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The 'New Elite' includes Charles Murray

Charles Murray has written an entertaining and partly accurate portrait of America’s New Elite. He makes only one serious error, albeit one that is very interesting: He leaves himself out. Throughout his article, he refers constantly to "they" and "them," when he should be writing "we."

Murray, by his own account, grew up in a "non-collegiate" family, but made it to Harvard thanks to hard work and the SAT. He has spent most of his working life as an academic political scientist and is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. More to the point, he has made a career out of glorifying meritocracy and even defending intellectual snobbery. Most recently, he attacked college education as "a waste of time," in part because most people aren't smart enough to benefit from it.

It's a provocative argument, like all of Murray's arguments, which I have always enjoyed reading. But this time his intellectual honesty doesn’t go far enough. He is right that there is rebellion afoot against the meritocracy -- a group that, in a different political climate, he used to admire -- but he is wrong to think that people like himself aren’t meant to be the targets.

You can choose to live in Virginia instead of Maryland. You can choose to watch NASCAR instead of the World Cup. You can even vote Republican. But when politicians use the words "Ivy League" as an insult, and when Glenn Beck mocks higher education in general, their targets are people exactly like Charles Murray. The language being used right now in American politics is not merely "anti-liberal-elite," as Murray and others keep claiming. It's "anti-elite," and specifically "anti-educated-elite." Period.

By Anne Applebaum  | October 25, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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Comments

"The language being used right now in American politics is not merely "anti-liberal-elite," as Murray and others keep claiming. It's "anti-elite," and specifically "anti-educated-elite." Period."

I have to disagree Ms. Applebaum. I think the mood is more against those who have rarely wandered outside academia. People who have never changed a flat tire on the side of the road or worked on a factory floor or otherwise never really got their hands dirty working for a living. Cloistered I guess.
Beard-stroking professors issuing mandates from on high.

Posted by: spamsux1 | October 25, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I think he does include himself, however subtly: "When it comes to the schools where they were educated, the degrees they hold, the Zip codes where they reside and the television shows they watch, I doubt if there is much to differentiate the staff of the conservative Weekly Standard from that of the liberal New Republic, or the scholars at the American Enterprise Institute from those of the Brookings Institution, or Republican senators from Democratic ones."

Posted by: MaxBorders | October 25, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Spamsux1 wrote: "I have to disagree Ms. Applebaum. I think the mood is more against those who have rarely wandered outside academia. People who have never changed a flat tire on the side of the road or worked on a factory floor or otherwise never really got their hands dirty working for a living. Cloistered I guess."

Where's the disagreement? Your definition pretty accurately describes Murray.

Posted by: fdrew | October 25, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Only a country bent on its own destruction would want to throw its brains and brainy people over the side in favor of what? the dumb and dumber to run the country? Instead of elevating knowledge and education to the top of the desirable aims, we disparage and degrade it. What kind of message is this to send to our children?We are already lagging behind the rest of the western world in producing the smart leaders we and the world needs. How far down can we afford to go before ignorance and stupidity become the only things qualifiying anyone for office?

Posted by: 85edwardearthlinknet | October 25, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Only a country bent on its own destruction would want to throw its brains and brainy people over the side in favor of what? the dumb and dumber to run the country? Instead of elevating knowledge and education to the top of the desirable aims, we disparage and degrade it. What kind of message is this to send to our children?We are already lagging behind the rest of the western world in producing the smart leaders we and the world needs. How far down can we afford to go before ignorance and stupidity become the only things qualifiying anyone for office?

Posted by: 85edwardearthlinknet | October 25, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

spamsux1 wrote: "People who have never changed a flat tire on the side of the road or worked on a factory floor or otherwise never really got their hands dirty working for a living. Cloistered I guess.
Beard-stroking professors issuing mandates from on high."

Why would this person assume that professors --beard-stroking or not -- have "never gotten their hands dirty working for a living." First of all, professors do work for a living, and they work hard. The average work week for most professors is roughly 50 to sixty hours, for, in addition to teaching classes, those professors have to prepare for those classes, grade papers and other projects, engage in research, write for publication advise students, and provide service to their departments, their colleges, the university, to their professional organizations and to their communities. So, please don't tell me that professors don't work.

Secondly, many professors go into the university later in life and have "worked for a living" in other jobs. And some leave the university early (for various reasons, including health-related problems) and have to find work doing anything they can. I personally, with a Ph.D., have worked at WalMart and have cleaned homes and offices -- including the bathrooms.

So, please don't tell me that professors don't work for a living -- you are wrong!

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Posted by: jiexiao81 | October 25, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

When Republicans sneer and spit out the term "elite", it is just code for "educated". They know that the more educated you are, the more you are likely to turn away from the kind of indefensible policies the GOP relies on ignorant voters to prop up.

For instance, once people go to college they start trusting science more and industry-fed propaganda less. That's bad news for the GOP's fossil fuel clientele on issues like climate change, where 97% of published climatologists agree we are driving the recent temperature changes. When you stop in at the local library and leaf through Science or Nature (two peer-reviewed general science journals), you realize that there's been a consensus on this for about ten years now, and the garbage spewed about "doubts" by people like Jim DeMint, James Inhofe and Colorado senate candidate Ken Buck is just their campaign donations talking. In other words, people are less manipulable once they take control of their own minds. The GOP needs to discourage that from all angles. Hence you get the astroturfed opposition to "elitism" - which is really just education.

