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David Brooks’s conscious oversight about America’s ‘elite’

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on 41 Comments

David Brooks lately published a column in the Times, “Why Our Elites Stink,” faulting the new elite for a lack of a sense of “leadership” and “service.” He often speaks of the old WASP leadership in the column: 

a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance. Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network….

The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.

Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous).

At the American Conservative, Scott McConnell notes that in an earlier book, Brooks acknowledged that Jews had played a large role in the transformation of Establishment cultural values. Brooks wrote, “the Jews were the vanguard of a social movement that over the course of the 20th century transformed the American university system and the nature of the American elite.”

McConnell adds: 

Brooks doesn’t go into this in his current column. He never does. Perhaps there’s no need to: in a way, his key criticism of the new elite–that its members insist on perceiving themselves as outsiders even though they  are insiders–stands as implicit acknowledgment of a sociological fact best left, most of the time anyway, unspoken.

Why the reticence? Perhaps somewhere there is a fear of awakening a slumbering beast of heartland anti-Semitism. There has never been much anti-Semitism in America, but  given the global historical record, this is, to say the least, an understandable concern.

I would surmise the greater reason is connected to the one area where Brooks most sympathizes with the prejudices of the current elite and most favors their prejudices over those of the old one. American foreign policy is very different under the new meritocracy. The generation of Harrimans, Lovetts, Achesons, Marshalls, and Kennans would have no difficulty imagining a corrupt and self-serving Wall Street class — they had lived through the 1929 crash, when WASPs ran the show and ran it badly. But I doubt they could imagine an America which so completely perceived its foreign-policy interests–its choice of enemies, its choice of wars–as so congruent to those of Israel.  The old WASP elite were, almost to a man, opposed to the creation of Israel and to American recognition of the state;  they saw nothing but trouble arising from America’s support for Israel. They can be faulted, certainly–none of them lobbied for America to make room for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees (displaced persons, in the jargon of the time) languishing in refugee camps in 1947, many in Germany of all places.

They made their peace with President Truman’s  decision, and went on to serve their country in important ways. And for a generation at least, it could be fairly argued that their fears were much overwrought.

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41 Responses

  1. Citizen
    Citizen
    July 14, 2012, 11:49 am

    It’s no secret that, in contrast to the OLD WASP Establishment, the current Establishment is much more disproportionately Jewish, and it’s more than arguable that is why there’s a conflation of US and Israeli interests that has brought the reputation of the USA down in the eyes of the world. It follows that “the language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous).” This extends to American governmental activities both abroad (under the guise of “national defense” and overseas “nation-building, “and domestically, under the guise of “homeland security.” The distinctions in values, process, and procedures, and war equipment, between local police and our soldiers abroad– has been fading fast. Most Americans do not seem to have noticed. Or they want more of the same. Indeed the “old boy” WASP network has vanished, but by this juncture in time, it appears there’s a new “old boy” network and the most influential in it do not seem to me to be mostly put in place via merit, but rather by replacement legacy selection and methods that are even more hypocritical because they are allowed to be so.

    • American
      American
      July 15, 2012, 6:09 pm

      I don’t think the old boy ‘network’ has vanished….there are just ‘new boys’ in the network whose values or lack of them has created a worse US instead of a better one. I think there are numerous reasons why the new elites are what they are but I don’t feel like doing a dissertation on it.

  2. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    July 14, 2012, 12:13 pm

    Ummm, Phil – not for nothin, but you could have written Brooks’ column, in fact, his line about not changing the social order, only its ethos, is right outta the phil weiss playbook. good luck to both of you on that, by the way

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 15, 2012, 2:00 pm

      “is right outta the phil weiss playbook”

      Oh, I don’t know. Remember, if I recall and understand what I’ve read correctly (and what are the odds on that?) Phil got a late start, and might be re-writing that playbook as we speak. And he could say, pretty reasonably ‘I neither write the rules, nor am I a referee, I am just announcing the game, and I report ’em as I see ’em’! Of course, he would use all lower-case letters, but that’s his business. As long as he avoids pretentious Anglophile orthology. I’ll admit, that always was my favorite Parker tune.)

  3. Sin Nombre
    Sin Nombre
    July 14, 2012, 12:29 pm

    “Brooks doesn’t go into this in his current column.”

    No, I don’t suppose that … the previously undistinguished jewish guy, who openly talks about his affection for Israel, who is hired by … the New York Times to opine on things like our foreign policy vis a vis Israel, with the Times’ present and past Israeli correspondents likewise being jewish with deep Israeli connections, and with the Times general foreign affairs opinionist likewise being jewish, is ever gonna much go into how some of our “elites” got into their elite positions.

