05 Jan 2010

The Bitterness of the Elect

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David Brooks is unhappy that ordinary Americans are so ungrateful as to reject the gracious willingness of their betters to take charge of the country, correct its failings, and run their lives for them.

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

A year ago, the Obama supporters were the passionate ones. Now the tea party brigades have all the intensity.

The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy — with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation. …

The Obama administration is premised on the conviction that pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise should have the power to implement programs to solve the country’s problems. Many Americans do not have faith in that sort of centralized expertise or in the political class generally.

In the near term, the tea party tendency will dominate the Republican Party. It could be the ruin of the party, pulling it in an angry direction that suburban voters will not tolerate. But don’t underestimate the deep reservoirs of public disgust. If there is a double-dip recession, a long period of stagnation, a fiscal crisis, a terrorist attack or some other major scandal or event, the country could demand total change, creating a vacuum that only the tea party movement and its inheritors would be in a position to fill.

Personally, I’m not a fan of this movement. But I can certainly see its potential to shape the coming decade.

Being an educated sort of person myself, I find it remarkable that the positions of the community of fashion “educated” class, amounting to Luddite Catastrophism, Hedonism (tinged by a covert eugenic impulse), Appeasement, and Pacifism, really all represent extremist, self-indulgent, fantastical, and intellectually indefensible ideas, universally rejected by the mainstream traditions of Natural Science and Moral and Political Philosophy.

Education seems to have succeeded in inculcating a sense of group identity, featuring a habitual reliance on conformity as a status marker, but it has obviously not succeeded in the generality of its beneficiaries in producing people able to distinguish between established science and unverifiable models. It has produced a prominent and recognizable portion of the population with an exaggerated sense of self-entitlement and an overweening confidence in its own expertise, which at the same time demonstrates a complete inability not only to learn from history, but even to remember more than a couple of years into the past.

Our soi disant educated class typically has none of the fruits of education, beyond that produced by effective training in sophistry: skill in the manipulation of words, symbols, and ideas. Ordinary Americans commonly have a profound intellectual advantage over today’s educated elites in the possession of character and an independence of mind capable of rejecting the impulses of fashion. Ordinary Americans see through Global Warming because they have common sense. What passes for education in Mr. Brooks’s view of the world is the willing subordination of independent thought in favor the echo chamber consensus found in the establishment media. Bow to the Times’, the New Yorker’s, the New York Review of Books’ authoritative positions and perspectives and you are educated.

Some education.

3 Feedbacks on "The Bitterness of the Elect"


Absolutely brilliant–you’ve hit the nail so squarely on the head that it took only one blow to drive it flush. Brooks is a disappointment: his book Bobos in Paradise suggested that he had the intelligence and common sense to see through the pretensions and logical inconsistencies of what he calls the “educated class.” Clearly he’s made a choice, as you say, to side with his class rather than heed the dictates of his own intelligence.

Lucius Quinctius

The “educated class”, what revolting hubris. I wonder how many of these scribblers who litter the landscape can do anything useful & productive, such as dress a deer, change a car’s oil, install a hot water heater, re-wire a lamp, and so forth. Or, are they really nothing more than practitioners of a western variant of that wonderfully named old Soviet crime of parasitism?


The fact of the matter is– and always has been — that a roomful of Wise Men cannot make better decisions than millions of people acting in their own daily self interest. The track record of those who have tried ranges from bad to disastrous. It is not because they are educated or “elect”. You would get failure — albeit probably a different kind of failure — if you selected that roomful at random.
The problem with the educated elite is that they believe because they have demonstrated expertise in particular endeavors — e.g. writing columns that are read by large numbers of head-nodding people — that there is nothing that they can’t address and replicate that success. And worse, that they should, therefore, be entitled to overrule the decisions of the “ignorant masses”. The kind who go to tea parties and revolt instinctively against concentrating power in the hands of any sort of elite group — even one they might elect.


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