One day, if we are fortunate, the whole country will be "elite", and we can look back at this bizarre fascination with ignorance as a sorry chapter in American civilization.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Murray's use of "elite" could also be a code-word for "people who are smart enough to recognize junk science when they see it". His previous book, _The Bell Curve_, which was not subject to scientific peer review prior to publication, was roundly criticized as both racist and poor science. Murray made several questionable assumptions in the book, including IQ as a valid measure for the intelligence of entire populations, and the alleged existence of a correlation between IQ and race. The fact that this individual is even being printed as an authority on demographics to begin with is appalling. And this is coming from a regular, ol' state-educated gal, by the way.

Posted by: SubRosa2 | October 25, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

When Spamsux1 says "I have to disagree Ms. Applebaum. I think the mood is more against those who have rarely wandered outside academia. People who have never changed a flat tire on the side of the road or worked on a factory floor or otherwise never really got their hands dirty working for a living. Cloistered I guess.Beard-stroking professors issuing mandates from on high," he's dealing in fantasies. Yes, I have a beard, yes, I have Ivy League degrees, yes, I am a liberal and continue to support Obama, but I also have gotten my hands dirty, done menial jobs to get through college and afterward, wondered whether my family was heading for financial shoals. I suspect that is true of most of us elites, who did not have moneyed backgrounds (like the previous president who played the role of jet jockey and aw-shucks cowboy)and got where we've gotten through not dealing in stereotypes but in reality, something spamsux1 does not seem terribly strong on. Those bearded professors you disdain produced cures for diseases you don't have to worry about, developed the Internet and the Web, created the weapons that ended World War II, broke codes in both WWI and II etc. etc. etc. Yup, we're the same people who were the "pointy-headed intellectuals" of the 1950s who supported the end of segregation in the south, an end to environmental degradation by U.S. industries, the correlation between cigarettes and cancer. We challenged the facts behind the escalation of the Vietnam war and the Iraqi fiasco. I could go on but you get the point. What were you doing at the time?

Posted by: gratianus | October 25, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Why assume that college-educated people have never "worked" for a living? Even if you exclude professional jobs, which seems stupid, since many people in white-collar professional fields work very hard, many people who went to college have also worked manual labor jobs. I cleaned bathrooms and worked fast food and construction in order to pay for college and graduate school, and I'm not especially unique in that respect.

Posted by: Katya2 | October 25, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I do not keep track of what Mr. Murray writes over the years. However, I strongly suspect that in the days when school kids in the ghetto, who derided their fellow students for "acting white" if they tried to get an education, was a newsworthy issue, his opinion was 180 degrees from what it is with regards to uneducated, mostly white rural dwellers.

It is unfortunate that the uneducated non-elite of whom Mr. Murray speaks, vote for those whose policies leave them in a deeper economic hole. But if they are so angry at the "elite" that they vote their prejudices and social concerns, I wash my hands of them. I am quite sure I spend more time amongst them than Mr. Murray does, and in my youth I logged my share of time working in a sawmill, as a construction laborer (both union and non-union), in an orange juice factory and various other hard, dirty jobs.

Posted by: BuddyK | October 25, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Much of the "anti-elitism" that Anne talks about conflates anti-intellectualism (scorn for people who know things and who think) and anti-elitism (scorn for leaders who purport to be the best and the brightest but who are complacent, smug or self-dealing). The first is not legitimate, the second is. People have to be careful not to dismiss the latter, legitimate complaints when the reject they former bias.

Posted by: choppy1 | October 25, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

If we are to believe what Mr. Murray writes, it looks like the C and D students, i.e., the Tea Party, are trying hard to negate the A students. After a full life of mediocrity the Tea Party members finally realized getting average grades didn't earn them as much in their careers as getting A's. Duh. Now they seek shelter with the anti-intellectual conservatives. Nice try, but it didn't work in chemistry class 40 years ago either when you whined to the prof about the difficulty of the exams. Perhaps the Tea Party anti-elites should have studied more and partied less in college.

Posted by: citizen4truth1 | October 25, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Down with education! Support the Tea Party!

Posted by: LifeBeforePrinciple | October 25, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Murray's "The Bell Curve" claims that the American class system is based on biologically innate intelligence. Some people are rich because they are smart, and others, particularly Blacks, are poor because they are stupid. It's hard to imagine anything more elitist than this.

Posted by: sjpatejak | October 25, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

There's nothing new about America's current elite. They're the same sons and daughters of privilege who have always run the country and looked down on the masses as useful idiots to be pandered to at election time. We should not tar those who get a first-class education and pursue a career helping others (medicine, law, etc.) with the same brush.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | October 25, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Appelbaum, both you and Mr. Murray are right, and miss the point. While his piece and your's both describe part of the situation, they miss the problem. This country was never intended nor envisioned to have a "ruling class". We fought a Revolution to rid ourselves of just that evil. The original concept was that ordinary citizens, farmers, merchants, military leaders would, for a period of time, step aside from their normal pursuits to lend their time and energy to SERVE the country. Instead, we now have a "class" that thinks they are entitled to lead and see themselves as having some predetermined right and ability. They are, I assure you, sadly mistaken. It is the career politician and administrator that is the problem. Their first priority is their self interest, not the welfare of the country. They see us as not capable of determining what we want, don't want, like or don't like. Instead, we need to be "led". THAT, is the problem in a nutshell. Until the problem is abolished, it will continue, regardless of which party is favored.