    Nope nope nope; for some reason not at all surprised. Not a bit. Nor talk about the elite-making tenure-granting decisions by Harvard professors say, so regularly producing astounding demographic results. Nor ….

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      July 14, 2012, 1:13 pm

      “Nor talk about the elite-making tenure-granting decisions by Harvard professors say, so regularly producing astounding demographic results.”

      Yeah, anyone remember what happend to the Winklevoss brothers vis-a-vi Zuckerberg at Harvard? Larry Summers stepped in and bent over backwards to help Zuckerberg. In his mind, it was the WASP/Jewish battle all over again.
      But this isn’t the 1950s. There isn’t pervasive anti-Semitism and everyone should now be judged on an individual basis instead of being assumed of having a certain opinion merely for the reason that you are part of a certain group.

      And yes, of course we self-select ourselves at university, work, for promotions etc. Just look at Hollywood. I mean, does anybody seriously think that Jews are so creative that 10 out of 11 or so of all the major studies have a Jewish head? If you do some wikipedia background on some of those people, they usually have pretty poor credentials. Oftentimes they went to middling schools, struggled around but then were introduced via a family member and got started that way.

      I think the mentality here is the same, fundamentally, which drives the Israel debate in the diaspora. We still live in the 50s mentally, at least many of us. Brooks’ column is proof of this. And a lot of Jews simply can’t handle power. We’ve been trained like dogs since we were little that anyone who says that a Jew has power is an anti-Semite and is lying in order to get us, after all, don’t you remember the Holocaust? If we were so powerful then how did that happen?

      If you repeat something over and over again you start to believe it yourself, whatever the facts. Eli Valley said in his talk to Occupy Israel(in Israel!) that he noticed that as the Jewish community in America got more powerful the confines of debate within the community got smaller.

      He said that it was as if, the more powerful we became, the more fearful we got as a result. I wasn’t too sure of his argument when I heard it, but come to think about it, maybe he was right.

      • tokyobk
        tokyobk
        July 14, 2012, 9:05 pm

        in my experience Wall Street and academic Jews care about connections and introductions. Hollywood Jews not at all. Nor much about Judaism.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        July 15, 2012, 2:06 pm

        “Just look at Hollywood.”

        I know what you mean! Why those early Jewish Hollywood guys, the Zanucks, Goldyms, Meyers, Thalbergs, Wilders, had no college or film-school courses at all! How did they get to the top?

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        July 15, 2012, 4:01 pm

        Mooser, by ripping off Griffith? Turning his stuff into daily erzatz oatmeal?

      • smd341
        smd341
        July 16, 2012, 10:26 pm

        Oh, and your ignorance of US Welfare policy is egregious. We did NOT have a generous welfare state prior to the 1960s that was then mysteriously eroded. All we had are Social Security and unemployment. Medicare and Medicaid came in with Johnson’s Great Society. Try learning some history.

  4. Krauss
    Krauss
    July 14, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Brooks gets some things right and wrong.

    I do have some quibbles. The WASP establishment have been maligned over and over. But they were actually worse than everyone thinks. Because WASP is a racial/cultural thing. But the phrase he uses, the ‘old boys network’ gives insight. First, it wasn’t only an establishment based on race/culture. It was also an establishment based on gender.

    But perhaps most important: it was an establishment based on class. This is a key thing many people forget. The most talented WASPs were never part of the establishment. This is why I’ve commented before that one of the reasons why Jewish assimilation/intermarriage went so fast post-1960s was that when the floodgates to college opened and life in America improved dramatically, the best and the brightest of the WASPs, who were poor and excluded by the Northeastern royal families(which they in a sense were), flooded in together with the Jews and they bonded naturally with Jews.

    Both were groups who were denied either for race/religion(Jews) or class(working-class WASPs who were very bright).
    So the old establishment, which had class as a strong defining feature, was suddenly overthrown. If the establishment was based on race/gender alone, as is often the conversation, then I think that there would be much more bad blood and Jewish assimilation/intermarriage would be far lower for far longer.

    The new establishment was really a WASP/Jewish hybrid. But the WASP part was mostly new, it was overwhelmingly working-class whites like Bill Clinton. Bright, hungry and very energetic.

    Can the new elite be faulted for their culture?
    I disagree. The culture of the new elite is actually kind of conservative. The way they marry, how they raise their children and so forth.

