Who Rules America: Power Elite Analysis and American History

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Who Rules America: Power Elite Analysis and American History

by Charles A. Burris

Power Elite Analysis (also called Libertarian Class Analysis or Establishment Studies) is a theme I have repeatedly stressed at LRC to understand both present-day and past historical events. Knowledge is power. Empower yourself by learning about Power Elite Analysis and how it impacts specifically upon the welfare-warfare state and the parasitical elites which benefit from this leviathan within our midst.

In July of 2010, Angelo Codevilla’s magnificent manifesto, "The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It" was published initially online in The American Spectator (and later in book form). It immediately went viral on the Internet and started a widespread national conversation about America’s hubristic power elite and the arrogant way they reign over the rest of us.

When Codevilla’s article appeared I stated that it was the most important essay I had ever read. I still believe this because it is a superb synthesis of class analysis with keen insights on contemporary power elite relationships regarding today’s rulers and the ruled.

This class division of present-day America into two factions, Court and Country, has absolutely nothing to do with any Marxian view or analysis. It is a reaffirmation of the seminal insights of Bernard Bailyn’s Pulitzer Prize winning volume, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and Murray N. Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty.

These books demonstrate that the Founders’ world-view saw the crucial struggle of the Revolution as a battle of liberty versus power. Codevilla posits today’s battle in the same dramatic terms.

This is the central theme this article will develop below.

An understanding of power elite analysis is the "litmus test" separating real libertarians from alternative lifestyle dilettantes dabbling in free market theory. This examination of causal relationships regarding the nature and scope of political power, who has it and how it is exercised, is crucial to understanding the State as organized crime.

The similarity between this analysis and what researcher Peter Dale Scott calls "Deep Politics," the critical examination of the sub-rosa reality behind surface events, are both attempts to unmask the true face of power, exposing the elite social, economic, and financial groups and individuals who benefit from the exercise of State coercion.

In July of 1978 I had the honor of attending the Cato Institute’s First Summer Seminar on Political Economy at Wake Forrest University. The distinguished faculty of libertarian luminaries included Murray N. Rothbard, Leonard P. Liggio, Arthur A. Ekirch, Walter E. Grinder, and Roy A. Childs. This was before the devastating Cato Institute split detailed by David Gordon in his excellent series of articles at LRC.

The curriculum was hard-core Rothbardian – natural rights libertarianism from The Ethics of Liberty, Austrian Economics, revisionist history, and libertarian class analysis.

The Cato organizers gave us each a ton of excellent books (including Rothbard’s Power and Market) and photocopy reprints of classic articles including Rothbard’s libertarian strategy memorandum which served as the guideline for the Institute’s creation.

Rothbard later admitted that these early Seminars were organized as "best and brightest" talent searches for Cato.

But it was the powerful lecture presentations by Walter E. Grinder, "Libertarian Class Analysis" and "American Power Elites" which had the most truly lasting impact upon me. Over the decades Walter has remained my mentor and inspiration in these areas.

As homage to him and his outstanding efforts in helping me and so many others by his gracious and thoughtful guiding hand throughout these years, I have consciously followed in his pioneering pathway blazed by his initial research in drafting this bibliographic outline composition and format.

Part One

  1. Realization of the General Aversion of Most Persons to Deal with Classes.

    1. General Discussion of Individuals in Groups

    2. Groups and Group Interests

  1. Why Power Elite Analysis (Libertarian Class Analysis) is Distinct From

And Superior to Marxist Analysis

    1. Libertarian Class Theory Antedates Marxist Theory

    2. The English Civil War (The Levelers)

    3. Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer

    1. The Industrial Society Versus the Statist Society

    2. The Competitive Free Market Versus the Monopolistic Society

    3. The Free Market Pitted Against Mercantilism and Feudalism

    1. Henri de Saint-Simon and the Distortion of Class Theory

    2. From Saint-Simon to Karl Marx

  1. Later 19th Century Libertarian Class Analysis

    1. Herbert Spencer: Military Society Versus the Industrial Society

    2. Sir Henry Maine: From Status to Contract

    3. Richard Cobden: War and the Interests

  1. American Libertarian Class Theory

    1. From the Beginning: Liberty Versus Power

1. The Impact of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon in America

2. Wilkes Liberty in America

3. Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Taylor

B. John C. Calhoun: Net Tax Consumers Versus Net Tax Payers

C. Lysander Spooner: Taxes and the Highwayman

20th Century Libertarian Class Analysis

    1. Vilfredo Pareto and Ludwig von Mises

    1. The Circulation of Elites

    2. The State’s Role in Freezing Elites into Castes

    1. Franz Oppenheimer

    1. The Economic Means Versus the Political Means of Gaining Wealth

    2. The State as the Organization of the Political Means

    3. Smoothing and Legitimizing the Exploitive Transfer of Wealth From the Productive

    1. Albert Jay Nock and Frank Chodorov

    1. The State Versus Society

    2. The History of the United States as a Rise of the State at the Expense of Society (Constitution, Civil War, Progressive Era, Wars, New Deal)