Posted by: terry131 | October 25, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Murray and the other conservative's with this 'liberal elite' trash tal are amazingly hypocritical. Murray, like Charles Krauthammer (Oxford, Harvard) and George Will (Oxford, Princeton), constantly look down from their own insulated intellectual tower on the rest of us with their condescending mental meanderings. That is their job - what they do. Unlike them, most of the rest of us come from modest means, work for a living, and don't have the luxury of spouting off without accountability.

Posted by: pgflashlight | October 25, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Murray and the other conservative's with this 'liberal elite' trash talk are amazingly hypocritical. Murray, like Charles Krauthammer (Oxford, Harvard) and George Will (Oxford, Princeton), constantly look down from their own insulated intellectual tower on the rest of us with their condescending mental meanderings. That is their job - what they do. Unlike them, most of the rest of us come from modest means, work for a living, and don't have the luxury of spouting off without accountability.

Posted by: pgflashlight | October 25, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. Republican elitists and Dem elitists are in trouble with voters.

Since January 1989, when Ronald Reagan left office, we've had only Presidents with degrees from two universities - Harvard and Yale - both Republican and Dems. That's before some voters were born.

I guaranty our next President will not have a degree from either school.

America is a big place with many talented people who don't have the Ivy League perspective. It's time to give that America a chance ot solve our problems, because the boys from the Ivies have a lousy batting average.

Posted by: jfv123 | October 25, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

@spamsux1: And what is it about having changed a tire that makes a person better than an academic? Do dirty hands make a person better able to understand the direction a country should go? I don't think it does, and frankly, the attitude you're displaying is just a different sort of snobbery, one that holds that someone "just doesn't get it" unless they've had the experiences that *you* think is necessary.

Personally, I don't think that knowing a damned thing about NASCAR is necessary, and I don't think there's anything ennobling about doing an oil change. So you've done it. Big deal. How is that supposed to help when someone's deciding if the insurance industry has or has not been irreparably damaged by the requirement that they provide coverage in spite of the built-in adverse selection of the healthcare act? (They haven't, btw, but it's a good example of a complex question that requires more than a passing familiarity with the subject).

There is no question that having a elite class of educated and wealthy people also become the defacto rulers of a country is a Bad Thing(tm), at least for the masses that aren't so blessed. We've seen it happen, and the situation just increases the misery of the people. But we've also seen the reverse, where the elites are so villified, are so equated with "what's wrong" with everything, that the masses become an angry mob devoted to tearing them down. You can look them up: the French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Cultural Revolution of 1966. All of them brought a lot more pain and loss than they brought gain.

Posted by: bjameswi | October 25, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Murray is not only elitist but obnoxiously presumptuous. He derides people who are not "real Americans" for not watching Oprah and game shows or reading trash novels (as if he seriously expects us to believe that he's spending his own free time reading Harlequin romances). Well, excuse me. I'm a middle-aged wife and mother, with a full time job, a teenaged kid, a dog, and aging parents and parents-in-law, who also volunteers my time in my community. I don't sit around the house watching daytime TV or watch shows in which people fight in cages, or whatever. I don't go to NASCAR races or travel to Missouri to see washed-up country music "stars." Murray has a problem with this. He feels others should have a problem with this. He would like me to be more "common." Well, too bad for Murray and all this tea party friends. I'll read the books I like to read, thank you. Watch the sports I want to watch (which in my case is no sports because I don't like watching sports.) When I travel, I'll go where I want to go (which, I assure you, will not be Branson). If Murray and Sarah Palin and the whole crew of them don't like this, they can stick it you know where. I'm sick and tired of "conservatives" thinking they can defining what a "real American" is and dictating what others have to do and think to achieve this exalted status.

Posted by: MidwesternerinManhattan | October 25, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

You're only an intellectual snob if Michael Gerson says you're one.

Posted by: mattintx | October 25, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

There is another part of the story that is being glossed over as well. That is what is meant by the term elite. The academic world is generally part of an elite where people fight for social distinction. But that elite does not generally map too well to those who make the most money. Certain careers can be benefited by a Harvard education and the contacts it may provide. Others are not. Generally scientists acquire an elite social status while engineers do not. Maybe biotech has more affinity with the academic elite since biological research requires a PhD and most technical professionals in biotech probably have one. By contrast, the academic elite has contributed very little to the development of computer technology. The status of the source of academic degrees does not make much difference among software engineers. I know at least casually several engineers who made a big success out the development of internet technology. Generally, they did not come from an elite background. Nor would I have called them members of an elite even after they became rich.

