City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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Judah Bellin
Not Dark Yet « Back to Story

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Hayes considers himself part of the elite. He said so at the beginning of a lengthy, informative interview at Salon a few weeks ago.

I take no issue with academic-like thinkers who pontificate about America's woes. Even without a single solution, they should be enjoyed and promoted.

I simply don't accept that any cable news host is part of the American elite. Because of that I find his point of view as some authority from within significantly less important.

There's a difference between celebrities such as any reality TV show personality and George Clooney. One is a celebrity b/c Entertainment Tonight says so, the other b/c they have actual and broad influence.

As David's post below touches, there's a general laziness in our collective vocabulary. It's America's fault for accepting it and Hayes' right to capitalize on it.
Excellent point, Chester Buddha.
I haven't read the book, but the ideas described here are comically stupid. What would he suggest to replace a meritocracy? An hereditary nobility?

Even assuming that Americans have lost faith in institutions it's because...we keep hearing from the left how America has lost faith in institutions. Or to put it another way, we have a media dominated by people who, at bottom, despise and have contempt for American culture and institutions. Where else do you find this - what other country has so many people who hate their own culture? (even as the rest of the world imitates American culture).

Occupy methods to bring about a more egalitarian American order? That's... silly. How about doing what's necessary to provide the poor with an education, which means repairing the family - since statistics show that family is the most important determinant of whether a child is educated, why not acknowledge that in those places and groups where Democratic policies have destroyed the family?

And instead of these pie in the sky notions in a book that will shortly be as forgotten as the "Crash of 1990" sitting on my shelf, how about this guy taking a hard look at why government and society along the lines he proposes does not work, never will work and never has worked?

@ Bdrizzle: "War is a Force that Gives us Meaning" was not authored by Chris Hayes. Its author was Chris Hedges.

But more to the point (albeit, belatedly) of this essay, the problem is not with "meritocracy" as an institution. The problem is that, too often, those who benefit from it (our "elites") have done nothing that really demonstrates their worthiness. Merit is more than just good test scores (as difficult as this is for most academics to believe). Merit is more than just a gift for gab (as difficult as this is for most politicians to believe). And merit is more than just a gift for being able to sell worthless items to people who don't need them (as difficult a this is for most financiers and salesmen to believe). True merit contains some element of morality, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, and a willingness to treat others with decency. Merit, as it's commonly used in the word "meritocracy", is defined too narrowly. This is the problem that is in need of a solution.
Chris Hayes is a pretty thoughtful guy, as demonstrated in his book "War is a Force that Gives us Meaning." That was a book hewn from years of agonizing experience covering battlefields. This book, on the other hand, seems hewn from about three hours of covering an Occupy protest. It's too bad that in the process of decrying flawed groupthink he becomes such a good example of it.
He's got it backwards. All forms of authority were declared unjust in about 1970. After that, the establishment could only attract people who didn't care about justice, because only an amoral person wants to work for an unjust institution. So 40 years later, the establishment is populated by the unjust.
If there is an idiocy elite I nominate Mr. Hayes for believing the key to our continued greatness lies with people whose only demonstrated aptitude lay in an ability to annoy people by beating large drums and attracting rats and fleas.