Five Ways to Beat the Ruling Class

Published November 11, 2015

At The Heartland Institute’s 31st anniversary benefit dinner on October 8, keynote speaker Angelo Codevilla delivered a piercing analysis of the new “Ruling Class” in America. These privileged individuals went to the best universities, know the right people, and have careers that depend largely on access to the money governments take from the rest of us. They are utterly convinced of the correctness of their opinions despite being dead wrong on the most important issues facing the country.

I talked with Dr. Codevilla prior to his talk about what the rest of us – the heartland of America – can do. We came up with five ways to beat the Ruling Class.

#1 Educate Yourself

Can you defend capitalism? Can you explain the four institutions that a free-market economy needs to produce not just prosperity but also individual freedom and justice? Do you know why “the worst rise to the top” in governments?

The Ruling Class is sure that socialism, not capitalism, is the way to achieve its vision of a good society. That vision is based on ignorance or a fundamental misunderstanding of how markets work, the role of government envisioned by the Founders of the United States, and the lessons of history.

To beat the Ruling Class, you need to explain how empowering individuals to make their own choices and cooperate voluntarily with others to solve problems is the only way to create the Great Society that Adam Smith first foresaw and described in his great book, The Wealth of Nations, published in the very year, 1776, that the world-changing American experiment in freedom was launched.

The Heartland Institute can help you take this first step. Call us at 312/377-4000 and we’ll send you a free copy of Tom G. Palmer’s Why Freedom for the basic principles, and a copy of The Patriot’s Toolbox for how these principles apply to current issues. The box at the end of this article has some short essays available online that will make you sound like a genius compared to your Ruling Class opponents.

#2 Educate the People Around You

Don’t hide your knowledge under a bushel basket! Talk to your children, other family members, coworkers, and golf partners. Don’t let false claims go unanswered out of fear of being “politically incorrect.” Often, all it takes is saying “I don’t believe that’s true” to stop a Ruling Classer in his or her tracks.

Has increasing the size and power of government ever solved a problem? The record of government’s failures is long and irrefutable. Are “big corporations” all evil? Corporations built the cars we drive and produce the food we eat. Would life really be better without big corporations producing virtually everything we see, touch, and consume?

And of course, there’s “global warming.” The government’s own satellites show there’s been no warming for 18 years, so how can any recent hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, and so on have been caused by “global warming”? And isn’t China now the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide? What kind of government does China have?

Once again, Heartland can help. Direct your friends and coworkers to our website at and urge them to “just browse around.” They can’t help but get educated.

#3 Be a Role Model for Others

Leonard Reed, the legendary founder and long-time president of the Foundation for Economic Education, believed the best way to sell the “freedom philosophy” is to be a role model for others. Dave Padden, Heartland’s founder, was similarly convinced that the way to persuade others that your ideas are valid is by being someone they admire and want to imitate.

Being a role model isn’t easy. It requires being a good spouse and parent, holding a job, avoiding drugs and other bad habits, and keeping promises. It requires being honest, admitting what you don’t know, and genuinely caring about other people.

When you become a role model, people ask about your views on the big issues of the day. When you tell them you believe people should be free to make choices and solve problems without the government telling them what to do, they are likely to accept that as a philosophy of life they too can embrace.

The best guide to becoming a role model is still Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Originally published in 1936, it’s still in print (and required reading at The Heartland Institute). Have you read it? Has it been a long time since you did? Pick up a copy and read it again. It will change your life … and make you a more effective advocate of freedom.

#4 Help Build New Institutions

Since the 1930s, the political Left has “marched through the institutions” of the United States, taking over and then corrupting one after another. They conquered Hollywood to shape popular culture, universities, mainstream media, and government agencies. Today they control those institutions and use them to hide and demonize any ideas or people who disagree with their fantastical view of the world.

Trying to take back Hollywood, the universities, and so forth from the Left is a hopeless endeavor. Their control is so complete and entrenched that it will take generations to displace them. But here’s the good news: The Left destroys the institutions it takes over. Their movies are bad, their universities are too expensive and fail to teach even basic grammar and civics, and nobody believes what the mainstream media report on their front pages anymore.

This creates an opportunity for folks from the heartland to build new institutions that can out-compete those crippled by the Left. Colleges like Hillsdale, media outlets like Fox News, CNS News, and Washington Times, charter schools and home schooling, and websites like Breitbart and The Federalist are all institutions challenging the hegemony of the Ruling Class.

Institution-building can take place right in your neighborhood. Join your condo board, Rotary Club, arts and crafts club, volunteer fire department, or even a bowling team. This is where leadership skills are created and new leaders are discovered.

#5 Hang Together

At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” His sentiment is true today. There is strength in numbers. One man standing up against the Ruling Class is easily ignored, silenced, or worse. One hundred cannot be so easily defeated. One thousand is a revolution.

It’s traditional, at this point in a speech or essay, to quote Margaret Mead’s observation: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” At The Heartland Institute, we like a more recent quotation, from an Apple Computer ad campaign in 1997: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Joining The Heartland Institute – as a donor, a volunteer, a writer, or just as a fan and promoter – is one way to join forces with others to beat the Ruling Class. Today we are 6,000-strong, counting only recent donors, but we count millions of people as our friends and supporters. By hanging together, we most assuredly are having more impact than we could as solitary voices for the truth.

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The Ruling Class is powerful. From the president of the United States to the teacher showing An Inconvenient Truth to his captive audience of fifth-graders, they have the status and resources to impose their vision on the rest of us. But we can fight back and win. And now you know how.