Posted by: dnjake | October 25, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Murray's opinion piece was the second that the Post has run this month on this topic. The other was by Matthew Continetti and his five myths about Sarah Palin. Both men make the mistake of defining "elite" according to education and not wealth. They're peddling anti-intellectualism disguised as populism. It's very similar to the phenomenon that Thomas Frank described in "What's the Matter With Kansas," where the "elites" being resentment are intellectuals and lefty actors.

The term "Real American" has no place in any political discourse. It's merely a euphemism for whatever ethnic or religious group that the person using the term seeks to bash.

Posted by: Carstonio | October 25, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Uh, that should be "...where the 'elites' being resented..."

Posted by: Carstonio | October 25, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Some elitists defend child rapists. Hi Anne!

Posted by: popopo | October 25, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

You say that the real attack today is not so much anti-liberal-elite as it is anti-educated-elite. It used to be that mass public education in the US was simultaneously a way of lifting the bottom while leveling differences. Public Universities then finished the job. Harvard was Harvard and Yale was Yale, and graduating from either of those two was good for getting into certain clubs, but grads from CCNY, Fordham (OK, it’s not public, but it draws from the right social class), UCLA and Berkeley made America what it was in the mid-20th Century. In theory that should still work, but it doesn’t. What ever happened to upward mobility for Ordinary Joe and Everyday Jane? Perhaps that explains a part of the resentment.

Posted by: msatch | October 25, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

the other facet of this story being ignored is the use of anti-intellectual or anti-elite sentiment by one segment of the political spectrum in a hypocritical way. When Harvard and Yale educated conservatives who've never changed a tire run against intellectuals and elites, pandering to crowds and their dislike for liberalism by equating it with the result of getting good grades and going to good schools, that's a bit grating. The sentiment is real, but it's being pandered to by folks who have no more business taking up the message than the folks they are attacking with it.

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 25, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I worked in a sand and gravel pit for four summers, christmans vacation and easter vacation to pay for my college education. I operated a shovel and a bobcat and a high pressure hose ... I'll be damned if I'm going to listen to some blue collar slobs telling me sht about anything, any more than those pointy headed professors.

There's a bunch of real fools making all the noise these days, that's for damn sure.

Posted by: eezmamata | October 25, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Most recently, he attacked college education as "a waste of time," in part because most people aren't smart enough to benefit from it.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
If most people aren't smart enough to benefit from higher education, why now according to the GOP/TEA Party standards are they suddenly smart enough to write laws and vote on them for my benefit?

Posted by: AverageJane | October 25, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The world view differential of average Americans versus elite Americans is this: Gallup says that 80 percent of Americans identify as non-liberal, whereas Charles Murray cites that 80 percent of elite Americans self-identify as liberal.

The second factor is that these elites are "living in a bubble," therefore, they do not encounter a competitive market for ideas in a peer-to-peer setting where there is a high degree of trust and respect for the ideas of others. Elite American's are not challenged in their thinking, by people who are connected to them. If they are challenged it comes from "others" who live outside their box, who are perceived as belligerents, not friends or peers whose ideas are to be carefully considered prior to adoption, or rejection.

The third factor I consider by paraphrasing Hayek: 'Thus{liberal} aims and programs are factually impossible to achieve or execute; and they are logically impossible.' - The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism.

So, here you have a small group of highly intelligent people, with great influence on this country who have an illogical worldview, whose end results can never be achieved that is rarely shared with people outside of their group.

Fortunately there are several ways of breaking this ideological monopoly, one, is to induce a preference/or belief cascade.

Posted by: eddieinschool | October 25, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

In 1970, President Nixon's Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell was panned as being mediocre. Louisiana Senator Russell Long asked, "Does it not seem that we have had enough of those upsidedown, corkscrew thinkers? Would it not appear that it might be well to take a B student or a C student who was able to think straight, compared to one of those A students who are capable of the kind of thinking that winds up getting a 100% increase in crime in this country?" Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska added, "There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos."

Senator James Inhofe and his ilk today carry the torch for this kind of thinking.

Posted by: wfwf | October 25, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"When Republicans sneer and spit out the term "elite", it is just code for "educated". They know that the more educated you are, the more you are likely to turn away from the kind of indefensible policies the GOP relies on ignorant voters to prop up.

For instance, once people go to college they start trusting science more and industry-fed propaganda less. That's bad news for the GOP's fossil fuel clientele on issues like climate change, where 97% of published climatologists agree we are driving the recent temperature changes. When you stop in at the local library and leaf through Science or Nature (two peer-reviewed general science journals), you realize that there's been a consensus on this for about ten years now, and the garbage spewed about "doubts" by people like Jim DeMint, James Inhofe and Colorado senate candidate Ken Buck is just their campaign donations talking. In other words, people are less manipulable once they take control of their own minds. The GOP needs to discourage that from all angles. Hence you get the astroturfed opposition to "elitism" - which is really just education.

