Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Bucket of Cold Water to the Face

I have never been a fan of the "culture war" meme. Yes, there's a real phenomenon behind it, and yes, the effects are deleterious. But it never seemed to get to the heart of what's wrong.

Angelo Codevilla has re-cast the issue as a class war, not between the haves and have-nots, but rather between the rulers and the ruled. And he has done it so comprehensively that it really brought me up short.

There is much to disagree with in this essay. It hangs ten over the precipice of know-nothingism, and yet it doesn't quite teeter over the edge. Codevilla's description is of a ruling class that has been uniformly raised, uniformly educated, and uniformly taught to manipulate the levers of power. He gives them their due as an entrenched institution in American life, and he correctly points out that reducing their power requires engaging them with their own tactics, which may have the effect of making them even more powerful.

I was struck by the similarities between Codevilla's description of the ruling class and the characteristics of agricultural monocultures. Both are immensely productive as long as the conditions for which they were engineered continue to prevail. But even small environmental changes can be devastating if the monoculture hasn't been engineered to adapt to the right things. The political and economic environment has certainly changed. We'll see whether our rulers have what it takes to adapt.

All-in-all, and despite its flaws, this is a sweeping a condemnation of ever more centralized government, and an excellent appeal for a more (small "l") libertarian society.

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