Our rights do not originate with government, but they are to be "secured" by government.
Formerly: Libertarian Party of Citrus county

Monday, January 23, 2012

Newsflash: SCOTUS upholds plan language of the Constitution.

By Tom Rhodes, 1/23/2012

In a unanimous decision Monday the Supreme court ruled that the police must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracker to person's vehicle. This is evidence that contrary to all available evidence there are limits to government power and authority. This case tested the boundaries of how far government can go in using new technologies to monitor the whereabouts of the people.

The plain language of the 4th Amendment is clear. It states "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The mere fact that the government would consider adding a device of any kind to a person's private property to monitor anything without probable cause is a clear indication that, on the whole, the government no-longer considers a person's private property to be of consequence. The government didn't argue that placing a GPS device on a person's car wasn't a violation of rights, but argued that attaching the tiny device to a car's undercarriage was too trivial a violation of property rights to matter, and that no one who drove in public streets could expect his movements to go unmonitored. Thus, the technique was "reasonable," meaning that police were free to employ it for any reason without first justifying it to a magistrate, the government said. To the government your rights are "trivial."

Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority concluded that the Fourth Amendment's protection of "persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" extends to private property such as an automobile.

Justice Samuel Alito split from fellow conservatives holding that the search violated not just property rights, but also individual's "reasonable expectation of privacy." The same justification the court has used since 1967, when it held that warrants were required before police could wiretap a call made from a public telephone booth because "the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places." He warned that a property-based approach was too narrow to guard against the proliferating threats to personal privacy modern technology posed.

It is nice to see that the SCOTUS in some cases still protects the rights of the people over the government. Too bad the SCOTUS isn't consistent in protecting our property rights from search and seizure, they still accept the idea that any cash you have is the government's unless you can prove that cash didn't commit a crime. Without probable cause nor evidence nor due process, if you carry cash it can be confiscated as drug money. Monday's decision should be celebrated as a good step in the right direction, but we still have too many laws that put the government's "interests" above the rights of the people.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Obama's Vision Doomed to Failure

By Tom Rhodes, 12/18/2012

As usual President Obama was at a fundraising event last week. It is reported that he said, "We can't go back to this brand of you're-on-your-own economics." Interesting choice of words; I never heard of any economic system or theory called "you're-on-your-own economics." Other than recent punditry and news articles relating to Obama's reference, I cannot find any other educational or political reference. OK, so the POTUS coined a new phrase, that's cool, but let's think about it.

Obama in the same speech said, "we are not a country that was built on the idea of survival of the fittest" which implies a Darwinist theory of economics, not voluntary free markets, nor socialistic central control. The terminology implies that he means that "you're-on-your-own economic" system is one where people are allowed to suffer for the results of their life choices and if they make poor choices they are held responsible for those choices. A system where people take risks and are expected to live with the results of what risks they choose to take or don't take. As I've pointed out in other columns the vision Obama shared with potential contributors to his political campaign was a the same as the original vision for colonizing the new world by our Pilgrim Forefathers at the Plymouth Colony. They established a communist system, where all farmed together, and whatever they produced was put in a common storehouse. A certain amount of food was rationed to each person regardless of his contribution to the work. Many Pilgrims complained that they were too weak from hunger to do their share of the work. Even the deeply religious Pilgrims took to stealing from one another. In his history of the colony Gov. Bradford wrote "So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue, the next year also if not some way prevented."

So giving up on communism they set up a new system where every family was assigned a parcel of land, and kept what they produced. Gov. Bradford then observed, "The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression." Implementing "you're-on-your-own economics" lead to bountiful harvests which are still celebrated today on the fourth Thursday of every November.

So if we look at history we clearly see that when communism in any form is tried the results are less for everybody. All people who have utopian ideas of people being supplied their needs regardless of input into society forget and ignore human nature. When people don't own something, they don't take care of it. Look at government housing projects as a prime example. The undeniable fact is people tend to work harder and produce more when they own what they produce. Regardless of what any centrally controlled government wants or decides, people will barter for what they want, black market if suppressed by the government, and will protect what is theirs, and let waste and take what they can if allowed that isn't theirs. It is private ownership not public leads to more overall wealth for all.