One day, if we are fortunate, the whole country will be "elite", and we can look back at this bizarre fascination with ignorance as a sorry chapter in American civilization.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse "

_____________________________________

I came in here to say this, but you said it better than I ever could... +1 internets to you, good sir.
Patzer

Posted by: Patzer111 | October 25, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in a family where Dad worked in a factory and Mom was a housewife unless money was short and then she worked in a factory or as a waitress in a diner. I worked sumers on a farm planting, weeding and picking tomatoes, strawberrys, corn, and other crops. I served 4 years in the Army and was the first in my family to graduate from a good college. The constant stream of investive from the right about the educated elites (meaning liberals) is hypocritical and stupid. Watch Gretchen Carlson on FOX mock the elites. But she attended and graduated from Stanford University and attended Oxford (as in England) University. Is she less an elite because she is a (i) beauty queen, (ii) conservative, and (iii) Fox employee? The folks that should be mocked and criticized are those on the right that are damaging our nation by demonizing education. And today education in the US is becoming ever more critical as we face enormous competition from nations (China and India)that understand and value education. It is sad that those that should be leading the nation are working to destroy it.

Posted by: Freethotlib | October 25, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to upward mobility for Ordinary Joe and Everyday Jane? Perhaps that explains a part of the resentment.

Good point. I suspect that for many of them, it's also resentment that being white or male or Christian (or all three) no longer carries the amount of automatic status it once did. Not so long ago, white men who weren't wealthy or educated could expect certain advantages based on their ethnicity and gender. I don't think it's coincidental that Spiro Agnew's bashing of intellectual "elites" came after the height of the civil rights movement.

Posted by: Carstonio | October 25, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"The language being used right now in American politics is not merely "anti-liberal-elite," as Murray and others keep claiming. It's "anti-elite," and specifically "anti-educated-elite." Period."

You actually believe that, don't you?

Posted by: pcannady | October 25, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure I would fall into Mr. Murray's "elite" category even though I never attended an Ivy League school, I don't live in the right zip code and my parents were not college grduates. However, I'm a lawyer who is studying for a Ph.D. and I'm a liberal who works in Washington and I'm a pacifist. But I'm also certain that I am a "real" American and I resent the efforts of some writers to insist on positioning me in their own "them" vs "us" world view. We are a very diverse nation and I wouldn't like to exclude any of us - we are all for freedom and none of us wants to start a civil war, so quit trying to egg us on to be part of your divided world.

Posted by: Beitern | October 25, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I think Murray's article is being misrepresented in this discussion. He isn't anti-intellectual, nor does he claim moral superiority in NASCAR and Oprah. He does, however, point out that highly educated people are a statistical minority in this country. And when the educated "elite" become doctors, lawyers, business leaders and elected officials, they are be completely clueless regarding the needs of their patients, clients, employees and constituents. He never once argues that it'd be BETTER to have uneducated doctors and politicians.

I think his article does a poor job of representing his idea. He was much clearer in the chat this morning, and he freely admits that that his education makes him something of an elite.

Posted by: ishkabibbleA | October 25, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

This article is dead on, but stops short of an analysis of why the anti-elite message is prevalent on the hard right. It is simple demographics. There are many more uneducated voters than educated ones, particularly in the GOP base. The rhetoric described here is specifically targeted to the non-collegiate voters and it comes across as particularly empowering at a time when most job opportunities require advanced skills. It is playing to the fears and desires of a growing portion of electorate, growing because these are the fruits of our education policy that has failed to prepare Americans for a 21st century labor market.

Posted by: AgentG | October 25, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

The political opposition to rapid expansion of an already vast federal (and state and local) government is not based on a worship of ignorance, or indeed on "worship" of anything in the religious sense, though thinking that it does gives lazy leftists an easy way to explain the phenomenon while burnishing their smug intellectual self-satisfaction. Thinking that some tired "progressive" political or economic nostrum is "scientific" doesn't make you smart, it only shows that you've taken on the style or fashion that has been popular of late in the media. It requires less effort than shopping at T.J.Maxx to get your clothing up to the latest standard of fashion, and shows about as much intellectual sophistication.

For example, a favorite style accessory in the intellectual wardrobe of the lazy left is the "green" movement, particularly Anthropogenic Global Warming. If you embrace AGW you are smart, fact oriented and scientifically minded. If you don't, you are a "denier" (a not-so-subtle analogue to a "Holocaust Denier", clever huh?) Now there are all sorts of good reasons to suspect that the temperature proxy data have large unrecognized systematic errors, that the climate feed-backs aren't nearly as positive as the general circulation models indicate (more accurately, assume), and that the models themselves have inherent deficiencies that are nearly impossible to overcome. In fact, climatology as a science is still in its infancy, with impressive amounts of publication, complex models and scads of data, but with minimal proven predictive power.

What climatology DOES provide is an excuse for leftist politicians to do what they love: control essentially every aspect our economy, and by extension, our lives. Thus the distillation: "Green is the new Red". This time the "science" isn't "scientific socialism", the bloom having fallen from that rose. As a longtime fan of science, and former practitioner, it is nearly as painful to see science corrupted and likely ultimately discredited, as it is to see our economic and political freedoms under such dubious assault.

