Who Rules America?

Previously by Charles A. Burris: Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper

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.


  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