David Brook's May 28th Column

George KGeorge K Super ModeratorPosts: 8,576 Senior Member

Here in a nutshell is why he is my favorite conservative Republican.

"The Strange Failure of the Educated Elite

Once upon a time, white male Protestants ruled the roost. You got into a fancy school if your father had gone to the fancy school. You got a job at a white-shoe law firm or climbed the corporate ladder if you golfed at the right club.

Then we smashed all that. We replaced a system based on birth with a fairer system based on talent. We opened up the universities and the workplace to Jews, women and minorities. University attendance surged, creating the most educated generation in history. We created a new boomer ethos, which was egalitarian (bluejeans everywhere!), socially conscious (recycling!) and deeply committed to ending bigotry.

You’d think all this would have made the U.S. the best governed nation in history. Instead, inequality rose. Faith in institutions plummeted. Social trust declined. The federal government became dysfunctional and society bitterly divided.

The older establishment won World War II and built the American Century. We, on the other hand, led to Donald Trump. The chief accomplishment of the current educated elite is that it has produced a bipartisan revolt against itself.

What happened? How has so much amazing talent produced such poor results.

A narrative is emerging. It is that the new meritocratic aristocracy has come to look like every other aristocracy. The members of the educated class use their intellectual, financial and social advantages to pass down privilege to their children, creating a hereditary elite that is ever more insulated from the rest of society. We need to build a meritocracy that is true to its values, truly open to all.

I’m among the many who have been telling this story for 20 years. And I enjoy books that fill in compelling details, like Steven Brill’s “Tailspin,” which is being released Tuesday.

But the narrative is insufficient. The real problem with the modern meritocracy can be found in the ideology of meritocracy itself. Meritocracy is a system built on the maximization of individual talent, and that system unwittingly encourages several ruinous beliefs:

Exaggerated faith in intelligence. Today’s educated establishment is still basically selected on the basis of I.Q. High I.Q. correlates with career success but is not the crucial quality required for civic leadership. Many of the great failures of the last 50 years, from Vietnam to Watergate to the financial crisis, were caused by extremely intelligent people who didn’t care about the civic consequences of their actions.

Misplaced faith in autonomy. The meritocracy is based on the metaphor that life is a journey. On graduation days, members for the educated class give their young Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which shows a main character, “you,” who goes on a solitary, unencumbered journey through life toward success. If you build a society upon this metaphor you will wind up with a society high in narcissism and low in social connection. Life is not really an individual journey. Life is more like settling a sequence of villages. You help build a community at home, at work, in your town and then you go off and settle more villages.

Misplaced notion of the self. Instead of seeing the self as the seat of the soul, the meritocracy sees the self as a vessel of human capital, a series of talents to be cultivated and accomplishments to be celebrated. If you base a society on a conception of self that is about achievement, not character, you will wind up with a society that is demoralized; that puts little emphasis on the sorts of moral systems that create harmony within people, harmony between people and harmony between people and their ultimate purpose.

Inability to think institutionally. Previous elites poured themselves into institutions and were pretty good at maintaining existing institutions, like the U.S. Congress, and building new ones, like the postwar global order. The current generation sees institutions as things they pass through on the way to individual success. Some institutions, like Congress and the political parties, have decayed to the point of uselessness, while others, like corporations, lose their generational consciousness and become obsessed with the short term.

Misplaced idolization of diversity. The great achievement of the meritocracy is that it has widened opportunities to those who were formerly oppressed. But diversity is a midpoint, not an endpoint. Just as a mind has to be opened so that it can close on something, an organization has to be diverse so that different perspectives can serve some end. Diversity for its own sake, without a common telos, is infinitely centrifugal, and leads to social fragmentation.

The essential point is this: Those dimwitted, stuck up blue bloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self.

The meritocracy is here to stay, thank goodness, but we probably need a new ethos to reconfigure it — to redefine how people are seen, how applicants are selected, how social roles are understood and how we narrate a common national purpose."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/28/opinion/failure-educated-elite.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

Keep your stinkin' government hands off my Medicare.

Replies

  • BushartBushart Senior Member Posts: 1,786 Senior Member

    I agree with this
    I've known a few of these well educated narcissists in my day

    Hard to believe--all this time and money invested---social misfits and surprisingly lacking in common sense (the least common of human senses)

  • sherbsherb Senior Member Posts: 1,891 Senior Member

    Of all the kinds of unearned privilege, meritocracy is the most insidious, because people tend to conflate their cognitive abilities with their work ethic. So of course its considered to be a more just aristocracy than those of past ages.

    And maybe, all things considered it is. But wisdom-as opposed to high test scores-reminds us that the people at the top always create justifications that make it seem that their ruling prerogative is part of the natural order. Throw in the phenomenon of assortative mating, and the meritocracy remains every bit as stratified as the Royal family.

  • George KGeorge K Super Moderator Posts: 8,576 Senior Member

    "...The essential point is this: Those dimwitted, stuck up blue bloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self..."

    That sense of noblesse oblige does seem to be rarer today than in the past. The Pharma Bro wannabes far outnumber the Bill Gates ones.

