|The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.— James Madison, speech in the Virginia constitutional convention, December 2, 1829|
Ever worked hard for someone – school board member, city councilman, maybe even a Congressional candidate? Your guy (or gal) promised to be honest and fearless, but something happened on the way to the forum. Maybe it took a year, maybe only 6 months, but the individual you elected was the one who changed. It was more comfortable to be one of the girls (or guys); better to be a part of the in-group than an outsider.
In The Ruling Class, Angelo Codevilla parses Americans into insiders and outsiders. The insiders belong to the Ruling Class, the political elite who runs America. Although dominated by Democrats, they are a bi-partisan bunch because Republicans like nothing better than to join up. As Rush Limbaugh writes in the Introduction:
“Republicans are they way they are in Washington because Washington is a culture and a place that is run and dominated – not just politically, but socially – by Democrats, by the left. They’re the big clique. The Republicans also live there. Everybody want to get along with those you live next door to, and in Washington, the center of power in the world, everybody wants to be in the Ruling Class.”
If you are a regular visitor to the WWTFT, odds are you are a member of the Country Class. Codevilla estimates the Ruling Class accounts for only about 15% of the population. However, it makes up in power and arrogance what it lacks in numbers.
The Ruling Class is as convinced of its superiority as it is of the Country Classes’ inferiority. Barak Obama, who sees the world through a Marxist glass, thinks it is socioeconomics that causes the Country Class to “cling to our guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like us.” According to his view, the Country Class is child-like and irrational and the Ruling Class has to tell it what to do and think.
The Country Class doesn’t agree. It prizes independence and the freedom on whose promise America was founded. The Country Class believes “all men are created equal.” The Ruling Class knows that is no longer true. It has assumed the power to make some people more equal than others, to make some people millionaires and others paupers. The author explains that’s what happens when the Ruling Class uses the administrative state to reward themselves, their friends and political supporters with the Country Classes’ money. It’s called crony capitalism.
Codevilla’s trenchant assessment has the ring of reality. It is only necessary to read the daily news for verification.
The Wall Street Journal recently editorialized about the Energy Regulatory Commission’s ruling that rate payers in 13 Midwest states will pay a $300 million – 500 million surtax to finance expensive electricity from solar and wind power they will never use. FERC’s Chairman says the new ruling “is the next step in the evolution of its transmission and cost allocation process.” It’s a giant step away from the practice of pricing for electric projects commensurate with benefits derived by ratepayers. The big winners are wind and solar projects. For the big losers, look in the mirror.
The same page of the Journal revealed the Federal Communications Commission’s power grabbing “net neutrality” order (just before Christmas) despite an earlier federal court decision that said the agency lacks such regulatory authority.
The pattern is clear. What Congress cannot obtain sufficient votes to pass, the regulatory agencies impose, and no limit in sight. Codevilla writes:
In 2008, the House ways and Means Committee began considering a plan to force citizens who own Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to transfer those funds into government run “guaranteed retirement accounts.” If the government can force citizens to trade private access to medial insurance by what logic can it not force us to trade private ownership and control of private retirement accounts for government-guaranteed retirement accounts?
He reminds readers what Nancy Pelosi said when asked where the Constitution conveyed the right to force people to buy health care. “Are you serious?” She replied. He also recalls Elena Kagan’s answer when asked whether she believes that the Constitution is what the words in the document say, or whether she believes that the meaning of the words must change with perceived needs.
Kagan answered that she saw merit in both arguments, and that there are some cases in which words mean what the dictionary says and others in which it is necessary to make them compatible with what needs to be done, and that judges must decide on a case-by-case basis.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be masterthat’s all.”
The Ruling Class has hollowed out the Constitution and liberal jurists’ relentless assaults on religion, the family and marriage are doing the same to the rights that the Country Class believes are unalienable.
Codevilla finds no reason to hope for rescue from the Republican Party.
Differences between Bushes, Clintons and Obama are a matter of degree not kind. Moreover the 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government agenda, while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to.
He sees the Country Class voting for Republicans, less out of enthusiasm than desperation, but only temporarily if Republicans fail to return to first principles. The author, arguably, believes the Tea Party too diverse and disorganized to fill the void.
Nonetheless, Codevilla’s has issued a call to the barricades, but it is a dispirited one. He warns that is will be difficult to untie the Gordian knot of corruption and entitlements that ensnare the country. It will require more than voting.
For the country class, winning elections will be the easy part. Avoiding bitter partisan government on one hand, and co-option into the Ruling Class on the other, will be harder. Harder yet will be sweeping away a half century’s accretions of bad habits.
He asks the Country Class: “Are you willing to upset the apple cart from which you draw your ration of apples?”
That is, after all, the key question. The Ruling Class is betting that the answer is no.
Codevilla isn’t betting.