The "elites" that many conservatives resent are NOT our intellectual superiors - we've read as much philosophy and economics, understand evolutionary theory as well, have degrees from prestigious institutions of higher education in a variety of fields, have been successful in engineering, business, medicine, science, etc. On average, our level of education is higher than the average liberal, and our brightest are as bright. What we resent is the leftist elite, who have drawn the wrong conclusions from their learning (or more often have been willingly fed the wrong conclusions), and in their arrogance presume that they are fit to rule us. They aren't so fit, we know it, we know why, and we aren't going to tolerate subjugation to an arrogant and deluded "elite" largely immersed in the eternal project of feeling better about themselves.

Posted by: AUgieP | October 25, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Teabaggers: having contempt for education and facts since 2009

If the teabaggers were black or brown Murray would be waving around a copy of his dog-eared psudo-science.

If the Palin's were black or brown he would go on about the welfare state caused their daughter to get knocked up.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | October 25, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Ah, but an educated quantum mechanic can curse at the lug nuts on the tire by observing the Heisenberg relation between the position of the nut and the velocity of the wrench.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | October 25, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

It’s true. Republicans are ipso facto hypocrites. Murray, however, has never been part of any elite.

In fact, Murray owes his psychic difficulties to having attended Harvard and MIT, yet never garnering the approval or respect of his peers. Murray remains at best a laughingstock. Hence his bitterness and desperation. Maybe this silly piece will generate some teabagger speech income for the Irish-Thai kids he left behind, but obviously, Murray would have been much happier and productive had he stayed in Iowa.

Posted by: SydneyP | October 25, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I think what is happening is a backlash against the appalling performance of the so-called educated elites.

It doesn't matter where you went to school if you cannot do your job properly. Taking the last four presidents as examples, all very well educated at the very best institutions and all basically failures in one or more major categories of performance.

Many of these failings of government are having devastating impact "on the ground".


Posted by: katorga | October 25, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Cf. Idiocracy (2006) "As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species." Id.

Posted by: successstartsontheline | October 25, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Most here are confused. The 'anti-elites', such as myself, are not anti-education or anti-smart or most of the other labels being thrown around. What we are against and disturbed by are those who believe anyone without a degree from an extremely expensive college cannot possibly be as competent in making decisions as they are, and therefore NEED to make any and all decisions without regard to the thoughts of the lesser members of society.

Funny how the same people who think elite universities produce the 'saviors' of society kind of 'forget' to mention that those who are mainly responsible for much of the economic carnage of late (Bankers, Wall Street Execs, Government Leaders, etc) were their classmates at those very same extremely expensive colleges. We don't need them to 'save' us, or lead us onto better paths of life, we simply prefer them to stay the hell out of our way and let us live our lives the way we decide. We sometimes screw it up and sometimes get it right, but that seems to be just the same as how the 'elites' lives seem to go also, now isn't it.

Posted by: cleveyoung | October 25, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I is be like not wantin no iv leeg scool edukated people bein in my guberment,

Posted by: hayden1 | October 25, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

What's all this nonsense? Arguing about nothing, when the real issue is that the government whupped up two wars which have been financed by debt. It's been blindingly obvious that we've got to pay for it. It's been blindingly obvious that, like the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the economy would go to hell once that time came. It's time to roll up our sleeves and deal with it.

This from a guy who pumped gas during an oil crisis, worked in a paper mill factory and was grateful for it, stocked shelves in a supermarket, washed dishes, served over six years of active duty, and graduated from Yale.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | October 25, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I have never taken a politician or pundit seriously when they have spoken with derision of "the elite". If you an elected office holder in the federal government then you are part of the elite no matter how many pork rinds you eat or how much you really like Nascar. If you write a column for a major newspaper or have been on TV to give your opinion about something other than the flavor of bubble gum then you have probably been to a good college, are well rounded and sophisticated, and make more money than the average person and therefore part of the elite. The word "elite" is mostly used nowadays by conservatives to deride liberals they dislike. Obama, the son of a single working class woman, is often accused of being an elitist while G. W Bush who went to Yale as a legacy, is a grandson of a senator, bother of a governor, and son of a president is not considered to be part of the elite because he drops his G's and once choked on a pork rind.

Posted by: exbrown | October 25, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I wrote an essay about Murrays book "The Bell Curve" in 1994 and thus knoq a lot about Murrays thinking.

of all the misconceptions Murray displays in his worldview, it is that there is a true "meritocracy" in the US. There is none.

Why? Because the number of people who would get a good education and then well paying jobs and create far more wealth for the country, currently can't afford good education.

There are even many Americans whom see themselves as well educated while they aren't. I am now including large, perhaps even a majority of the middle class people with college education. I even dare to say many of the few Americans in Ivy League schools learn limited things outside the special fields of education the take on in college.

Americans learn too little in primary school, in hig school and in college.

No, the new so-called elite in most terms resembles the old elite. They got their priviliges because of social background which enabled them to get a combination of good studyig habits and money to pay for their education.

The uneven distributions of wealth to the few but produced by many is at the core of the problem of the old and the new elite.

This problem on the other hand gets worse as academic education more and more is becoming the dominant factor in creating wealth.

Murrays references to cultural tastes as some kind of evidence of whether one belongs to an "elite" or not is ridiculous and wrong.

More than anything, Murrays is living proof that getting a good education might indeed reward you with money, but not with enough knowledge and even less so common sense.

