Bill Kerwin's Reviews > Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

Twilight of the Elites by Christopher L. Hayes
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's review
Jan 12, 2017

really liked it
bookshelves: politics
Read in June, 2012

Chris Hayes is not only the host of MSNBC's All In, a civil and intelligent political talk show. He is also the author of Twilight of the Elites, a timely and persuasive book which may--at least in part--explain the surprising victory of Donald Trump.

In it, Hayes argues that the very concept of meritocracy is flawed, and that its failure is in part responsible for our growing disillusionment with society's institutions. Each meritocratic elite will devise a host of ways to maintain its position and perpetuate itself, severely limiting upward mobility in the process. Sure, an occasional member of the lower classes may rise, but the mechanisms of meritocracy insure that such persons identify with the elite itself, thus depriving the regular citizenry of its most gifted potential leaders. This self-perpetuating elite will eventually develop its own insular and aggressive subculture, inevitably becoming out of touch, ill informed, and incapable of making intelligent, objective decisions. The resulting incompetence may be seen all around us: the Iraq war, the Catholic pedophile scandal, the inadequate response to Katrina, and the recent financial crisis.

Our society operates on the assumption that if we work for equality of opportunity, we need not strive for equality of outcomes, but Hayes argues that, unless we find some means of lessening the widening income gap, the insularity of our elites--and their wrongheaded decisions--will continue to wreak havoc and produce disillusionment. The obvious solution is a return to a more distributionary tax policy, and Hayes--a cautious optimist--believes this could be achieved by a revolutionary activism that transcends party lines, encompassing both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party.

I can't claim to be as optimistic as Hayes, but he makes a compelling case and enriches it with a wealth of examples and anecdotes.
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Reading Progress

02/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Brit (new)

Brit Cheung great review,:). I would plan to expand reading spectrum to engage a bit more America society-relevant books in the new year's list. A list of “perspectives on America” will be oaky. ; Wish you a every good day in the new year, sir and teacher.:)

message 2: by David (new)

David Schaafsma Twilight, or new dawn?

Terra reading this now, post-election and I wonder if Hayes himself is more or less pessimistic. Certainly a distributionary tax policy is not in the works. I still plan to encourage all my friends to read this.

message 4: by Lee (new)

Lee Coleman nice review.

message 5: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Subber Thanks for the tip on this book, Bill, I put it on my TO READ list.

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