Ruling Class Elites

A bizarre rant in American Spectator contains some interesting thoughts about the nature of America's political elite.

Retired Boston U prof Angelo Codevilla takes to The American Spectator to argue that Democrats and Republicans are largely on the same page in their reaction to the outrages of the financial sector and BP because they’re all part of the same “ruling class.”  While he takes this to very extreme conclusions, the description of the class itself is interesting:

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.”

These paragraphs show what I mean about taking a point too far.  The first paragraph, aside from its singling out of Geithner, strikes me as dead on.  But I’m less than convinced that the bitter antagonism described in the second paragraph exists.  It is true, though, that the “ruling class” is much more secular than the other.

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

The most widespread answers — by such as the Times‘s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks — are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.

Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts.

Again, bits of this are over-the-top.   It’s true that Reagan and Thomas were and are outsiders from the standpoint of the permanent elite, looked down upon as unworthy of their exalted offices.  But it’s rather difficult to argue that a two-term POTUS and a member of SCOTUS are outside the ruling class.    For that matter, while our academic and non-profit elites are much more likely to vote Democrat — indeed, more likely to vote, period — than their economic peers, it’s simply absurd to claim that they’re more likely to do so than African Americans, who have done so at over 90 percent rate for years.

But it’s correct to say that the elite class of whom he’s talking are separated by something other than education and money.  It requires having the right education and making money from the right sources.

Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or the Ecole Polytechnique or the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.

This is a bit convoluted, I think, but largely correct. As the recent flap about retroactively taking away a Kennedy School degree earned a decade ago by a Russian spy demonstrates, it’s not about the education one receives from going to our elite institutions but rather about the signaling mechanism that having gotten in to begin with sends.   Once in, getting the degree is a foregone conclusion.

Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”?

This not only grossly exaggerates the attitudes of the current elites but confuses the flowery rhetoric of our Founding elite with their actual attitudes.  There’s not much doubt that the people who wrote and signed the Declaration and the Constitution were much less egalitarian than their successors.  Codevilla goes on the cherry pick history to demonstrate just the opposite:  An elite who became ever-more contemptuous of the unwashed masses.  After several paragraphs of this, he comes to:

Franklin Roosevelt brought the Chautauqua class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. America’s problems would be fixed by a “brain trust” (picked by him). His New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists. As the saying goes, they came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well.

As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria by which to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. This way of thinking about non-Progressives filtered down to college curricula. In 1963-64 for example, I was assigned Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) at Rutgers’s Eagleton Institute of Politics as a paradigm of methodological correctness. The author had defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, had defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and run a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses. (My class project, titled “Liberalism and Personality,” following the same methodology, proved just as scientifically that liberals suffered from the very same social diseases, and even more amusing ones.)

The point is this: though not one in a thousand of today’s bipartisan ruling class ever heard of Adorno or McCloskey, much less can explain the Feuerbachian-Marxist notion that human judgments are “epiphenomenal” products of spiritual or material alienation, the notion that the common people’s words are, like grunts, mere signs of pain, pleasure, and frustration, is now axiomatic among our ruling class. They absorbed it osmotically, second — or thirdhand, from their education and from companions. Truly, after Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.” Confident “knowledge” that “some of us, the ones who matter,” have grasped truths that the common herd cannot, truths that direct us, truths the grasping of which entitles us to discount what the ruled say and to presume what they mean, made our Progressives into a class long before they took power.

In reality, what we had was a government that took on more and more power in order to address the ills of society.   Maybe the practical difference is moot.  But the fact of the matter is that there was never an age when the governing class thought themselves the equal of the governed:  They’ve always thought themselves smarter and better.

Further, cherry picking statements like Obama’s unfortunate campaign slip obscures the fact that most politicians — especially on the Republican side — actually go out of their way to flatter the Real Americans who aren’t part of the Beltway Elite.   Indeed, elite has been a bad thing as long as I can remember.

Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people’s energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith’s characterization of America as “private wealth amidst public squalor” (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest’s complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).

For one thing, it’s mostly Democrats who argue for “doing something” about this issues.  Most Republicans deny that they’re “problems” at all.    Further, it’s simply a fact that public policy decisions (home mortgage subsidies, highway subsidies, zoning regulations, making society bear negative externalities of business decisions) created incentives that bolstered these “choices.”

