Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
OK…I am a fan of Chris Hayes and think his MSNBC show is brilliant. So why was I reluctant to read his book? I think I was afraid of being disappointed and feared that might color my enjoyment of his show. But, not to worry, the book is fine and therefore I am fine.
At first I thought it might be a just a longer exposition of truism form his (and mine mostly) worldview. Once I got into it I think he brought enough self-examination to recognize when he was part of the story in that he is part of the elite. Specifically when he points out how he has benefited by get “elite” treatment such as his NYC super duper public school for brainy boys and girls.
Overall the book is sufficiently depressing to make me think it was an accurate description of the world and basically it is worse than you think.
Pg 104 Medicare study- 180,00 improper medications causing death a year, 16x Drunk Drivers – Daniel Levinson article
219 – During the Great Depression income gains were relatively evenly distributed while in the decades after 1979 the op 10% captured all the income gains while incomes for the bottom 90% declined
I guess the synopsis is that meritocracy is so ingrained to be assumed that whoever is at the “top” must have earned it but just because the winner crosses the goal not everybody starts at the same place. And once the playing field is not level the game becomes increasingly rigged.
Or better said in the book by this…
Pg 221- This is the paradox of meritocracy: it can only truly come to flower in that society that starts out with a relatively high degree of equality
But his final praise for the Occupy Wall Street Method of protest and governance as the thing that will save us (pg 239) was really the most depressing part, since if that is the case, we are really doomed to failure.
A few odds and ends:
I liked his observation that democracy is the opposite of meritocracy in that in one we are all equal but the other is by definition unequal.
Of course sometimes I would stumble because of his vocabulary. Sometimes because I had to look words up but other time it seems just a bit pretension (why can’t he just say “near” instead of “proximate to”?)
But verbal virtuosity like this is nice...
Incapable of addressing and forestalling the immiseration and destruction…,Inequality is autocatalytic, Hobbesian Chaos...and there was much, much more
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