10 questions with ‘The Ruling Class’ author Angelo M. Codevilla
Angelo M. Codevilla, emeritus professor of international relations at Boston University, is the author of the new book, “The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It.” In his forward to the book, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh calls Codevilla’s thesis “brilliant.”
Codevilla recently agreed to answer 10 questions about his book and other topics of interest for The Daily Caller:
1) Why did you decide to write the book?
Because I wanted to share the conclusions I’ve drawn from my professional life lived in academe and in the U.S. government, and my private life in the real world of raising a family in rural Wyoming and California. America’s real divide is certainly not between the Republican and Democratic parties. Rather, on one hand, there is a class of people who dominate both parties as well as academe and the media. They run big businesses. Having developed a remarkably uniform set of habits, tastes and preferences, they imagine themselves entitled to reshape an America that they regard as composed of social and intellectual inferiors. On the other hand, there is a whole America composed of people who are really inferior to no one, and who do not feel represented by either of the major political parties, who realize that the country’s major institutions are now in the hands of persons who look down on them, and who are looking to take back control of their own lives. I wrote the book as a diagnosis of the problem and as a basic set of guidelines for doing that.
2) Who comprises the “Ruling Class?”
People define themselves as “the ruling class” by tying their livelihoods and hopes to government, and above all by a certain attitude toward the rest of the country. Neither money nor even professional position defines a person as part of the ruing class or not. Rather, membership is all about drawing one’s livelihood from one’s connection with government power, from believing that this is proper, and above all from sensing that sharing a certain set of attitudes and tastes makes one superior to ordinary Americans.
3) Explain this divide between the “Ruling Class” and the “Country Class?”
This divide, this rejection of America’s founding faith that “all men are created equal” came about gradually over more than a century as some educated Americans came to believe that a certain conception of science trumps biblical teachings, and that they themselves are science’s authoritative priests. Well before the Civil War, American intellectual life had absorbed the biological doctrine of evolution, which abstracts from God and denies any essential distinction between humans and animals.
It also had absorbed the philosophical doctrine that human judgments about good and evil are mere reflections of economic or psychological status. By the turn of the 20th century, many thousands of Progressive intellectuals, such as Woodrow Wilson, believed that they were the ultimate products of evolution, that the views of less enlightened folk really should not encumber their reforming America and the world for the better. The Franklin Roosevelt administration began turning this Progressive class into a ruling class by putting them in charge “independent agencies” wielding legislative and judicial powers. Thus, the Constitution notwithstanding, America became an administrative state ruled by a ruling class. As the administrative state has grown more powerful, the ruling class has become more conscious of itself and less patient with any resistance coming from people it considers capable of expressing only what amount to animal grunts of pleasure or anger and frustration.
NEXT: Codevilla talks about the “Country Class”
4) While I take it the “Country Class” comprises mostly ordinary people, are there prominent people who we would know that represent the ideals of this group? Along the same lines, are there current political leaders you respect and who are they?
Just as there are countless people who are by no means prominent but who put on airs, believe themselves elite, and act accordingly, there are plenty of prominent ones who do not put on airs, believe in human equality, and act accordingly. Ronald Reagan never supposed himself anointed. Neither did Barry Goldwater. I’ve never met Sarah Palin. But she certainly gives the impression of someone who would be uncomfortable being treated as something other than a normal human being.
5) You say that for many of the “Ruling Class,” merit is looked down upon. What do you mean by that?
The ruling class is all about privilege granted by power. Nothing threatens privilege and power like merit. If a person can claim a position in government, academe, or any other institution by performing in an exam, or in a task, objectively better than other contenders for that position, then those in charge of that institution lose the capacity to shape it to their convenience. That is why our ruling class loves “affirmative action” for reasons having nothing to do with uplifting blacks. Rather, whether in academic life, in government, in corporate life, our ruling class has sought out ways of maximizing its discretion over whom to advance to positions of prominence, and has used that discretion to advance non-threatening mediocrities. Thus, through negative selection, our ruling class has dumbed itself down even as it has touted its intellectual superiority over the rest of us.
6) You write about how the “Ruling Class” taxes and redistributes a significant part of what Americans produce. What would be the ideal tax system? Would you lower current tax rates, keep them the same, or change the whole tax system and start over?
Regardless of system, I believe that we are “Taxed Enough, Already.” Because taxes –i.e. money diverted from private to government purposes necessarily reduce freedom, and because our freedoms have shrunk, getting any of it back will have to mean cutting taxes. As for system, I prefer a flat income tax.
7) How did you get Rush Limbaugh to do the forward to your book? Did you know him before you wrote the book?
Although I’ve listened to and admired Rush Limbaugh, I’ve never had any contact with him or anyone who knows him. I have no idea who put my article in his hands. It is remarkable that such a busy man should plow through a thirteen thousand word article that is not an easy read. After Mr. Limbaugh praised the article, my publisher contacted him about the preface. I don’t know how.
NEXT: Codevilla names his ideal presidential candidate in 2012
8} Who would be your ideal candidate for president in 2012?
My ideal candidate for President in 2012 would be a hybrid of a Newt Gingrich who had learned the proper lessons from the 1990s, and of a Sarah Palin who had matured.
9) If you were to give three books that have greatly influenced your worldview, what would those be?
First, the Bible – especially Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and John’s Gospel. Second, the dialogues of Plato – especially the Apology, Crito and Phaedo, the Gorgias, Symposium and Republic. Third, Norman Cohn’s “Pursuit of the Millennium,” the most sobering account I have have read of the intellectual-moral temptations to which our civilization is liable.
10) Any plans to write another book? If so, what about?
I am in the process of writing a comprehensive intellectual history of U.S. foreign relations from before the Revolution to our time.