    The problem with the new elite is what they are pushing on everyone else. They say a father in the household isn’t a big deal. But it’s a huge deal. Sexual child abuse is much more common with a stepfather involved, something of a magnitude of 5.

    Of course, immigration did it’s part too to diversify the elite as well as the nation, thereby weakning the cultural and ethnic homogenity that persisted before. As Milton Friedman put it: “you can’t have open immigration policies and a welfare state”. Putnam, the Harvard professor, has done research in this area too.
    So in this sense it’s less of a direct culture within the elites themselves and more of the policies that they promote to the nation and the attack on what can loosely be called ‘burgeous values’. Namely; work hard, be thrifty and value your family. This was considered outmoded and stiff by the 1960s wannabe-revolutionaries. Well, go into the black community today and ask them about how good it feels without a family structure.

    Of course, economic forces have ripped apart the family too. Perhaps even more. But culture does, indeed, play a role.

    Another thing:
    While college entrances may have been opened up, in some ways we have had the reversed quota system. Today, if we went by SAT scores alone, whites would take up about 70 % of all students at Ivy’s. Jews would be overrepresented, by about 1/7 th of the population, but not by about 1/4 th as it is now.

    Brooks does not want to talk about this, for obvious reasons, but while the U.S. had a far less meritocratic system in the 1950s, the system today isn’t that much fair either. It favours you if you have a certain religion or skincolor. The exception to this rule are Asians, who are now excluded even more than whites from college, which is part of the reason why most U.S. Asians have mixed feelings, at best, about college admissions(even if their official organizations all support affirmative action, the concept of an unrepresantative group of leaders should not be unfamilliar with Jews here).

    So I do think Brooks misses the point slightly on his attack on the current elites. Their values are just fine, it’s that they don’t export them to the rest of the nation.
    My pet peeve about the fact that everyone misses that the old-time WASPs were held together more by family structure(class) and gender than race is missed in his column, but then again everyone seems to miss that.

    Also, stuff like immigration naturally weakens the foundation of a strong welfare state which America in many ways actually had up until the 1960s. The more diverse a society becomes, the more ‘estranged’ people become from each other. It isn’t doom and gloom but a welfare state requires people in some sense to self-sacrifice for the better good. It helps a lot if everyone can relate to each other in racial/cultural terms.

    And finally, Brooks is slightly wrong on the college admissions thing. The system is better than it was in 1950s, but it favours Jews especially, because we have a privileged position in America but can also use our minority status for AA admissions. Blacks and hispanics get AA too, but I don’t think anyone can say that they are privileged. Asians are losers, and (gentile) whites are too.

    So although I think the topic is fascinating, I still think many aspects are underreported from the past as well the here and now. The reason why he doesn’t mention the current unequalities in college admissions(I’m exluding AA for blacks/hispanics as I think a good case can be made for that), or in other words, how a lot of Jewish students get places at Ivy’s on behalf of more talented working-class whites and asians is also probably something he does not want to talk about, for obvious reasons(again, fear of anti-semitism etc).

    Also, with the rise of so-called ‘legacy students’ the less-than-gifted offspring(whether WASP or Jewish) of very rich donors are more or less guaranteed a place. So in this sense, maybe admission to college today are not that different? The difference, perhaps, is that this time it’s Jews, and not WASPs, that are disproportionately benefitting, which I guess is a major factor why Brooks omits the topic alltogether.

    (Phew! That was long!)

    • Scott
      Scott
      July 14, 2012, 3:47 pm

      As a small addendum to your point: in the old days, there were a lot of scholarships for poor or middling Wasps (or white gentiles) that were a ladder up for smart kids. (John McCloy a prototype). Now it’s more or less understood that scholarships are meant for a different kind of diversity, and it’s a far greater priority for good private schools to provide avenues for minorities than for white kids from Arkansas or Nebraska. So starting around, not sure when exactly, but the sixties probably, the WASP establishment was deprived, or deprived itself, of one of its traditional means of replenishment.

      • Krauss
        Krauss
        July 16, 2012, 2:25 pm

        “So starting around, not sure when exactly, but the sixties probably, the WASP establishment was deprived, or deprived itself, of one of its traditional means of replenishment.”

        I actually disagree Scott. The public school system was great back then. And in fact, if you strip out all ethnicities you see white Americans doing fine by international standards, better than most white-majority countries(majority in the overwhelming sense). Same with Asians, who do very well on testscores and outscore most Asian nations, even relatively wealthy ones. Same is true with out blacks. Although they are at the bottom here, they perform better than any single majority-black country.