Ordinary people have also gone a long way toward losing equal treatment under law. The America described in civics books, in which no one could be convicted or fined except by a jury of his peers for having violated laws passed by elected representatives, started disappearing when the New Deal inaugurated today’s administrative state — in which bureaucrats make, enforce, and adjudicate nearly all the rules. Today’s legal — administrative texts are incomprehensibly detailed and freighted with provisions crafted exquisitely to affect equal individuals unequally. The bureaucrats do not enforce the rules themselves so much as whatever “agency policy” they choose to draw from them in any given case. If you protest any “agency policy” you will be informed that it was formulated with input from “the public.” But not from the likes of you.

I’m not sure that I disagree with any of this except that it’s hard to see ordinary government bureaucrats and administrative judges as part of the ruling class Codevilla is railing against.  Indeed, this is the problem throughout the article:  Conflation of elite attitudes, a self-perpetuating ruling elite, and ever-expanding government.  These phenomena are doubtless related in some ways and there’s surely some overlap.     But they’re not the same thing.

The ruling class’s appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side’s vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side — especially the ruling class — embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side’s view of itself. One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.

Has it ever been otherwise?  The difference is that the “country class” has more platforms than ever to vent their displeasure and the “ruling class” has to engage those it governs much more frequently and visibly.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Powell says:

    I could only get through so much of it but it does seem as if that article, for being published in the American Spectator, is rather Marxist in its obsession with class antagonism.

  2. john personna says:

    Much more easily explained by simple corruption.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    This is largely ranting by Codevilla aimed at modern society itself, which is enormously complex, and the well educated, technocratic, professional and managerial classes who basically run that society whether they are in govt or outside of it. Paradoxically he’s a member of the same class himself. A self hating academic apparently? Sure, most of these people are more rational, and maybe secular, than maybe the great mass of Americans which is just as well. I want rational people taking care of that oil spill or conducting operations in Afghanistan. Btw Jim I had to laugh at this statement

    “It’s true that …… Thomas were and are outsiders from the standpoint of the permanent elite, looked down upon as unworthy of their exalted offices.”

    Given that Thomas is a Ivy law grad who spent much of his career working in govt or quasi govt before being put on the supreme court the idea of him being an “outsider” and somehow different from the very people Codevilla is excoriating is risible. If he’s looked down upon it’s because he’s perceived as a bit of legal lightweight. A conservative lawyer relative of mine (Federalist society etc) considers him just such.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams.”

    From Codevilla. Where he gets this wrong is that the elected officials in France, certainly at the national level, and the top bureaucrats, not to mention the top businessmen, are all the same people. Grads by and large of the Grand Ecoles who then pass through a huge revolving door for much of their careers that take them in and out of business, politics and bureacracy. Sarko is something of an exception not being a grand ecole grad. He’s right about the intellectual level of the French governing class however. It’s outstanding which is more than you can say for our political class many of whom are singularly stupid.

  5. Jim Henley says:

    Do the parts of the Codevilla article you didn’t quote that adds anything at all to the Nixon/Agnew attacks on “pointy-headed east coast intellectuals” that’s been a conservative commonplace for almost fifty years? Because the parts you do quote don’t seem to.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Do the parts of the Codevilla article you didn’t quote that adds anything at all to the Nixon/Agnew attacks on “pointy-headed east coast intellectuals” that’s been a conservative commonplace for almost fifty years?

    The parts I didn’t quote are mostly just crazy. I agree that it’s part and parcel of this long-running theme, although also with a heavy does of George Wallace’s “ain’t a dime’s worth of difference” shtick.

    The thing that captured my interest — I generally just dismiss crazy pieces as not worth discussing — is the business about what differentiates Codevilla’s Ruling Class from their social and economic peers. I think that’s actually pretty close to right and pretty interesting.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Given that Thomas is a Ivy law grad who spent much of his career working in govt or quasi govt before being put on the supreme court the idea of him being an “outsider” and somehow different from the very people Codevilla is excoriating is risible. If he’s looked down upon it’s because he’s perceived as a bit of legal lightweight.

    I think it’s because he rejects the shibboleths that he’s supposed to embrace as a member of the class. He’s no Scalia intellectually but he’s certainly bright enough.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I think it’s because he rejects the shibboleths that he’s supposed to embrace as a member of the class. He’s no Scalia intellectually but he’s certainly bright enough.”

    It’s all relative Jim, he may be bright enough but is he bright enough to be amongst the stellar intellects that currently man the court. My relative, who is something of a legal star himself, thinks not, although he probably shares a fair number of political and social opinions with Thomas. He was an affirmative action appointment, and not a particularly good one.

  9. Just an observation:

    In terms of family origins, it is difficult to call Clinton, Carter, Ford, Nixon, LBJ or Truman (along with Reagan) as coming from the elite strata of society.