    1. Murray N. Rothbard

    1. The Anatomy of the State

    2. Legitimacy and the Role of Court Intellectuals and National Security Managers

21st Century Libertarian Class Analysis

    1. David M. Hart

    2. Sheldon Richman

    3. Roderick Long

    4. David D’Amato

    5. Wendy McElroy

  1. Implications

    1. Free Entry and Competition in the Market Place: No Help or Hindrance (No Special Interest Regulation, Bailouts, or Underwriting)

    2. Cut Back Drastically on State Power

    3. Recognize Taxation as the Root of All Evil: Slash Drastically, Move to Abolish Entirely

Part Two

  1. Early American Historical Overview

Theme of Liberty Versus PowerThe Country Party Versus Court Party: The Declaration of Independence and the Revolution (Bernard Bailyn, The Origins of American Politics, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution; Angelo M. Codevilla, The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can do about it)


    1. U. S. Constitution (John Taylor, New Views of the Constitution of the United States; Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States; Saul Cornell, The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism & the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828)

    2. Alexander Hamilton and the Plutocratic Federalists: "The Funding Fathers" (John McConaughy, Who Rules America: A Century of Invisible Government; Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – and What It Means for America Today)

    3. The Early Nationalist Period (Stanley Elkins & Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800; Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815; Phillip H. Burch, Elites in American History: The Federalist Years to the Civil War)

    1. Jeffersonian-Jacksonian Drive to Roll Back the Federalist Program and Rid America of its Powerful Ruling Elite (Lance Banning, The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology)

    2. Failure of Jefferson/Madison Regimes and the Rise of the Old Republican "Tertium Quids" (Norman K. Risjord, The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson)

    1. John Taylor of Caroline County, Virginia (John Taylor, Tyranny Unmasked)

    2. John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia

    3. The Panic of 1819, James Monroe, and the "Era of Good Feelings"

    1. Martin Van Buren and the Founding of the Democratic Party (Robert V. Remini, Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party)

After Visiting his Hero Jefferson, Van Buren Prompted to Found the Democratic Party to Reinvigorate the Two Party System

    1. The Election of 1824 and "the Corrupt Bargain:" After the Defeat of William H. Crawford, Van Buren Puts his Organizing Skills to Winning the Presidency for Andrew Jackson (Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America)

    2. Ideological Focus of the Democratic Party

      1. Anti-Central Bank

      2. Hard Money: "Gold is the People’s Money"

      3. Free Trade and Anti-Monopoly

    3. The Twenty Four Year Plan

      1. Eight Years of Andrew Jackson of Tennessee

      2. Eight Years of Martin Van Buren of New York

      3. Eight Years of Thomas Hart ("Old Bullion") Benton of Missouri

    4. The Rise of the Whig Party: Rebirth of the Hamiltonian Consolidationists

      1. Pro-Central Bank: Opposition to the Separation of Banking and State Proposed by Jackson and Van Buren – the Independent Sub-Treasury

      2. High Protective Tariff: Anti-Free Trade

      3. Corporate Welfare: The "Internal Improvements" System

    1. Civil War: Reconsolidation of the Yankee Mercantile Elite (Thomas DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln; Joseph R. Stromberg, "The War for Southern Independence: A Radical Libertarian Perspective;" Murray N. Rothbard, "The Civil War and Its Legacy")

    1. High Protective Tariffs

    2. Abraham Lincoln’s "Pro-Slavery" 13th Amendment

    3. Income Tax

    4. Conscription: Led to Widespread Anti-Draft Riots and Protests

    5. Paper Money: Greenbacks

    6. National Banking Act of 1863: Eliminated Competing Currencies

    7. Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus

    8. Mass Arrests of Opponents of Lincoln and the War in the North

Reconstruction: Military Government and Occupation of the South

  1. Post-Civil War Period

    1. The Roots of America’s Modern Power Elite (Murray N. Rothbard, "Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy," Phillip H. Burch, Jr., Elites in American History: The Civil War to the New Deal; Richard F. Pettigrew, Triumph Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life From 1870 to 1920)

    2. Quasi-Free Trade Within the New Constraints

    1. Tariffs: The Source of Republican Power

    2. Railroad Land Grants and Subsidies (Murray N. Rothbard, "The Railroading of the American People")

    1. The Rise of Morgan Power

    2. Problems of Free Market for the Post War Elite (Murray N. Rothbard, "The Decline of Laissez Faire")

    1. Dynamic Competition Keeps Eating at Economic and Political Power (Murray N. Rothbard, "The Rise and Fall of Monopolies)

    2. Pools, Mergers, Holding Companies, Trusts and Voluntary Cartel Movement: Unsuccessful From the View of the Power Elite (Murray N. Rothbard, "Tariffs, Inflation, Anti-Trust and Cartels")