        The WASPs who came up in the sixties and after it did come into a school system that was, on the whole, better designed for the truly bright than what came before.

        The problem is that they had no institutional loyalty, in part because the old elite excluded them (foolishingly) for so long, plus you had the counter-culture peaking at that time.

        Today, the country is a bit too divided to have what the Germans call a leitkultur. So each group is tending their own. The WASPs are the exception in that they have no strong ethnocentric outlook, but they still find ways to manage their interior affairs. Just look at exceptionally low intermarriage rates. Whites who are in their 20s today are only a very slight majority. There’s plenty of non-white options to marry and yet only 9 % do so.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 15, 2012, 2:07 pm

      “(Phew! That was long!)”

      And so useful! And so personal! So revealing! To cut that near the bone for your material extracts a personal cost. I’m not sure how many extra pounds of flesh Krauss has , if any, (for all I know he is as svelte and lissome as all get-out) but I bet he’s down a few now!

    • traintosiberia
      traintosiberia
      July 15, 2012, 9:27 pm

      Krauss says:
      July 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Jewish were never given a minority status in admission to college admission like Afro American got in the past ( continues to have that status ) But they enjoy insider’s advantage in more than one way.

      • American
        American
        July 16, 2012, 12:01 pm

        Jews were officially a minority in the US so they could have used it if they chose to.
        But what I found looking into AA was that Jews were like 60-40 or 50-50 on AA.
        Some Jewish orgs thought it would help them and some orgs were against it because it was too much like quotas and would keep them out.

        But the whole AA thing is getting even more complicated and rancorous now. Also I have seen two other articles along the same vein as Brooks recently…(the Nation and the Mother J) about the new meritocracy being worse or as bad as the oldelite in the sense of wanting to pull the ladder up after them and keep others out. And now it’s the Asians (they say) who are being kept out becuse they are next ‘meritocracy threat’ and could replace the current meritocracy.

        What looks like is happening is 1) colleges adms are taking upon themselves to decide how to use AA and making up their own rules and 2) Asian Americans are taking this on now…saying they are being kept out despite higher scores by Asians on all test.

        http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2012/06/affirmative_action_starts_to_unravel.html

        Affirmative Action Starts to Unravel
        By John S. Rosenberg
        Listen closely and you can hear the sound of “diversity” crumbling, this week mixed with laughter over the news that the City University of New York has created two more official diversity groups–“white/Jewish” and “Italian-Americans.”

        Actually, CUNY’s newly-minted effort to include Jews (but not Muslims, Irish, Pentecostal-Americans, etc.) has a close relationship with the issues being presented to the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin—and not simply because the CUNY policy reveals so glaringly the incoherence at the core of the “diversity” justification for preferential treatment.

        Fifteen amicus briefs here support Abigail Fisher’s claim that Texas’s racial preference policy is unconstitutional, and the two of them that have generated the most attention in the past few days were filed on behalf of Asian-American groups likening their treatment under affirmative action to the early 20th Century Jewish quotas in the Ivy League.

        Both of those briefs (this one and this one) cite Daniel Golden, who argued in The Price of Admission (2007) that “Asian-Americans are the new Jews, inheriting the mantle of the most disenfranchised group in college admissions.” As Peter Schmidt pointed out, the briefs filed by Asian-American organizations opposing affirmative action represent “a marked departure from the position most other Asian-American groups have taken on the issue.”

        More on the Asians and Affirmative Action

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/affirm/stories/affirm062198.htm

  5. StephenKMackSD
    StephenKMackSD
    July 14, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Here is an interview by Jonathan Miller of Arthur Miller on the subject of atheism. While that might seem irrelevant to the issue, Arthur Miller discusses the pervasive climate of Antisemitism in prewar American, one example being the popularity of the notorious Father Coughlin.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 15, 2012, 2:17 pm

      “the pervasive climate of Antisemitism in prewar American”

      Hey, you gotta admit they did a good job of fooling us! They re0used the internment camps for the Japanese in WW2, and the massive Jewish death-rate has been erased. But the worst trick, the lowest, was making all the Jews cover themselves with burnt cork when they forced them to work on the levees and roads and railroads down South. Insult to injury, if I ever saw it.

  6. Keith
    Keith
    July 14, 2012, 3:07 pm

    PHIL- “The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality….”