Posted by: thabomuso | October 25, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

All the talk about elitism is exceedingly tiresome. I often resent it because I'm betting that I'm considered one (I have an earned doctorate, I am a literally a "beard-stroking" professor), even though I don't feel like an elitist and don't try to act like one. But I'll get over my own peevishness, secure in the knowledge that stupidity is never good from any source, from any socio-economic stratum, from anyone wearing any color of collar (white, blue, whatever), from a person having an "exalted" academic pedigree or lacking one entirely. Just don't expect me not to push back against "stupid." (O'Donnell wants to be a senator and doesn't know jack about the Constitution?? Please . . .)

And snobbery is never good from any source, either. I'm not, for an example, an oenophile (look it up, spamsux), but oenophiles shouldn't think themselves superior to myself or others because we prefer beer, and anti-intellectuals shouldn't think themselves superior to me because I know what an oenophile is and choose (when the occasion merits) to use words like "oenophilia."

It's understandable that folks resent other folks claiming to know more than they do, and we are wisely skeptical when someone pontificates either above their level of expertise, or beyond it, or both. But it's far worse to claim that to know something is somehow bad. Idiocracy is where we're headed if the know-nothings from ANYWHERE on the political spectrum rule the day.

(And for the record, spamsux, I mow my own lawn and change my own tires, although I don't try to stroke my beard while doing so.)

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | October 25, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

