Listen now (57 mins) | Yascha Mounk and William Deresiewicz discuss the distortion of American meritocracy and the dearth of moral courage among the country's institutional leaders.
What we are witnessing is the culmination of two or three generations of our leadership being taught that the world is all about the clash of great movements, and that individuals do not and cannot make a difference. When the so called great movements foundered, we were left with a host of cynical strivers. We now have Trump, Biden and Musk when we need visionary leaders like Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, King, Edison, and Gandhi.
You may or may not be surprised that I have decidedly mixed feelings about the decline of the WASP aristocracy and the rise of the modern “meritocracy”. Of course, the entire notion of an aristocracy of birth is appalling on the face of it (the Constitution explicitly bans all titles of nobility). However, today’s meritocratic elite are notably devoid of the patriotism of the old WASP elite.
The decline of elite patriotism has been noted many times. Back in 1996, Christopher Lasch wrote “The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy”. Samuel Huntington wrote “Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite - America's elites have forgotten the mystic chords of memory. The American people have not.”
The old elites were patriotic. The new ones are not. They are in it for themselves and don’t appear to care about what happens to America or the American people. That’s a problem.
I liked this much better than I thought I would from the title.