President Obama's idea that free enterprise means the biggest and meanest and strongest force their will on others is pathologically invalid. Free enterprise and free voluntary trade results in business and people who have characteristics that make them better-equipped to survive and hence reproduce themselves succeed in a particular environment. This does not imply that they must eat, or destroy others.

Artificially protecting businesses, trades, and skills, that without being subsidized would fail, stops progress and hurts growth. Imagine if we had to subsidize all farriers, because economics, technology and business practices lead to a loss of these jobs. What a waste that obviously would be. Now what if somebody invented a faster cheaper way to send letters and other personal correspondence, like say a fax machine, or a computer program that could use phone lines or other connections to send a letter instantly, would it be smart to subsidize people delivering paper messages by hand all across the country? Or should competition result in the business of hand delivering small messages be allowed to go the way of farriers. There are still a small number of farriers earning a living and providing horse shoeing services and products, but it is not nearly the industry it was. Why should there remain subsidies for the Postal Service anymore than subsides for farriers?

Using Obama's economic vision, we would have the government subsidizing buggy whip production so that buggy whip manufacturer employees could keep their jobs. His idea is that we should take from those people whose life choices, luck, drive, and natural ability allowed them to succeed, and give it to those who made bad life choices, or had bad luck, or have no drive, or have little natural ability, sounds a lot like "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need." How many times must we historically witness this caring utopian vision fail when actually implemented before we instead work towards what has historically proven to work. Economic freedom leads to higher standard of living and better quality of life for everybody. So if you care about improving people's lives, then you really care about economic freedom. And having economic freedom doesn't mean having a right to vote, or a right to free health care, or a right to free education, a right to job, a right to food, what Economic freedom means...

  • Your property is protected, under an impartial rule of law.
  • You're free to trade with others for what you need and want.
  • Your money keeps its value because your national currency is stable.
  • And, government stays small relative to the size of the economy.

    If you really cared about people, you'd give up utopian socialistic ideas, that sound compassionate but in reality only grant power to a few ruling elite and make everybody else poorer.

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012

    LPF Core Values

    by Tom Rhodes, 1/12/2012

    Christ famously said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is a truism and an undisputable part of human nature. As libertarians we can be proud of the fact research is clear that those who believe that people should be responsible for their own well being, are on average more generous and give more to charity to help those in need.
    Nobody really argues that people don’t invest their time and money and effort into what they think is valuable. This is true not only individuals but also groups. Businesses invest in what they believe is valuable, I work for a large fortune 500 company, what it values has changed in its more than one century history. It now places a huge value on the safety of all its workers. Not just because of monetary considerations, but because there has been a real shift to a culture of safety. Safety is no longer just keeping people from losing life or limb. The company now worries about and actively works to protect against minor strains and sprains on a very serious note. The proof is in the substantial dollars, time, and resources invested in making safety a priority. Safety is now a core value even ahead of profits at this company.

    Let’s consider our party, the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF), where exactly does the LPF put its treasure (meager as it is). The short answer is the LPF puts in treasure in the bank, it sits on it. It values money in the bank over any other activity that money could be used for. We in our recent past, had a treasurer who was so un-willing to spend any LPF funds that he refused to spend money on what the Executive Council decided to spend it on. Where the LPF is willing to spend is a clear indicator of what it values. If it’s not willing to spend its treasure, then its heart must be in having a large bank account not actually doing the work of a political party.
    Consider some more of Christ’s words. One of the more famous parables Jesus told was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The LPF as body appears to have acted like the man who was given one bag of gold.