    Keep your stinkin' government hands off my Medicare.
  • BushartBushart Senior Member Posts: 1,786 Senior Member

    Back in "That Day"--remember we were not that far removed from the farm
    In many cases we needed each other to survive

    Today all's you need is what's in your hand--I don't need to contribute to society----cuz we're global...right?
    Now--where's my selfie stick?

  • sherbsherb Senior Member Posts: 1,891 Senior Member

    @George K said:
    "...The essential point is this: Those dimwitted, stuck up blue bloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self..."

    And I think they understood that they were the product of unearned privilege, so they tended to be self-conscious about it. This was the last of them.

  • George KGeorge K Super Moderator Posts: 8,576 Senior Member

    Rockefellers, Carnegie, Alfred Nobel... their good deeds may have been the result of a guilty conscience, but at least they had a conscience. That item seems absent in many of today's robber barons.

    I knew several old money WASPS in the Foreign Service. A few were dilettantes or dumb younger siblings of distinguished political families (outside of the office, one of them spoke only to C****s, his wife and his mistress :) ), but most were truly dedicated to the idea of public service as a family tradition. The father of one I served with had been the last pre-Castro Ambassador to Cuba. At the first country team meeting after he returned from his dad's funeral he asked if any of us smoked cigars. The three of us who did each received several boxes of pre-Castro Cuban cigars that had been in storage in his fathers walk-in humidor at the family's summer place in Kennebunkport, a few compounds down the shoreline from the Bush family's compound. These people could have spent their lives clipping coupons and pursuing hobbies or hedonistic delights, instead they made careers in public service for salaries that for them were chump change. I may not have liked all of them or agreed with their personal political views, but I had to respect what Brooks calls their civic consciousness.

    Aside to Sherb - Yes, he fits the description up to a point, and may well be the last of a dying breed, but he was a very successful self-made millionaire before entering politics. I do not say that in a disparaging way. I'm not certain that he had the option of a life of leisure.

    The Kennedys are an interesting counterpoint. Papa Joe certainly was New Money, and tawdry new money at that, but the sons and grandchildren chose public service, whatever their flaws might have been.

    Keep your stinkin' government hands off my Medicare.
  • sherbsherb Senior Member Posts: 1,891 Senior Member

    @George K said:

    Aside to Sherb - Yes, he fits the description up to a point, and may well be the last of a dying breed, but he was a very successful self-made millionaire before entering politics. I do not say that in a disparaging way. I'm not certain that he had the option of a life of leisure.

    His father was a United States Senator from Connecticut and Bush himself was a third Generation Yalie. So I would say he fit the description to a T. But I actually agree that he didn't have the option of a life of leisure. He was expected to make his own way in the world and he did.

    He'll be gone soon, and he will be sorely missed.

  • creekyguycreekyguy Posts: 83 Member
    edited May 30 #9

    The narcissism of the rich has become democratized! Now everyone can get tattoos all over his body, post a gazillion twits, say "look at me" with ugly jewelry in the nose and lips or pink hair in a mohawk, etc. The idea of a career contributing to society is long forgotten. Are we lost, or will there be a rebirth?

  • sherbsherb Senior Member Posts: 1,891 Senior Member

    The conservative in me says that we are doomed to continue our slide into the nihilistic abyss.

    The liberal in me says that all the Boomers will be dead soon and that's human progress with a capital P. :)

  • George KGeorge K Super Moderator Posts: 8,576 Senior Member

    @sherb said:
    The conservative in me says that we are doomed to continue our slide into the nihilistic abyss.

    The liberal in me says that all the Boomers will be dead soon and that's human progress with a capital P. :)

    Even though I'm a pre-boomer I think you're a cockeyed optimist. Boomers look good compared to some succeeding generations.

    Keep your stinkin' government hands off my Medicare.
  • fishingcomicfishingcomic Senior Member Posts: 21,404 Senior Member

    @sherb said:

    @George K said:

    Aside to Sherb - Yes, he fits the description up to a point, and may well be the last of a dying breed, but he was a very successful self-made millionaire before entering politics. I do not say that in a disparaging way. I'm not certain that he had the option of a life of leisure.

    His father was a United States Senator from Connecticut and Bush himself was a third Generation Yalie. So I would say he fit the description to a T. But I actually agree that he didn't have the option of a life of leisure. He was expected to make his own way in the world and he did.

    He'll be gone soon, and he will be sorely missed.

    I have a tremendous respect for HW. I didn't agree with him on much. But I think he was right about Kuwait and I am not sure any other man could have put together that coalition. But it starts with the fact that a man born with a silver spoon saw his duty and he did it.

    'I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.'" Ronald Reagan
  • George KGeorge K Super Moderator Posts: 8,576 Senior Member

    "I have a tremendous respect for HW. I didn't agree with him on much. But I think he was right about Kuwait and I am not sure any other man could have put together that coalition. But it starts with the fact that a man born with a silver spoon saw his duty and he did it."

    This.

    I met him in my official capacity when he was VP, and had a chance to see him "off duty". What you saw was what you got.

    Keep your stinkin' government hands off my Medicare.
  • sherbsherb Senior Member Posts: 1,891 Senior Member

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Emoji
Image
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file