    Bush I and Bush II, along with JFK and FDR, are different stories.

    At a minimum the first list speaks to circulation of elites and it is also bipartisan and not limited geographically.

    And, granted, it only looks at presidents. Still, the thing that strikes me about the overall argument being made in the piece is that somehow the “ruling elite” are monolithic and they are liberal, unlike Real America. This is a problematic in a whole host of ways.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    “is the business about what differentiates Codevilla’s Ruling Class from their social and economic peers.”

    There’s some validity in this as it relates to the owners of small and mid sized businesses (a couple of car dealerships for example) but none whatever when it comes to the management cadres of major corporations. However, I’d have to say I’d be uneasy seeing typical small successful business owners who are usually numerate salesmen or entrepreneurial engineering types running the Fed and Depts of Treasury, HHS, Energy et al or GE’s aero engine division. It’s simply a different ball game.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m with the French on this. They have a government elite raised to the job. They are generally respected for their expertise. As a result France has stunning highways, nice airports, a beautiful countryside, excellent mass transit, a great public health service, generally good education, a strong and productive economy, safe nuclear power, very little pollution, a small but excellent military. It’s a very well-run country.

    The United States, by contrast, has decrepit infrastructure, embarrassing airports, millions of square miles of depressing sprawl, a falling-apart power grid, an educational system that produces high school grads who can’t find their own country on a map . . .

    In fact there are two areas at which we are superior to the French: Universities and the military. Both of which are systems run by just the sorts of elites who run France.

  12. James Joyner says:

    They’ve made public service through the bureaucracy much more prestigious and created a system — much like our military officer corps has — for institutionalizing excellence. Ours is pretty hodgepodge.

    The main advantage of our civil service system vice theirs is that there are multiple points of entry. Theoretically, anyway, a highly talented outsider can come right in to the managerial level of our civil service , based on experience in the private sector. That’s largely impossible in France, if I’m understanding correctly.

  13. steve says:

    ” ever-expanding government”

    Non-defense discretionary spending has ben fairly consistent for a long time, though it did increase some under Bush. What is actually increasing is entitlement spending, which takes very few new government workers. What we have is wealth redistribution to the elderly being facilitated by government.

    Steve

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    Michael Reynolds says:

    Michael isn’t there a contradiction between the end of your first para and your last para? I basically agree with your general view that France is an exceptionally well run country. Their governing class is very well educated, intensely secular and not overburdened with shibboleths. Hence their embrace of nuclear energy and an efficient rail system fifty years ago and refusal to be driven off course by populism.

    James Joyner says:
    “Theoretically, anyway, a highly talented outsider can come right in to the managerial level of our civil service , based on experience in the private sector. That’s largely impossible in France, if I’m understanding correctly.”

    I’d say you were understanding incorrectly. It’s not at all uncommon for people from Grand Ecole backgrounds to move between senior positions in business and the bureacracy and vice versa. Much of the political class at the national level are Ecole grads and indeed it’s not uncommon for them to be former bureacrats. The common denominator is graduating from one of the Grand Ecoles which exist outside the university system and entry into which is by competitive examination. Generally speaking I’d say our civil service is of fairly high quality but not as good as the French overall. Our political class on the other hand which contains a large number of the sort of people Codeville lauds is of a fairly low quality.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    Theoretically, anyway, a highly talented outsider can come right in to the managerial level of our civil service , based on experience in the private sector.

    Unfortunately that’s one of those theoreticals without much real world support. Americans love to believe that business experience translates to government expertise, but I can’t think of an example where it’s proven true.

    There are at least one or two examples of military experience working in civilian government — Eisenhower — but there are at least as many examples of soldiers crashing and burning — Ulysses Grant to take the obvious one.

    The French seem to have the quaint idea that government takes a specific type of expertise. They lack our generalized contempt for government, and some of our worship of the “common” man. The result is that you can take the bullet train from Marseille to Paris, or drive on excellent highways if you prefer, or use one of the superior airports, whereas an American traveling from New York to DC has an array of choices ranging from depressing to miserable.

  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    steve says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:03
    “Non-defense discretionary spending has ben fairly consistent for a long time, though it did increase some under Bush.”

    Total goverment spending went up by about 25% while Reagan was in office and rather more during Bush’s tenure. Why do you exclude defense. It’s a form of govt expenditure like any other.

  17. James Joyner says:

    Non-defense discretionary spending has ben fairly consistent for a long time, though it did increase some under Bush. What is actually increasing is entitlement spending, which takes very few new government workers.