    The problem with history is that it is rarely mentioned. Instead, we are inundated with historical myths. The notion of a golden age of WASPish noblesse oblige is one such myth. Perhaps someone should have explained noblesse oblige to Andrew Carnegie during the Homestead strike. Or to the other many Robber Barons. Or to our slave owning, Indian killing founding fathers. Our problems are systemic, pissing and moaning about the new executioner a denial of the facts. Jewish success is significant to the extent that understanding it sheds light on the political economy as a whole. The way to deal with Jewish fat-cats is to eliminate all fat-cats. Too much concentrated economic power is inherently corrupting. Empire is inherently corrupting. Unless the system is changed, in the long run nothing will change.

    • David Green
      David Green
      July 14, 2012, 11:45 pm

      While Michael Young’s original framing of the meritocracy was satirical, it has since been employed by historians and social scientists in almost Freudian fashion as a means of repressing serious discussions of class. Hayes’ book may be useful in clarifying the latest manifestations of bad elite behavior, but it’s nothing new. The discussion inevitably degenerates, having begun with the wrong questions and assumptions.

  7. jimby
    jimby
    July 14, 2012, 6:12 pm

    It seems that there is a new and important thread opening here at Mondoweiss. Does this mean we can talk about the prevalence of Jews at the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve? Especially since Alan Greenspan has the country been going in the wrong financial direction. In my memory nearly every head of the Treasury is Jewish except Hank Paulson, whose parents were Jews but he wasn’t. I think they have failed miserably and the economy is going far far south. I think if I were an American Jew I would be quite concerned that Joe Six Pack never learns of this.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 15, 2012, 2:20 pm

      “I think if I were an American Jew I would be quite concerned that Joe Six Pack never learns of this.”

      Ronald Reagen was Jewish? Who knew?

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        July 15, 2012, 8:01 pm

        Who did Reagen get to pick from?

  8. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    July 14, 2012, 7:29 pm

    RE: “The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations.” ~ David Brooks

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Noblesse oblige]:

    (excerpt) Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning “nobility obliges”.
    The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:

    1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
    2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

    The Oxford English Dictionary says that the term “suggests noble ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility”. Being a noble meant that one had responsibilities to lead, manage and so on. One was not to simply spend one’s time in idle pursuits.

    • Meaning and variants
    “Noblesse oblige” is generally used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities. The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending or hypocritical social responsibility.[1] In American English especially, the term is sometimes applied more broadly to suggest a general obligation for the more fortunate to help the less fortunate.
    In ethical discussion, it is sometimes used to summarize a moral economy wherein privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege or who cannot perform such duty. Finally, it has been used recently primarily to refer to public responsibilities of the rich, famous and powerful, notably to provide good examples of behaviour or to exceed minimal standards of decency. It has also been used to describe a person taking the blame for something in order to solve an issue or save someone else.

    • History and examples
    An early instance of this concept in literature may be found in Homer’s Iliad. In Book XII, the Trojan prince Sarpedon delivers a famous speech in which he urges his comrade Glaucus to fight with him in the front ranks of battle. In Pope’s translation, Sarpedon exhorts Glaucus thus: “’Tis ours, the dignity they give to grace / The first in valour, as the first in place; / That when with wondering eyes our martial bands / Behold our deeds transcending our commands, / Such, they may cry, deserve the sovereign state, / Whom those that envy dare not imitate!”
    In “Le Lys dans la vallée”,[2] written in 1835 and published in 1836, Honoré de Balzac recommends certain standards of behaviour to a young man, concluding: “Everything I have just told you can be summarized by an old word: noblesse oblige!” His advice had included comments like “others will respect you for detesting people who have done detestable things,” but nothing about generosity or benevolence. He later includes the exhortation that a noble person performs services for others not for gain or recognition, but simply because it was the right thing to do.[3]
    It was also recorded in an 1837 letter from F. A. Kemble: “To be sure, if noblesse oblige, royalty must do so still more”.
    The phrase is used as the motto for the National Honor Society,[4] which cites its purpose is to convey “fulfilling their obligations through service to others.”
    William Faulkner uses the term many times in his novels and short stories, including the famous The Sound and the Fury and “A Rose for Emily”. . .

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870
      July 14, 2012, 7:35 pm

      P.S. ALSO FROM WIKIPEDIA [Tikkun olam]:

      (excerpt) Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם‎) is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” (or “healing and restoring the world”) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility (with the Creator) “to heal, repair and transform the world.” In Judaism, the concept of tikkun olam originated in the early rabbinic period. The concept was given new meanings in the kabbalah of the medieval period and further connotations in modern Judaism.[1] . . .

