From the lede:
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.And here is the closing paragraph:
Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.
Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.
The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.Not everyone accepts the views of Mr Brooks or Mr Hayes. For example I have seen some discussion of "credentialed" vs qualified (or educated or trained). Some are beginning to question our obsession with credentials.
Here is the view of a Candian university professor:
Personally, I have some problems with the current culture of the meritocracy, so I would tend to agree that that definitely needs to be changed. To my mind, it's not so much a view of being part of a (supposed) "counter-culture" so much as it is a lack of requirement for the members of the meritocracy to have a persona stake in the state, which is what the older style of elites had. To quote my old headmaster, "we train the boys to rule", so I would tend to agree with Brooks' comments about stewardship and virtue.Here is a counterpunch from Writer James Joyner, in the blog Outside the Beltway.
That said, what he doesn't seem to talk about is the "why" of the meritocracy. There's the "how" (tactics) and the "morality" (operations), but where is the "Why" (strategy)? Elites, regardless of their system of selection, need a "why" to focus their actions and ethical codes. Without that focus, then they will inevitably default to a personal and familial focus which will, inevitably, destroy the state in which they operate. This, BTW, was why there was such a strong "gentlemanly" code, and members of the elite families who went against it tended to be socially annihilated.
Here is a thought (from a younger female military officer) on the contrast between the military and civilian worlds.
Perhaps military elites draw less ire than their civilian counterparts because the military is one of few institutions without lateral transfer at the highest echelons. Because every general was once a lieutenant, the system looks more fair than many others. The promotion system may still privilege certain groups, but it requires every officer to travel a roughly similar path without merit based pay.I will note that if you are a physician or lawyer you get to come in with a jump in grade, but you are not part of the "core" of the military.
I noticed that many of my college classmates were really surprised by this. Many assumed that an Ivy League degree meant that I'd be entering the military with a higher rank, or doing some "special job," like being a general's aid or working an ambiguously defined strategic position at the Pentagon. It seems like many young, well educated and ambitious people are used to systems that allow for jumping ahead based on a set of demonstrated skills, be they high SAT scores or certain degrees. This attitude draws criticism from anti-elites who see this kind of path dependency as unfair.
Regards — Cliff
♠ The title reminds me of the title of the Earnest K Gann novel, Twilight for the Gods.