    It is very clear that the LPF (or at least its past leaders) does not value its constitutional officers, does not value its constitutionally mandated convention, and does not value its opportunity to have representation at the LP National convention, and does not value the volunteers it expects so much from.
    Over the past year, the evidence that the new LPF leadership is trying to better promote and expand the LPF is evident. As a body however the LPF and its current traditions and actions doesn’t show that it actually values what its leaders do. I am not, nor do I want to be an elected officer in the LPF, but I am ashamed of how as a party we treat our leaders and volunteers. It is absurd to expect the hundreds and hundreds of hours that these good people put into the work of the LPF, then expect them to pay for the privilege of doing so. Getting anybody to volunteer to help any member of the EC makes pulling teeth seem like giving away money. We as members of the LPF cannot continue to expect great things of our leaders if we never support them. The membership of the LPF either doesn’t value its leaders, or doesn’t actually value the LPF. Look how few show up for regular meetings, fewer still for the state convention, and fewer still actually donate. If you value the LPF and what it stands for, agree in principle with its platform and clearly stated objectives, then prove it. As members your unwillingness to put either time or money into what you supposedly value speaks volumes.
    We want the LPF to be a professional successful political party, that cannot happen if the actual values of its leaders and members, as expressed by how and where its leaders put their time and money, doesn’t reflect that both value the LPF as a party.

    What this looks like, and in reality shows, is that the LPF is a debate club open to rich people who can afford it. A professional party would not have to be completely dependent upon unpaid volunteers for absolutely everything it does. LPF Volunteers aren’t even fed when working at LPF functions. The fact that the LPF does not see any fiduciary responsibility to sending representatives to the state convention much less national convention, shows that the LPF doesn’t even trust its own members to provide enough resources to put its constitutional officers in a hotel for the state convention, or that the LPF doesn’t actually value the convention.
    How can we say we value our state convention, if we are not willing to invest in it? How can we as a party say the state convention is of any value if we aren’t even willing to foot the bill for hotel rooms for our constitutional officers? It is absurd of us to expect people to put in hundreds of hours of labor, then expect and require them to pay for the privilege of doing so. If we have the resources there is no moral, fiduciary, nor logical reason to require that constitutional officers attend the annual state convention, then require them to pay their own way. If we have the resources there is no moral, fiduciary, nor logical reason to require that representatives chosen by our constitutional officers to attend the National LP convention, then require them to pay their own way.

    The traditions of the LPF like representatives paying all their own expenses must be addressed, a party that can’t afford to send its Chair to the national convention, can’t afford to run effective campaigns, and maybe can’t afford to exist. This does not show a professional image but indicates a desperate group trying to hang on, and that image will not garner investment of its own membership much less others. The LPF should minimally pay for the travel and lodging expenses of its officers or representatives at conventions (even if it gets donations from the very people it sends to cover those expenses), just so our books show that we are willing to invest in activities and demonstrate that the LPF holds those activities as valuable. If the party isn’t willing to invest in something, why should it expect its members to invest in it. The LPF should expect its members to invest in the party, and spend those resources on things the party values. Expecting people to become leaders, and as leader volunteer not only vast amounts of time, but financial resources indicates that the party does not value, or believe, that the work of its leadership is of any value. The traditions and actions of the LPF are a clear indication that the LPF as a body (or minimally its past leadership) does not value the efforts of its volunteers or leaders. If the funds exist to cover those expenses, I can see no valid rationale not to support the extraordinary efforts that or constitutional officers exert with more than a thank you.
    There are a handful of people willing to do something and who work very hard but just that hand full cannot do everything, nor can they be expected to foot the bill for the privilege of working their asses off.
    The traditions and actions of the LPF reflect its core values. So I ask, is it a core value of the LPF that only those rich enough can be national representatives? Is it a core value of the LPF that even our own state convention is so unimportant that LPF won’t even invest the minimal lodging costs of its constitutional officers? Does the LPF so undervalues state and national meetings that they are not willing to fund any of the officers the membership elects to attend these events? Obviously if the membership chooses a leader who is not financially well off then these traditions seem to be a way to keep any “lowlife poor” from actually being where decisions are made, and to discourage good working people who are not “well to do” from even running for LPF office? or if they do, keep them from remaining for long? The traditional method of leaders being expected to always foot their own way in the LPF, even the bragging from a former chair that they never have the party cover their expenses to national conventions, seem to indicate that the LPF is a rich-man’s debate club not a serious political party. Such bragging is more an indicator that that person is using the LPF for their own aggrandizement, not working to benefit the LPF. If those persons really believed in the LPF then they’d donate that money to the LPF and let the LPF leadership select and send a representative to the national convention. That representative may or may not be the donor, but the LPF would at least show it values the activity enough to materially support it. Let’s work at changing that image and those traditions. We’re the third largest state LP in the nation, if we aren’t willing to invest in sending our Chair to the national LP convention what does that say about the LPF?

