wants for America. But the conservative revolt going on in the Republican Party right now aims at moving the political center several degrees rightward and defining the whole Ruling Class as "The Left."

Social conservatives have sensed a radical, left-ward drift for some time but now the economic conservatives (classical liberals) have been radicalized by the hard left economic agenda of the Obama administration and the dangerous and unsustainable debt being run up by the Democrats in the midst of a recession. When the social and fiscal conservatives both become convinced that a revolution is necessary to save the country from socialism, it will happen.

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