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
Jun 27, 12

bookshelves: politics
Read in June, 2012

Chris Hayes is not only the host and guiding force of the most intelligent and civil political talk show since "Firing Line," but also the author of "Twilight of the Elites," a timely and persuasive book. It 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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