Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.
Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network.
Bring back the glory days of keeping the Jews out of the country club!
As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.
The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.
You see, things were just better when you inherited your privilege instead of working for it. When you work for it, you tend to be less confident in it, and less willing to piss all over the servants just to show that you can. You do desperate things like implode the economy and take steroids in order to play baseball. Because baseball up until now has been a hereditary business? The tits?
Baseball players get to the major leagues through merit, but then some take enhancement drugs to preserve their status. Financiers work hard to get jobs at the big banks, but then some rig the game for their own mutual benefit.
Lord knows there were no corrupt financiers until recently. In fact the real change that’s happened is we didn’t once upon a time let those guys run entirely everything on the basis of I’M THE JOB CREATING JUGGERNAUT BITCH and call anyone asking for regulation of the banking industry a screaming Commie. But hey, if we make it all about the characters of the people involved, then we can opine ponderously about the need for Better Humans and not for a system that isn’t rigged to fail.
Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.
KIDS TODAY IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT.Or it absolutely is not, if you’re living in reality.
The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.
I want to keep white men on top, but I want them to talk sweetly when they’re boning the economy, instead of cat-o-nine-tail-ing it while calling its mother a whore. If only our elites were nicer, you guys, it wouldn’t be so gross when they did what they did.