    Even if we can’t afford it, the funding for lodging etc, of our elected officials at official conventions should be through the party, not on their personal accounts. If the party can afford to fund such minimal expenses, but if the leader in question can and does choose to donate to the party to cover those expenses, that would be magnanimous and great, but the LPF should as a matter of policy, show that it values its conventions buy putting its treasure there. If it doesn’t then obviously it doesn’t actually value them. The LPF being unwilling to put its treasure at its constitutionally mandated meetings sends a clear message to the LPF membership, and public, that it doesn’t value those meetings. If we want to be a meaningful and serious party, then we need to start acting like one, and that includes footing the bill for our constitutional officers to attend the constitutionally mandated annual state convention. Unless of course the image of a rich-man’s debate club is not just an image but the reality of what the LPF is.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Too Much Government

    by Tom Rhodes, 1/10/2011

    Common sense, reality, justice, are all concepts that the excess regulations that our government has instituted are chasing away from the American people form trust and belief in our government. We have so many laws and regulations that it is impossible for anybody to know them all, much less obey them all.

    Consider a kid in school, a good kid, whom it is quite legal to own, use, and poses a tool when not in school. If this tool is a pocket knife, a tool people have traditionally carried from a young age for centuries, and he accidently forgets to leave it at home when he goes to school, notes that he forgot, and then self reports to the school (government) that he made a mistake, what should a reasonable response to that responsible action be.

    The Gwinnett School System thinks that several days of in-school suspension is appropriate, they used to have a minimum 10-day out-of-school suspension for such atrocious crimes.

    What our government is teaching it citizens, specifically our children, is that laws are not just, they are instituted to control you. That you are better off not trusting the government (schools) and hiding any problems or questionable possessions, as even if you did no wrong, you will be punished as an example to the rest of society.

    Consider compliance with current traffic laws. We have so many traffic laws, most of which are used to generate fines, not provide more safety, that they are routinely ignored. Laws against and controlling mind altering substances like pot, beer, etc. are so routinely ignored that all of our past 3 presidents have openly admitted ignoring them.

    Worse Yet, the government doesn't want to be accountable. Consider the EPA, they are arguing before the supreme court that the people have no right to legally challenge anything they dictate or any fine they levy, and must allow open access to private records without a court order to the EPA, and that there can be no judicial review. The government literally claims that the EPA as an agency is not and cannot be held to constitutional limits. In the case argued before the SCOTUS, a property owner had their property declared a wetland, it’s on the side of a hill in a subdivided community, and they had all the necessary building permits, and the property was not part any of the EPA declared wetlands. The EPA stopped construction and demanded they remove all foundations, plant non-native species, and let it be a virtual park for years before they could apply to the EPA for permission to build, and that there could be no review of the EPA finding of any kind.

    SCOTUS Justice Elena Kagan said it was a “strange position” for the government to adopt in insisting that the property owner has no right to a hearing on such an order. Justice Stephen Breyer said it looked intimidating to him. “It said this is an order,” he said. Justice Alito summarized what had happened, saying, “You buy property to build a house. You think maybe there is a little drainage problem in part of your lot, so you start to build the house and then you get an order from the EPA which says you have filled in wetlands, so you can’t build your house. Remove the fill. Put in all kinds of plants. and now you have to let us on your premises whenever we want to … you have to turn over to us all sorts of documents, and for every day that you don’t do all this you are accumulating a potential fine of $75,000 and by the way, there is no way you can go to court to challenge our determination that this is a wetlands until such time as we choose to sue you…”

    Justice Breyer said, “For 75 years the courts have interpreted statutes with an eye towards permitting judicial review, not the opposite.”

