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No More Nonsense About Elites

A fish starts rotting from the head, it is said. That a society starts rotting from its head needs to be much better understood. Blaming the decline of Western society on a "revolt of the masses" absolves elites, who must bear the brunt of the blame. Catering to popular tastes is not the result of relentless pressure from the grassroots but of an elite class proclaiming the wisdom of "the people" and granting them privileges, giving power to new elites.

Among those who set the tone in America today—in the arts and entertainment, the media, the universities, and politics—the stink of rot is unmistakable. These elites not only condone but generate the growing nastiness, crassness, vulgarity, debauchery, and mediocrity of life. From corporate boardrooms to lecture halls, courtrooms to movie studios, foundation boards to pulpits, legislatures to newsrooms, civilization is gasping for air. Many within the American elites do resist the general trends—some bravely and with limited success—but they do not consider themselves on the winning side. Many try telling themselves that things are not as bad as they seem. Some play, pathetically, at still being of the ruling class by riding horses on their country estate, lunching at the Metropolitan Club, or attending Sunday services with "nice" people at the Episcopal church.

If we are to think strategically about America's elites,...

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