Burning Down the House
Americans are living in amazing times. Living under what is nominally a "constitutional republic", they find themselves bumping into limitations and restrictions more likely to arise within a hereditary monarchy or a totalitarian state ruled by a party elite. What is going on?
Professor Anthony Codevilla is a student of government and international affairs who has become quite aware of this phenomenon. He goes so far as to paint a brief portrait of America's Ruling Class, and publish it! That struck me as an act of extreme courage for an academic, until I saw that Professor Codevilla was actually Professor Emeritus Codevilla. He is relatively safe from their vengeance, then, perhaps.
Few will be satisfied by such a brief and teasing look at America's new royalty. They will want a more detailed examination of this phenomenon, and what it may portend. Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society, provides a well-fortified survey of these well connected, often behind-the-scenes lever pullers. According the Sowell, the thing that distinguishes ruling intellectuals from the subservient citizenry, is that intellectuals are not generally held accountable for being wrong. Think about that in the context of real tenure, and tenure that comes from being a "made" member of the group.
Paul Johnson in his Intellectuals, provides the necessary historical and brief philosophical introduction to this central phenomenon of modern public life. Reading the historical portraits of famous paradigm shifting intellectuals provides as many examples of Sowell's "distinction" as one might want.
To understand how a group of well-connected dunderheads could pull off something as audacious as Sowell and Codevilla suggest, take a look at media insider Bernard Goldberg's Arrogance. As I read the continuing saga of the Journolist insiders, I cannot help but recall the many incidents of similar collusion related in Goldberg's book.
Trying to pinpoint an exact date when Americans rolled over and accepted a ruling class of pompous but numbskulled intellectuals within government, media, academia, the judiciary, etc. is futile. From before the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, agents of the old world of authoritarianism were at work chipping away at the ideas that underlay the thinking of the American founders.
But undeniably, they hold the reins firmly in their grips for now. But as I may have mentioned, this ruling class is quite stupid, despite the broad areas that it controls. The seeds of its destruction -- the impending burning down of the royal house -- is inextricably contained within the stupidity of its policies. That, of course, is the fatal flaw for any intellectual. When they finally achieve absolute power and are forced to put their ideas into action. Without having had any experience contending with the unforgiving hand of reality before this point, the ruling class stands helpless before the cascading failures of its ill-founded ideas and prescriptions.
Blaming predecessors and stowaways from the old regime might work in holding off the angry victims-cum-arsonists for a brief time. But eventually, the inner nature of this ruling class will burst forth in the revealing flames of self-immolation.
All we have to do is to learn to take care of ourselves throughout what is going to happen next. The ruling class is going find the appeal of burning down the house themselves to be beyond their powers to resist.
Intellectuals are not meant to rule. They are critics and revolutionaries, not competent leaders. Which does not make the coming pain and hardship any easier to endure. But if you are the type who wants to understand why things have become ten times harder than they needed to be, take a good look at America's ruling class, and how they came to be.