    Justice Ruth Ginzburg recognized that the property owners had sought a hearing from the EPA over the controversy, “and the EPA said no.”

    It is clear our government bureaucrats chafe at the idea that the people have rights and can challenge their orders. It has gotten so bad that even all of the liberal justices on the SCOTUS can be said to have misgivings based on the questions they asked EPA lawyers.

    The EPA believes that the constitution no longer applies and does not restrict the power and authority of government. Regardless of the fact that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” the EPA is arguing to the SCOTUS that through the Clean Water Act that they have the authority to issue orders as it wishes and collect fines for “violations” – without court review.

    This is evidence that the government is trying to teach the people of this country that the rule of law, and equality under the law are passé. That the ruling elite have the power to issue orders as they wish and collect fines, confiscate property, and issue punishment for “violations” – without court review, without due process, and you mere citizens have no choice.

    Clearly the left, and ruling elite in the government want to end property rights. Consider liberal columnist, Carl Gibson’s recent editorial titled, “ ‘Job Creators’ Aren't Doing Their Job.” where he says, "With $2 trillion at home and $1.4 trillion abroad, corporations are sitting on record-high piles of cash. For example, Apple holds $76 billion by itself, more than the U.S. Treasury. Yet these hoards of cash remain untaxed. A 35% tax on corporate America's cash reserves in the United States alone would generate $700 billion in revenue."

    Start with the obvious lie, where he claims that “hoards of cash” are untaxed; taxes were paid on that cash when it was earned, cash on hand is savings not untaxed income. Just like individuals can save part of their income if they choose not to spend it after they pay taxes, groups of people (what corporations are) can do the same. Gibson is in essence saying that if you have cash remaining after you pay taxes and rather than spend those funds you choose to you save them, that then the government should take that savings from you. Get it!! you should only be allowed as much savings, property, etc, as the government gives you permission. Your savings is actually the governments and the government not you should decide if it should be spent. This sounds more like the old USSR than the USA. Liberals and the media wonder why corporations move their savings off shore, or why Americans are purchasing gold, jewellery, guns, and other tangible goods in record numbers, as investments to protect assets, it’s because the people no longer trust the government not to confiscate their accumulated wealth.

    The ruling elite and liberal intelligentsia actually believe that all the wealth and property of the USA is the governments, not the individuals who earned it, and the government has the right to redistribute all property as it sees fit, including savings. It isn’t just big corporation savings (cash on hand) that leftists want, they also want the accumulated savings of those individuals who have taken personal responsibility and saved for their retirement. The government is actively seeking ways to control 401K accounts. The government is saying that you are too stupid and shouldn’t be burdened with being responsible for your own money, and that you are not a sovereign individual with individual rights, that your property is actually the governments, and it graciously allows you to keep some of it at the government discretion.

    Our government is too big, protecting individual sovereignty and responsibility is no longer considered the job of government, and it now considers the people and their “rights” to be a burden. To get around constitutional restrictions on confiscating property without due process, then now charge the property not the person with a crime. Have more than a few dollars in your pocket, and the police will confiscate it saying it was drug money with no proof, no evidence, and no due process. Rather than innocent until proven guilty, you must prove that the money charged with a crime is yours. Note that to avoid the obvious lack of due process they have decided that it is ok to charge the money with a crime, not the owner of that money, and since money isn’t a person and has no rights, they can do what they want with it.

    Too much government has now made it so that the average person no longer considers avoiding a tax wrong. Too much government has now made it so that the average person now considers what the government might do to them before reporting anything. Too much government has now made it so that the average person seriously searches for ways to avoid “permits.” In many of our big cities it is almost impossible to for the government to get a jury to convict individuals arrested for possession of small amounts of pot. The people realize that the law is stupid, the government will destroy individuals not for violating anybody else’s rights, but for doing something the government doesn’t like, so juries don’t convict.

    Because of this the government is trying and has succeeded in limiting the people’s right to a jury trial. Schools no longer teach civics where the jury trial, and how being tried by your peers is a check against an abusive government. A jury can and does have the right to say not guilty when the government charges a person of a crime that although the defendant did commit, the law itself is wrong and the action should not be a crime. A fully informed jury is not something the government wants, and better yet, the government doesn’t want juries at all. Having to prove to 12 people, not a single government employee (the judge) severely restricts the power of government.