    3. Political Parties As Political Churches: Postmillennial Evangelical Protestant Pietistic Republicans Versus Liturgical Democrats: Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Old Fashioned Calvinists (Murray N. Rothbard, "Pietism and the Power Brokers")

  1. Regulation to the Rescue of Vested Interests

The Progressive Era and the Foundation of the American Corporate State (Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism; Murray N. Rothbard, "Theodore Roosevelt: Master Reformer," "Regulation and Public Utilities," "The Progressive Era?" "Progressivism and the Family")

    1. The Role of Increasingly Secular Postmillennial Protestants and German Educated Ph.Ds.’ in Formulation of Progressivism

    2. The National Civic Federation (James Weinstein, The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State 1900-1918)

    3. Partial Solidification of Ruling Class Control

    4. Federal Reserve as the Central Key of Control and Rationalization (Murray N. Rothbard, The Origins of the Federal Reserve, The Case Against the Fed, "The Fed and the Power Elite," "Cartelization of Banking: The Fed," "The Federal Reserve As A Cartelization Device: The Early Years, 1913-1930;" Ron Paul, End the Fed)

  1. Struggle Within the Power Elite (Ferdinand Lundberg, America’s 60 Families)

    1. Rockefeller Versus Morgan (Republicans Versus Democrats)

    2. Uses of Anti-Trust Measures by Both

  1. World War Solidifies the Power Elite (Murray N. Rothbard, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I")

    1. Morgan’s Push for War (Morgan Ties with Rothschild and England)

America Becomes partner With England and France in Control of the Western Imperial Order (Role of Oil in Foreign Policy)

    1. War Industries Board: Culmination of Control (Murray N. Rothbard, "The Great Cooperation")

    1. Later Model for the NRA under FDR: Bernard Baruch

    2. Food Czar: Herbert Hoover

    1. Versailles, "The Inquiry," and the League of Nations

    1. The Birth of the Council on Foreign Relations (Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope; Peter Grose, Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations From 1921 to 1996; Robert D. Schulzinger, The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs: The History of the Council on Foreign Relations; Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and Untied States Foreign Policy; James Perloff, The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline)

    2. "Colonel Edward M. House, Elihu Root, John W. Davis, Raymond B. Fosdick

  1. The Rise of the Foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), Think Tanks

    1. Relation of Idea Centers and Public Policy

    2. American Economic Association, Brookings Institution, 20th Century Fund, etc.

    3. Indoctrination and Control

The Emergence of Banking Groups: Struggle Between Industrial Capital and Finance Capital: DuPont, Morgan Versus Rockefeller, Harriman, and Kuhn Loeb (Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems)

  1. The Oil War: Rockefeller Standard Oil Versus British Royal Dutch Shell (Ludwell Denny: We Fight For Oil, America Conquers Britain); William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order

  2. The Great Depression: Caused by the Fed’s Monetary Policies (Murray N. Rothbard, America’s Great Depression)

  3. The New Deal: The Rise of the Welfare-Warfare State (Phillip H. Burch, Jr., Elites in American History: The New Deal to the Carter Administration)

    1. The Fall of the Morgan Bloc and the Triumph of the Rockefeller Bloc

    1. End of the Gold Standard: Fiat Currency and the Fed

    2. Glass-Steagall Act: Separation of Commercial and Investment Banking Aimed Directly at Morgan Bloc

    3. Pecora Congressional Hearings on Chase National Bank

    4. Morgan/DuPont Bloc Seeks Revenge: The Plot to Overthrow FDR (Jules Archer, The Plot To Seize The White House)

    1. NRA: Corporatism

    2. "Old Right" Opposition to FDR’s New Deal Domestic Policies and the Rush to War: H. L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, John T. Flynn, Garet Garrett, "Colonel" Robert McCormick (Justin Raimondo, Reclaiming the American Right: the Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement)

    3. British Intelligence and the eastern seaboard American anglophile establishment’s war against American non-intervention (Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44)

    4. World War II

The Coalition War: Morgan War in Europe, Rockefeller War in Asia

    1. CFR Plans the Post-War World

    2. The United Nations: Wilson’s Dream Now FDR’s Realization

    3. Bretton Woods: Birth of the World Bank, the IMF, and the Dollar as the World’s Reserve Currency: John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White

  1. The Cold War and the Emergence of the National Security State

    1. Containment, The Central Intelligence Agency, and the American Empire of Bases (Richard Harris Smith, OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency; Patrick K. O' Donnell, Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII's OSS; Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA; Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA; Joseph J. Trento, The Secret History of the CIA; Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence; David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, The Invisible Government; Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America; L. Fletcher Prouty, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the World; Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence; John Marks, The Search For The Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences; W. H. Bowart, Operation Mind Control: Our Secret Government's War Against Its Own People; Ernest Volkman and Blaine Baggett, Secret Intelligence: The Inside Story of America's Espionage Empire; Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters; Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy; John Loftus and Mark Aarons, The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Intelligence Betrayed the Jewish People; Bill Moyers, The Secret Government: The Constitution In Crisis; Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade; Peter Dale Scott,
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