Brooks is responding to Chris Hayes’ book, which claims that our current crisis in leadership is due to the fatal flaws of meritocracy (to which Hayes’ cure is to lessen the income equality that results from the meritocratic arms race…with… more equality and more progressive policy solutions). Here’s Brooks:
‘Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant Establishment sat atop the American power structure. A relatively small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.”
So, with what have we replaced that old boy network? A meritocracy? Identity politics and balkanized groups and incentives for politicians to stir those groups up? On Brooks analysis:
‘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).’
If so, you probably can’t get the virtue back with popular social science, or it would be a less religiously defined sense of virtue. Hayes probably wants to define the social contract as one that will enshrine positive rights (equality, justice and the dread social justice).
Perhaps as a writer appealing to a popular audience at the Times, Brooks is realizing there is a lot of popular discontent with the current leadership and Hayes provides a platform with which to view it.
Other factors potentially at work:
- On some analyses, we are working toward the end of a period of unique American economic dominance. Global competition is putting downward pressure upon us all, to some extent. We’re still adapting and better suited than nearly everyone to do so, however, as long as we don’t copy Old Europe and stagnate our economy.
- The rise of the tech industry (which is not necessarily run by the old boy’s network, but shares some of its ethos) and the move of quants to Wall Street. We’re undergoing what is essentially a technological revolution.
- The end of a period of excessive American individualism, which has put great strain upon our institutions as we the people become increasingly skeptical of any rules, authority and the basic requirements and duties democratic institutions require of we the people, as Brooks points out.
My two cents on this Sunday. Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
**This reminds me of Louis Menand’s analysis of American higher education a while back. Ever more inclusion until we can’t any longer. On this site, see: Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’
**Progressive policy goals typically end up with a class of elites, a dependent class in their wake, and usually less equality as eventually you run out of other people’s money to fund the state that oversees all of the equality-making. Less freedom for greater numbers of people is usually the result, meritocracy or not ((and in a true progressive paradise…definitely not)).
Also Related On This Site: Charles Murray trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…
Don’t get Borked, at least if you’re openly religious and aiming for higher office: Bork had his own view of the 1960′s: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest. He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.
Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced: Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set.
Will Wilkinson At Forbes: ‘The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review’…Charlie Rose has a full interview with Brooks and his new book.