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February 22, 2013

Gilded Class Warriors: The Billionaires Who Want You To Know They're Thinking of Your Plight


American Epitaph

Good piece by Victor Davis Hanson.

But of course the super-wealthy can't front a political movement on their own; they need some allies. And thus the petit aristocracy. Megan McArdle analogizes the credential elite (as I've done, I think) to the late medieval Chinese bureaucracy.

But many of the mandarins have never worked for a business at all, except for a think tank, the government, a media organization, or a school–places that more or less deliberately shield their content producers from the money side of things. There is nothing wrong with any of these places, but culturally and operationally they’re very different from pretty much any other sort of institution. I don’t myself claim to understand how most businesses work, but having switched from business to media, I’m aware of how different they can be.

In fact, I think that to some extent, the current political wars are a culture war not between social liberals and social conservatives, but between the values of the mandarin system, and the values of those who compete in the very different culture of ordinary businesses–ones outside glamor industries like tech or design. . .

Almost none of the kids I meet in Washington these days even had boring menial high school jobs working in a drugstore or waiting tables; they were doing “enriching” internships or academic programs. And thus the separation of the mandarin class grows ever more complete.

She also notes that a system in which the Golden Door Entry is being good at tests -- given that being good at tests is a function of absorbing received wisdom and anticipating the preferred answer of the hierarchized credentialed elite -- will produce a system controlled by people who are good at absorbing received wisdom and anticipating the preferred answer of the hieararchized credentialed elite.

That is, clever at Pleasing Teacher but never profound, never daring.

Furthermore, people value what they themselves are good at -- the wordsmiths think that wordsmithing is Serious You Guys Just the Best! -- and also scorn what they're not good at, this cadre of decisionmakers will tend to scorn everyone who isn't similarly conformist and bureaucratically-minded.


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posted by Ace at 12:59 PM

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