  9. jimby
    jimby
    July 14, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Wikipedia on Emergency Committee for Israel

    “In October 2011, the committee produced a video portraying Occupy Wall Street as anti-Semitic.[7] Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen referred to the video and said he found no evidence of antisemitism during his two visits to the demonstration site.[8]”

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      July 15, 2012, 8:03 pm

      I guess that was the emergency in the Emergency Committee for Israel, what Cohen found.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    July 14, 2012, 8:12 pm

    RE: “Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous).” ~ David Brooks

    SEE: “What the Market Does to Our Souls”, by Alan Nasser, Counterpunch, 6/28/12

    [EXCERPT] We live in new times. For about thirty years American capitalism featured a small but not insignificant concession to social democracy, what we are taught to call “the welfare state”, in which government contributed to the provision of a degree of material security which the market alone cannot provide. Watered-down quasi-Keynesian economic policy provided social benefits that gave most Americans a standard of living higher than ever before. That arrangement has been under severe attack since the Carter administration as the social has been drastically reduced and material insecurity has soared. We are promised more of the same into the future.
    The market has been resurrected as the sole provider of what’s best for us. Everything to do with government -excepting its martial and repressive powers- including public employees is under constant assault. Elites are now resolved to defeat organized labor, to reduce as much of the social wage as they can get away with and to do away with impediments to capital’s unlimited freedom to accumulate, i.e. to privatize public assets. The distribution of material benefits shall be, in the ideal case, determined entirely by the market.
    We are witnessing the transition from a market economy to a thoroughgoing market society.

    A certain kind of society tends to produce a certain kind of person. More precisely, it discourages the development certain human capacities and fosters the development of others. Aristotle, Rousseau, Marx and Dewey were the philosophers who were most illuminating on this. They argued that the postures required by successful functioning in a market economy tend to insinuate themselves into those areas of social intercourse which take place outside of the realm of the market proper. The result, they claimed, was that the arena for potentially altruistic and sympathetic behavior shrinks over time as society is gradually transformed into a huge marketplace. . .

    LINK – http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/28/what-the-market-does-to-our-souls/

  11. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    July 14, 2012, 8:34 pm

    RE: “They can be faulted, certainly–none of them lobbied for America to make room for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees (displaced persons, in the jargon of the time) languishing in refugee camps in 1947, many in Germany of all places.” ~ Scott McConnell

    MY COMMENT: Yes, and sadly, they aren’t the only ones who can be faulted!

    EXCERPTS FROM “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict”, Published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East:

    (excerpts) . . . “In 1938 a thirty-one nation conference was held in Evian, France, on resettlement of the victims of Nazism. The World Zionist Organization refused to participate, fearing that resettlement of Jews in other states would reduce the number available for Palestine.” ~ John Quigley, ‘Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice’
    “It was summed up in the meeting [of the Jewish Agency’s Executive on June 26, 1938] that the Zionist thing to do ‘is belittle the [Evian] Conference as far as possible and to cause it to decide nothing… ~ Israeli author Boas Evron, ‘Jewish State or Israeli Nation?’
    “[Ben-Gurion stated] ‘If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second — because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.’ In the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, Ben-Gurion commented that ‘the human conscience’ might bring various countries to open their doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. He saw this as a threat and warned: ‘Zionism is in danger.’” ~ Israeli historian, Tom Segev, ‘The Seventh Million’
    Roosevelt’s advisor writes on why Jewish refugees were not offered sanctuary in the U.S. after WWII
    …“[Roosevelt] proposed a world budget for the easy migration of the 500,000 beaten people of Europe. Each nation should open its doors for some thousands of refugees…So he suggested that during my trips for him to England during the war I sound out in a general, unofficial manner the leaders of British public opinion, in and out of the government…The simple answer: Great Britain will match the United States, man for man, in admissions from Europe…It seemed all settled. With the rest of the world probably ready to give haven to 200,000, there was a sound reason for the President to press Congress to take in at least 150,000 immigrants after the war…
    “It would free us from the hypocrisy of closing our own doors while making sanctimonious demands on the Arabs…But it did not work out…The failure of the leading Jewish organizations to support with zeal this immigration programme may have caused the President not to push forward with it at that time…
    “I talked to many people active in Jewish organizations. I suggested the plan…I was amazed and even felt insulted when active Jewish leaders decried, sneered, and then attacked me as if I were a traitor
    …I think I know the reason for much of the opposition. There is a deep, genuine, often fanatical emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement [Zionism]. Men like Ben Hecht are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own.” ~ Jewish attorney and friend of President Roosevelt, Morris Ernst, ‘So Far, So Good’