    The solution to almost all the problems America now faces is not more government, it’s less government. But don’t expect the media who profits from more government or corporations who can buy off government to protect themselves from competition and being held accountable to their actions, to promote smaller government.

    We need to return to limited government, but just as the Romans used bread and circuses to control the mobs, we too are seeing the same actions by our ruling elite, and is indicative of the beginning of the end of our republic. The only possible way to reverse course, and not end up a former shell of our past greatness like roam, losing our constitutionally protected rights, is to return to what made us great; being a limited small government republic. From the way anybody supporting smaller government who does manage to get the public’s attention (think Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson) is systematically destroyed, there is little hope that in 2012 we will even have the choice to elect a person who respects private property, individual liberty, freedom, self-rule, etc.

    I have a better idea, more freedom, less government. Of course you have to be willing to accept that you not the government is responsible for your own well being. You not the government will be responsible to help the needy. You’ll have to be a part of your community and depend on your family, neighbours, church, etc. to help you when/if you’re in need not the government. That was the situation and worked for about the first 150 years of American history. That can, and will, work again, but not if society doesn’t believe in individual sovereignty and responsibility. If you wonder, I did steal that phrase “more freedom, less government” check it out at www.lpf.org.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Interesting Distraction

    By Tom Rhodes, 1/4/2012

    In Georgia, a state law requires “every candidate for federal” office who is certified by the state executive committees of a political party or who files a notice of candidacy “shall meet the constitutional and statutory qualifications for holding the office being sought.”

    Obama’s attorney, Michael Jablonski, had argued that the requirements didn’t apply to candidates for a presidential primary, but Judge Michael W. Malihi of the Georgia state Office of State Administrative Hearings, ruled that “Statutory provisions must be read as they are written, and this court finds that the cases cited by [Obama] are not controlling. When the court construes a constitutional or statutory provision, the ‘first step … is to examine the plain statutory language,” the judge wrote. “Section 21-2-1(a) states that ‘every candidate for federal and state office’ must meet the qualifications for holding that particular office, and this court has seen no case law limiting this provision, nor found any language that contains an exception for the office of president or stating that the provision does not apply to the presidential preference primary.”

    So let’s take Obama at his word, and we accept his birth certificate, and the fact he was born in Hawaii, his mom was a US Citizen, and his father wasn’t. Those facts are not in dispute. Now we must consider the fact that the constitution says that to be eligible to be president one must be a “natural born citizen.”

    Again nobody is arguing that point, but exactly how is a “natural born citizen” defined?

    The Constitution doesn’t define “natural born citizen” but lucky for us the US Supreme court did rule on that. In Minor v. Happersett, the U.S. Supreme Court opinion defines “natural-born citizen.” To be exact the SCOTUS Opinion states:

    The Constitution does not in words say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners.

    The SCOTUS is clear, where you’re born doesn’t make you a natural born citizen, but the citizenship of your parents does. An undisputeded fact is that both of Obama’s parents were not citizens at the time of his birth in Hawaii. That would mean that by definition Obama cannot be considered a “natural-born citizen.”

    The State of Georgia, is allowing this to proceed, and has dismissed Obama’s attorney’s arguments that Georgia law doesn’t apply. Not all states have election law authorizing any state officials to screen candidate selections from political parties, but in some states it is the law, not the political parties that determine which candidates appear on ballots. Malihi’s ruling said: “The court finds that defendant is a candidate for federal office who has been certified by the state executive committee of a political party, and therefore must, under Code Section 21-2-5, meet the constitutional and statutory qualifications for holding the office being sought.”

    Looks like Obama may not be on the ballot in all 50 states. This is an interesting distraction. Taking Obama at his word, and accepting his birth certificate at face value, but using the clear language of Supreme Court precedent will result in the fact that by law Obama may not be a “natural-born citizen.”

    The question is are we a country governed by law or by the dictates of some ruling elite?