August 5, 2010
The Prophet of the Ruling Class
So now the EPA has been petitioned to ban the use of lead in bullets and fishing weights.
For hundreds of years, human beings have used lead for those purposes, and life on earth has not exactly come to an end. Now we are told that the lead used in hunting and fishing is harming animals and fish, and it must stop. The scary thing is that one individual, EPA Director Lisa Jackson, has the power to impose such a ban.
It's the same for every aspect of American life: A small group of elite administrators, czars, judges, or politicians -- often just one person -- think they have the right to decide what's best for 320 million Americans.
The political elite has always existed, but in the past, its influence was limited by a national consensus that the democratic will of the people came first. That consensus has broken down, and the elite have stepped in, determined to rule in place of, and in opposition to, the public will. The new Ruling Class.
What is happening was predicted -- and celebrated -- over forty years ago by Robert L. Heilbroner, one of the darlings of the New Left. In The Limits of American Capitalism, Heilbroner laid out a plan by which the innately conservative leanings of the American people could be quashed and replaced by the centralized control of a Marxist state. Heilbroner's book concludes with a chilling vision of the way forward. What he advocates is, in effect, a socialist totalitarian state, where the government controls every aspect of human life. In the name of reform, this statist system would regulate if not nationalize all major industries, but it would go farther than that.
What Heilbroner envisages is the rise of a new elite centralized in government, media, and the universities. This group of decision-makers would operate "on behalf of" the public and on the basis of "scientific principles" of social control. As Heilbroner writes, "Not alone economic affairs ... but the numbers and location of the population, its genetic quality, the manner of social domestication of children, the choice of lifework -- even the duration of life itself -- are all apt to become subjects for scientific investigation and control" (The Limits of American Capitalism, New York, 1966, pp. 129-130).
Heilbroner's books were bestsellers in the 1960s, widely read and admired by liberals everywhere. They were, in effect, neo-Keynesian, pro-statist instruction manuals studied by the likes of Bill Ayers and Cass Sunstein, President Obama's tutors in state control and regulation.
Heilbroner's books popularized the liberal premise that the political elite has the right and obligation to make fundamental decisions on behalf of the mass of citizens. In doing so, Heilbroner understood, the elite must find ways to subvert the naturally conservative inclinations of the people -- especially those lumpen-headed businessmen whom Heilbroner so despised. Decision-making must be shifted from individuals and elected representatives to bureaucrats and judges appointed by leftist politicians. Public opinion must be shaped and molded by elitist academics and journalists. The will of the state must be imposed, by violence if necessary. This was the future of America, according to Robert L. Heilbroner, and it is the vision of America adopted by those young activists in the 1960s and 1970s who now compose the leadership of the Democratic Party.
Heilbroner believed that it would take hundreds of years to overturn democracy in America, in part because of the widespread support of capitalism and the country's pesky tradition of individual rights. He noted, however, that the process could be sped up in the event of a severe economic crisis -- a crisis "too valuable to waste," as Raum Emanual has put it. Another great national depression or prolonged recession would make it possible for government to enact a series of "reforms" that would shift control from the private sector to government. Government would then control not just major sectors of the economy, but also the personal lives of all citizens. Their incomes, their health care, their educations, their home mortgages, their communications and entertainment, their access to news and information would all fall under the control of the political elite. At that point, Heilbroner believed, utopia would be at hand.
Everything that Heilbroner predicted is now coming to pass. In the past nineteen months, a three-judge panel has agreed to decide whether the gay marriage ban enacted by the voters of California should be overturned. The FCC has attempted to impose net neutrality, is considering reinstating the fairness doctrine to silence talk radio, and now speaks of phasing out "free" non-cable TV. Attorney General Holder has waged a virtual war against Arizona's attempt to defend itself against unchecked immigration. Congress has created an office of consumer affairs with broad powers to regulate financial and other transactions. An all-powerful, activist director like Elizabeth Warren will be appointed in the coming weeks. A European-style bureaucrat has been appointed to direct the rationing of Medicare and Medicaid services. And the EPA may now decide on whether to ban lead in hunting and fishing supplies.
The preferred modus operandi, in fact, is to appoint a single individual with the power to control some large part of American life. So much power has now been concentrated in the hands of a small cadre of appointees, most of them reporting ultimately to the President, that it is now doubtful whether America can still be considered a democratic nation. Government has become the enemy of the people because it is now in the hands of left-wing elitists who are opposed to traditional American values and who have only contempt for the democratic process.
Congress and the president have shown an appalling lack of restraint in their own use of power and in the power they have invested in new bureaucracies and regulatory czars. The liberty of every American is not just at risk -- it has already been stolen by elitists within government and the courts. Americans must drive the new elite out of government, out of academe, and out of the media. They should begin by defeating liberals in the fall elections, and by electing a conservative president in 2012.
Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.