    ENTIRE “ORIGIN” BOOKLET – http://archive.org/details/TheOriginOfThePalestine-israelConflict

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870
      July 14, 2012, 11:43 pm

      P.S. FROM ‘The Hidden History of Zionism’, by Ralph Schoenman [excerpts]:

      • Sacrificing Europe’s Jews
      The correlative to the acts of collaboration with the Nazis throughout the 1930’s was that when attempts to change the immigration laws of the United States and Western Europe were contemplated in order to provide token refuge for persecuted Jews of Europe, it was the Zionists who actively organized to stop these efforts.
      Ben Gurion informed a meeting of Labor Zionists in Great Britain in 1938: “If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative.” [84] This obsession with colonizing Palestine and overwhelming the Arabs led the Zionist movement to oppose any rescue of the Jews facing extermination, because the ability to deflect select manpower to Palestine would be impeded. From 1933 to 1935, the WZO [World Zionist Organization] turned down two-thirds of all the German Jews who applied for immigration certificates.
      Berel Katznelson, editor of the Labor Zionist Davar, described the “cruel criteria of Zionism”:

      German Jews were too old to bear children in Palestine, lacked trades for building a Zionist colony, didn’t speak Hebrew and weren’t Zionists. In place of these Jews facing extermination the WZO brought to Palestine 6,000 trained young Zionists from the United States, Britain and other safe countries. Worse than this, the WZO not merely failed to seek any alternative for the Jews facing the Holocaust, the Zionist leadership opposed belligerently all efforts to find refuge for fleeing Jews.

      • Fighting Asylum
      The entire Zionist establishment made its position unmistakable in its response to a motion by 227 British members of Parliament calling on the government to provide asylum in British territories for persecuted Jews. . .
      . . . At a Parliamentary meeting on January 27, 1943, when the next steps were being pursued by over one hundred members of Parliament, a spokesperson for the Zionists announced that they opposed this motion because it did not contain preparations for the colonization of Palestine. This was a consistent stance.
      Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader who had arranged the Balfour Declaration and was to become the first president of Israel, made this Zionist policy very explicit:

      The hopes of Europe’s six million Jews are centered on emigration. I was asked: “Can you bring six million Jews to Palestine?” I replied, “No.” … From the depths of the tragedy I want to save … young people [for Palestine]. The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world … Only the branch of the young shall survive. They have to accept it. [87]

      Yitzhak Gruenbaum, the chairperson of the committee set up by the Zionists, nominally to investigate the condition of European Jews, said:

      When they come to us with two plans – the rescue of the masses of Jews in Europe or the redemption of the land – I vote, without a second thought, for the redemption of the land. The more said about the slaughter of our people, the greater the minimization of our efforts to strengthen and promote the Hebraisation of the land. If there would be a possibility today of buying packages of food with the money of the Karen Hayesod [United Jewish Appeal] to send it through Lisbon, would we do such a thing? No. And once again no! [88]

      SOURCE – http://www.marxists.de/middleast/schoenman/ch06.htm

  12. gazacalling
    gazacalling
    July 14, 2012, 9:31 pm

    Good post.

    I was just amazed that Brooks — establishment lapdog that he is — could find anything wrong with the elite.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 15, 2012, 2:23 pm

      “I was just amazed that Brooks — establishment lapdog that he is — could find anything wrong with the elite.”

      Ah, what do you expect from the people who legalised abortion and insituted Title IX? Those bas—rds nearly got the ERA passed.

  13. ColinWright
    ColinWright
    July 15, 2012, 4:18 am

    “…They can be faulted, certainly–none of them lobbied for America to make room for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees (displaced persons, in the jargon of the time) languishing in refugee camps in 1947, many in Germany of all places…”

    This bit is — at a minimum — misleading. I don’t know the position of the ‘WASP elite’ on the proposal, but in the immediate wake of the war, well-meaning figures in Britain and America came up with a scheme to resettle a million DP’s — half in the US, and half in the various countries of the British Commonwealth.

    The Zionists scotched that one quick. It was they who made sure it was Israel the DP’s would have to go to — and indeed, were quite happy to see them languish in camps for as long as it took.

  14. Mooser
    Mooser
    July 15, 2012, 1:52 pm

    All I had to do was see the first three word’s in the headline, and I knew there was no point in reading it. Why start out with such an absurd, obviously false premise?

