"[W]e have never had an Establishment that was so ill-equipped to lead"

Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed. (There are, of course, many honorable exceptions to generalizations this sweeping; anyone wise enough to be reading this blog can safely assume that none of these terrible things apply to you.)…

Many problems troubling America today are rooted in the poor performance of our elite educational institutions, the moral and social collapse of our ‘best’ families and the culture of narcissism and entitlement that has transformed the American elite into a flabby minded, strategically inept and morally confused parody of itself. Probably the best depiction of our elite in popular culture is the petulantly narcissistic Prince Charming in Shrek 2; our educational institutions are like the Fairy Godmother, weaving shoddy, cheap, feel-good illusions into a gossamer tissue of flattering lies.

Because the idea of an elite makes Americans nervous, and because American culture likes to blur class and power realities rather than highlight them, we don’t have much of a national conversation about the state of our elite and about how to improve it. That’s a mistake — and it is one of the reasons our elites are performing so poorly. The United States actually needs a healthy and far-sighted elite, and that means we need to look at the subject head on. I’ll be posting on this subject from time to time over the next few months; here are some initial, and not particularly Paul Krugman-like thoughts on what I think has gone wrong.