Monday, July 25, 2016

Three very important articles

In preparing my posts about the economy last Friday and Saturday, plus the one about politics yesterday, I used three articles as sources that I think capture very important aspects of the current malaise in this country.  I'd like to recommend them to your attention.

The first dates back to 2010.  It's from the American Spectator, and it's titled 'America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution'.  I've referred to it before in these pages on several occasions, but it's so profound that it bears revisiting.  Here's a brief excerpt.

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.

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 tastes 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 — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

There's more at the link.  Excellent reading.

Next, from the Spring 2016 edition of City Journal comes 'The End of Democracy in America'.

Over today’s swarming millions of equal, materialistic, utterly isolated individuals, [de Tocqueville] wrote, “stands an immense tutelary power, which assumes sole responsibility for securing their pleasure and watching over their fate.” This new kind of sovereign, “after taking individuals one by one in his powerful hands and kneading them to his liking,” will spread over society “a fine mesh of uniform, minute, and complex rules,” which constrain even the best and brightest. “He does not break men’s wills but softens, bends, and guides them. He seldom forces anyone to act but consistently opposes action. He does not destroy things but rather prevents them from coming into being. Rather than tyrannize, he inhibits, represses, saps, stultifies, and in the end reduces each nation to nothing but a timid and industrious flock of animals, with the government as its shepherd.”

Under the New Deal’s mesh of minute and complex rules, the sovereign—with the Supreme Court’s blessing—punished a farmer in 1942 for growing grain in excess of his allotted quota, to feed to his own livestock. Today the iron cage of administrative rules prevents new businesses from opening, old ones from hiring, doctors from treating patients as they think best, groups of citizens from uttering political speech, even a landowner from moving a pile of sand from one spot to another on his property, purportedly because it could affect a navigable waterway 50 miles away. It slows projects to a crawl, so that building a bridge, a skyscraper, a power plant takes years—whereas in the old America, the Empire State Building rose in 11 months.

And today’s sovereign does force men to act as well as suppressing action, so that nuns must provide their employees with birth control that their religion holds to be sinful, bakers must make cakes celebrating homosexual marriages that their religious beliefs abominate, private colleges must regulate their students’ sex lives, banks must lend to deadbeats. The immense tutelary power has turned private charities into government contractors, so that Catholic Charities or Jewish Social Services are neither Catholic nor Jewish—though most public welfare comes direct from the state, from babies’ milk to old people’s health care and pensions, for which only a minority has paid. As Tocqueville observed, “It is the state that has undertaken virtually alone to give bread to the hungry, aid and shelter to the sick, and work to the idle.” In New York State, where even in the 1830s Tocqueville saw administrative centralization taking form, the sovereign has commanded strictly private clubs to change their admissions criteria, so that even the realm of private association is subject to government power. And whatever traditional American mores defined as good and bad, moral and immoral, base and praiseworthy, the sovereign has redefined and redefined until all such ideas have lost their meaning. Is it any wonder that today’s Americans feel that they have no say in how they are governed—or that they don’t understand how that came about?

Again, more at the link.

Finally, from the Summer 2016 edition of City Journal comes 'Why Are Voters So Angry?  They Want Self-Government Back'.

Haunting this year’s presidential contest is the sense that the U.S. government no longer belongs to the people and no longer represents them. And this uneasy feeling is not misplaced. It reflects the real state of affairs.

We have lost the government we learned about in civics class, with its democratic election of representatives to do the voters’ will in framing laws, which the president vows to execute faithfully, unless the Supreme Court rules them unconstitutional. That small government of limited powers that the Founders designed, hedged with checks and balances, hasn’t operated for a century. All its parts still have their old names and appear to be carrying out their old functions. But in fact, a new kind of government has grown up inside the old structure, like those parasites hatched in another organism that grow by eating up their host from within, until the adult creature bursts out of the host’s carcass. This transformation is not an evolution but a usurpation.

What has now largely displaced the Founders’ government is what’s called the Administrative State—a transformation premeditated by its main architect, Woodrow Wilson. The thin-skinned, self-righteous college-professor president, who thought himself enlightened far beyond the citizenry, dismissed the Declaration of Independence’s inalienable rights as so much outmoded “nonsense,” and he rejected the Founders’ clunky constitutional machinery as obsolete. (See “It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More,” Summer 2014.) What a modern country needed, he said, was a “living constitution” that would keep pace with the fast-changing times by continual, Darwinian adaptation, as he called it, effected by federal courts acting as a permanent constitutional convention.

. . .

Deference to the greater wisdom of government, which Wilsonian progressivism deems a better judge of what the era needs and what the people “really” want than the people themselves, has been silently eroding our unique culture of enterprise, self-reliance, enlightenment, and love of liberty for decades. But if we cease to enshrine American exceptionalism at the heart of our culture—if we set equal value on such Third World cultural tendencies as passive resignation, fatalism, superstition, devaluation of learning, resentment of imaginary plots by the powerful, and a belief that gratification deferred is gratification forgone—the exceptionalism of our institutions becomes all the more precarious.

More at the link.

All three articles contain important material, and all are, IMHO, exceptionally important reading in preparation for the 2016 election.  I recommend them all.



Anonymous said...

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 tastes and habits.

I wonder which schools these were, and where. I went to such schools, in the 1960s and 1970s (I'm 58), but mine were in South Carolina and Florida, and my thinking couldn't be more different from that of these "elites". I imagine most of my former classmates think much more along my lines than along the Hope 'n Change lines.

So, where did this softheadedness come from ? It sounds to me as if our government policy was formed in the dorms at Berkeley, but they ALL couldn't have gone there.

- Charlie

Joe Mama said...

The inescapable conclusion is that our elites are hard-core Marxists. EVERYTHING is all about class.

Every action they take is charted through the lens of "taking care of our own class and protecting our privilege." Even the "White Privilege" movement is a red herring designed to throw the hounds off on a tangential trail.

Marxism is not being forced upon them by enraged peasants with pitchforks. Nope. The elites have been enthusiastically sniping from the parapets for decades. If it looks like a duck. And walks like a duck.....

Judy said...

Charlie - I don't know about your teachers but the majority of male teachers we had in Kansas were WWII and Korean Veterans.

Anonymous said...

Judy - Yes, mine were also. Those guys wouldn't give the time of day to most of our "leaders".

- Charlie

Peter B said...

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 tastes and habits.

In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki identifies diversity of background and experience and independence as necessary characteristics for the decision of the group to be wise.

The ruling class described will, by its vary nature, produce uninformed choices and information cascades in which groupthink leads astray.