  15. American
    American
    July 15, 2012, 2:55 pm

    “The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.”

    Well someone had to say it and Brooks did.
    The old elites for all their faults did have a sense of stewardship and service to the institutions.
    There were rouges among them but there was also the concept of ‘shame’.
    There is no feeling of shame for misdeeds among today’s elites, that’s foreign to them.
    I’ll take the old elites any day, today’s elites in the so called establishment remind me of a swarm of locust leaving nothing but barren landscape in their wake.

    As for McConnell, why is he obsessed with turning Brooks article into something about Jews? Not everything is about or revolves around the Jews. There are plenty of locust in the new elites besides Jews.
    Whatever culture of service, honor and intergrity we did have in society has broken down and disappeared. That’s the problem.

  16. Sin Nombre
    Sin Nombre
    July 15, 2012, 4:46 pm

    gazacalling wrote:

    “I was just amazed that Brooks — establishment lapdog that he is — could find anything wrong with the elite.”

    Ah caterpillar, look again: He *sees* the disregard if not hatred and rage against same, and so is just trying to *save* it.

  17. stevieb
    stevieb
    July 16, 2012, 9:59 am

    When I read “the meritocratic elite”, based on “grade, etc”, I stoppped reading. There is nothing meritocratic about our elites. They maintain the status quo by convincing the unfortunate majority, through means you should all be aware of by now, that we live in a meritocracy when we mostly do not…

  18. YoungMassJew
    YoungMassJew
    July 16, 2012, 5:40 pm

    Whenever I see a Mort Zuckerman on “Real Time with Bill Maher” or a Rabbi Marvin Hier ready to pounce on anything remotely “anti-Semitic” it gets me thinking just why exactly are such men getting airtime. I, like Phil, struggle with “the elite issue.”

  19. marc b.
    marc b.
    July 17, 2012, 2:43 pm

    i missed this over the weekend. a real hoot by bobo brooks. the problem with the ‘stinky elite’ is that they can’t admit to how truly exceptional they are? that’s the problem, modesty? and can we put to rest the meritocracy tautology?

    The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy.

    a corrupt meritocracy? (presumably the corruption gets busy only after the ascendence of the deserving to positions of authority, not before hand. no, no, after all the corrupt would never think to attempt to influence the feeder system for admission to their club in favor of family, friends, like-minded individuals.) how silly. no, stupid. brooks doesn’t recognize the simple, fatal flaw in his oxymoronic invention, ‘the corrupt meritocracy’, because he would then have to question his own privileged position. or that of his colleagues, past and present, some of whom couldn’t/can’t string together a short series of coherent paragraphs: yes, bobo, a news column.

    The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.

    no, you f*cking moron, again modesty is not the issue. in fact, it’s the opposite. today’s elites are perfectly aware of their position at the apex of the social hierarchy, and believe that having achieved their position on account of their brilliance, they no longer need to consider the position or opinions of lesser beings. since ‘they work much longer hours than people down the income scale’, says bobo, it’s a short step to the sense of entitlement that warrants the payment of 7-figure bonuses to CEOs even if that all that hard work and genius, for example, actually run the corporate ship into a reef.

    and more horse bleep from brooks:

    The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.

    jesus but he is stupid. first, the ‘language’ of anything is not evidence of its existence. second, the hiring practice bobo describes is nothing like a meritocracy, to the extent such a thing can exist. the system he describes is more accurately a variation on the notion of divine right, admission to an ivy or similar school being the measure of nobility, not blood.

    really, the only consolation in any of this is that the immodesty of these types will inevitably lead to their downfall. unfortunately it’s going to get even uglier for the rest of us mere mortals as the shit hits the fan.

  20. PeaceThroughJustice
    PeaceThroughJustice
    July 20, 2012, 12:59 am

    I’m late to this thread, but may I point any future readers to the work of Kevin MacDonald on the concept of a “hostile elite”. It provides a helpful framework for thinking about the transformation that Brooks is obliquely talking about.

    http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/blog-Weissberg-Weiss.htm

    Phil once wrote of a Quaker motto from his wife’s childhood — “Simplicity Sincerity and Service”. Ideas from a vanished world.

  21. Andreas Schlueter
    Andreas Schlueter
    August 30, 2012, 6:36 am

    For the better understanding of US politics, some book recommendations, a “Must Read”:
    http://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/must-read-if-you-want-to-understand-present-day-politics/ !
    With appreciation for your Website
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin, Germany

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