Thinkers as different as Kirk and F. A. Hayek understood that there are complex and subtle relationships between social hierarchy and social order, just as there are between property and liberty. But “elitist” has become a word of damnation as the spirit of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho stalks the campaign trail. But of course we desperately need a dose of healthy elitism at our colleges and institutions of higher learning, which have partly abandoned their intellectual standards and are entirely abandoning their standards of conduct. The boobishness of 2015 cries out for a return to a prudent contempt for the mob mentality that animates both the Bernie Sanders movement and the Donald Trump movement.
The problem isn’t elitism per se. The problem is that at Princeton and Yale and in Washington and New York, our elites are rotten — the rotten fruit of dying institutions and an unmoored culture whose commanding heights are populated by people who no longer believe in the values at their foundation. That is how we have come to conflate quality and celebrity and to spurn the life of the mind for the life of the hive. Order ultimately will reassert itself, and it will be uncomfortable.