    We’ve mostly expanded government via regulatory requirements, not personnel. Although, certainly, personnel have expanded in recent years.

  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:39

    “We’ve mostly expanded government via regulatory requirements, not personnel.”

    That’s only because we’ve subcontracted large tracts of what govt used to do to private contractors, not always with desirable results. There are even large numbers of private contractors operating in sensitve areas like the CIA. The fact that we have to subcontract the protection of US State Department personnel not to mention feeding the army and doing their laundry (and getting ripped off outrageously in the process) speaks volumes.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:03

    Jim if you want to get a flavor of the sheer interchangeability of the French ruling class (provided you have the right background) it would hard to beat the resume of Dominique Strauss Kahn, currently president of the IMF. Professor, bureaucrat, businessman, govt minister, small town mayor (Sarcelles is a rather rough Paris suburb), international bureaucrat, and likely Sarko opponent in the next French presidential election. He’s a high end example but very typical of how the system works.

    http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/dominique-strauss-kahn/biography.html

  20. Steve Hynd says:

    Democrats and Republicans are largely on the same page in their reaction to the outrages of the financial sector and BP because they’re all part of the same “ruling class.”

    Well yeah – the Rich. It’s not more complicated than that.

    But I find it amusing that Codevilla, who worked for “Big Gubbmint” in the form of military, intel services and bureaucracy from 1976 to 1980 and has haunted the ivy halls of Notre Dame, Stanford and Georgetown – and is a member of that rich elite – sees such granular detail from his perch amongst them.

    Regards, Steve

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Hynd says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 14:09

    ” sees such granular detail from his perch amongst them.”

    Hypocrisy is not exactly a new phenomenon amongst far right doctrinaires. I suppose it takes one to know one.

  22. floyd says:

    Great piece of work!!!
    While preaching to an ever nodding choir of which I find myself apparently a member,
    Mr. Codevilla must be aware of the fact that those worthless servants outside, in the darkness, hear nothing over their weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 16:17
    “While preaching to an ever nodding choir of which I find myself apparently a member,”

    Sharing a sherry are you?

  24. floyd says:

    Joe;
    Uhh…. That should have been a beer , but I’ll take a Dr. Pepper [I’m a teetotaler]

    It is the ruling elites, who having sworn themselves to our service only to become….well….elitists, who find themselves “outside in the darkness” unable to comprehend Mr. Codevilla’s writings.
    At least that was my point! [lol]

  25. sam says:

    Well, in the end, of course, after all the blather about elites and the ruling class, we get to the nut:

    Achieving the country class’s inherently revolutionary objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with its own diversity would require the Country Party to use legislation primarily as a tool to remove obstacles, to instruct, to reintroduce into American life ways and habits that had been cast aside. Passing national legislation is easier than getting people to take up the responsibilities of citizens, fathers, and entrepreneurs.

    Reducing the taxes that most Americans resent requires eliminating the network of subsidies to millions of other Americans that these taxes finance, and eliminating the jobs of government employees who administer them. Eliminating that network is practical, if at all, if done simultaneously, both because subsidies are morally wrong and economically counterproductive, and because the country cannot afford the practice in general. The electorate is likely to cut off millions of government clients, high and low, only if its choice is between no economic privilege for anyone and ratifying government’s role as the arbiter of all our fortunes. The same goes for government grants to and contracts with so-called nonprofit institutions or non-governmental organizations. The case against all arrangements by which the government favors some groups of citizens is easier to make than that against any such arrangement. Without too much fuss, a few obviously burdensome bureaucracies, like the Department of Education, can be eliminated, while money can be cut off to partisan enterprises such as the National Endowments and public broadcasting[my emphasis]….

    He’s either dishonest or possessed of a political naivete that is astonishing. I incline to dishonest, for surely he knows that the fuss would be seismic, among the countryfolk, if said folk came to believe a serious attempt was underway to eliminate Social Security or Medicare in the Congress.

  26. André Kenji says:

    Errrr. I can read something in French, and in fact I´m watching their newcasts every day to train the language. It´s a nice country, their schools seens to be better than most of places in the US (You see no children running ou fighting), but their living standards are poorer and everyday you see someone rioting because of something. Everytime they point out to delays of the TGV due to strikes.

    Anyway, there is a country that I know that uses the French system for it´s universities and public service. It´s Brazil. The public service is bloated and disfunctional, with lots of red tapes. The universities? The elite universties are full of people with low intelectual achievement that only knows to memorizes lots of things, basically because that´s how they got there.