@fdrew
85edwardearthlinknet
marmac
B202
~~~
Co-sign. Agree with all your posts.

Posted by: ArmchairGM | October 25, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: terry131 | October 25, 2010 2:46 PM

"Ms. Appelbaum, both you and Mr. Murray are right, and miss the point. While his piece and your's both describe part of the situation, they miss the problem. This country was never intended nor envisioned to have a "ruling class". We fought a Revolution to rid ourselves of just that evil. The original concept was that ordinary citizens, farmers, merchants, military leaders would, for a period of time, step aside from their normal pursuits to lend their time and energy to SERVE the country. Instead, we now have a "class" that thinks they are entitled to lead and see themselves as having some predetermined right and ability. They are, I assure you, sadly mistaken. It is the career politician and administrator that is the problem. Their first priority is their self interest, not the welfare of the country. They see us as not capable of determining what we want, don't want, like or don't like. Instead, we need to be "led". THAT, is the problem in a nutshell. Until the problem is abolished, it will continue, regardless of which party is favored."

Bravo! Well-spoken. This is my issue with all this in a nutshell. having worked within the Legislative and Executive Branches in DC for 20 years, plus 28+ years military service, active and reserve (two wars) I have been in contact with the "elites" - political appointees with connections - for many years. They do feel entitled and they do look at the rest of us as though we are there to serve them and their career aspirations.

Posted by: ikins | October 25, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Please spare me the self-absorbed whining of liberals. This ceaseless quest to explain why people don't care for their policies and views by demonizing those same people is pathetic.

Posted by: bobmoses | October 25, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: terry131 | October 25, 2010 2:46 PM

"Ms. Appelbaum, both you and Mr. Murray are right, and miss the point. While his piece and your's both describe part of the situation, they miss the problem. This country was never intended nor envisioned to have a "ruling class". We fought a Revolution to rid ourselves of just that evil. The original concept was that ordinary citizens, farmers, merchants, military leaders would, for a period of time, step aside from their normal pursuits to lend their time and energy to SERVE the country. Instead, we now have a "class" that thinks they are entitled to lead and see themselves as having some predetermined right and ability. They are, I assure you, sadly mistaken. It is the career politician and administrator that is the problem. Their first priority is their self interest, not the welfare of the country. They see us as not capable of determining what we want, don't want, like or don't like. Instead, we need to be "led". THAT, is the problem in a nutshell. Until the problem is abolished, it will continue, regardless of which party is favored."

Bravo! Well-spoken. This is my issue with all this in a nutshell. having worked within the Legislative and Executive Branches in DC for 20 years, plus 28+ years military service, active and reserve (two wars) I have been in contact with the "elites" - political appointees with connections - for many years. They do feel entitled and they do look at the rest of us as though we are there to serve them and their career aspirations.

Posted by: ikins | October 25, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

We are living in George Orwell's 1984. Like Winston Smith, we are a sickly bunch, but in this era, sickly is the very picture of health.

This time next year, "the best of times" will bring us "unparalleled bounty" through extreme austerity -- sorry, I meant to say commonsense conservation of our riches -- for example, "electric[ity will be] cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week." [From "1984".]

Education will be reserved for those who need it most, those who challenge the very omnipotent of the Founding Fathers and the infalliability of the Constitution and seek to add words to it, like "separation of church and state."

"Elitism" will be a prejorative reserved for the most dangerous of the New Society.

Sorry... I've said too much. FEMA's here. I'm going to "college!"

Posted by: jade_7243 | October 25, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Applebaum doesn't go far enough.

Murray leaves out the most apt, obvious comparison to his hypothesis, that of both Maoist China, Pol Pot's Kh'mer Rouge, and early Marxist Russia -- the proletariat, lead by charismatic, under-educated ideologues, destroyed universities, libraries, research labs, hospitals and exiled their own intelligentsia (teachers, professors, doctors, scientists) to labor camps or simply had them executed.

Today in China people refer to their "Cultural Revolution" as "China's Great Shame". Cambodia is still reeling from it's 'Killing Fields' and Russia has deteriorated into a uber-right-wing police state with an obeisant citizenry.

But here is Murray, no doubt sitting in a cubicle at the AEI not far from Wrong-Way Wolfowitz and Willie Krystol (whose father Irving was spiritual guide to the Neocon movement).

When any of these 'senior fellows' write anything, one can easily smell their core message like so much rank, festering goo -- they're devotees of Leo Strauss and 'Straussian' ethics, which proclaims energetically and unashamedly that the only way for the USA to survive is to become an oligarchy of corporate sponsors.

That my son or daughter should be absolutely repulsed and thus openly disdainful of such pablum as 'Left Behind' makes me much prouder of them than if they were to attentively read that emotive, useless pap and then patronizingly pat the little teary-eyed goobers on their heads.

Murray want to Lower the bar? Sorry but No Sale -- as usual. But we take note that such a zeitgeist is exactly what the AEI wishes for -- a dumbed-down populace is much easier to manipulate -- just ask any gaggle of tyrannical fascists.

Posted by: Frank57 | October 25, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

To all the "elites" out there who scolded me for my tire-changing comment.
Granted it was a simplistic statement.
The fact remains that many of those in the administration (some leaving, some remain) have zero experience in running a business. Many have zero experience at anything outside of the bubble of academia.
They write two thousand page bills that few read and fewer understand. Unintended consequences are popping up like mushrooms after a rain.
To get simplistic again, is it too much to ask that someone instructing me on how to change a tire be required to actually change a few tires before they tell me how to do it?

Posted by: spamsux1 | October 25, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

The actual "elites" (self-appointed) in this country are and have always been the obscenely rich, reactionary individuals and businesses who pull all the strings and who have now bought and paid for our national government. Murray's article is just a diversion and smoke screen hiding the true state of affairs. Incidentally, those same "elites" pay for Murray's cushy job in the ersatz American Enterprise "Institute" where Mr. Murray pulls down a paycheck.

Posted by: ejs2 | October 25, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Every single well read modern pundit is an elite, whether they admit it or not. I absolutely love how well-educated, privileged, dare I say "elite" conservatives pretend that they are just like regular folk - despite their elite status. William Kristol was particularly bad for this this hypocrisy.

It really is just a code word for people smarter/better educated than you. The smarter and better educated a person is, the less susceptible they are to propaganda, emotional rhetoric, junk science, confusing correlation with causation, and magic thinking - in other words, the more educated and intelligent a person is, the harder they are to control and manipulate and really, when it boils down to it, that's what this is all about.

Posted by: cjpotter19 | October 25, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Every single well read modern pundit is an elite, whether they admit it or not. I absolutely love how well-educated, privileged, dare I say "elite" conservatives pretend that they are just like regular folk - despite their elite status. William Kristol was particularly bad for this this hypocrisy.

It really is just a code word for people smarter/better educated than you. The smarter and better educated a person is, the less susceptible they are to propaganda, emotional rhetoric, junk science, confusing correlation with causation, and magic thinking - in other words, the more educated and intelligent a person is, the harder they are to control and manipulate and really, when it boils down to it, that's what this is all about.

Posted by: cjpotter19 | October 25, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow! I certainly disagree with that last comment. The smarter you are the less susceptible you are to B.S. Give me a break. The smarter and more educated some people are the more they think that they know it all and are only too capable of disregarding anyone who thinks otherwise. A comment like that just exposes an elitist jerk. I have an advanced degree. Does it make me more wise than a farmer sitting on a fence in Iowa thinking how stupid it is for the left elite to push health-care without cost controls. I don't think so. And don't give me the crap about a public option. There's a reason for the fact we pay twice the amount of other advanced countries for health care, even though they have universal health care. Give it a shot elites! It's your own craven politicians on both sides of the aisle. Smart and elite indeed!!

Posted by: Fergie303 | October 25, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Anne Applebaum!

Posted by: martymar123 | October 25, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Ms. Applebaum and many of the comments on this board.

Obama's is such a compelling life story - it is a REPUBLICAN story, in many ways. He came from nothing and worked hard his whole life, and now all he's getting is crap for it.

Maybe we'd all be happier if we split into 2 countries. The United States seems less united every day. I can go live in my Democracy run by Democrats, please, and let the Republic of the Tea Party build and maintain their own country with no taxes.

Posted by: StowMom | October 25, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Funny how in "The Bell Curve" Murray dumped on Black children for supposedly having low IQs and not being educable.

Now he's dumping on those with high IQs and lots of education.

Sounds more and more like he just doesn't respect Blacks and doesn't like "elite" educated people annoy him by disagreeing with him, and he's making up spurious arguments and bogus sociology to justify his prejudices.

Posted by: herzliebster | October 25, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

PT Barnum said, "No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people." No truer words said.

You see if you have a half decent education you can think critically and see through the lies of the false populism of multi millionaires like Glenn Beck and Karl Rove. And the moral preaching of the immoral adulturer like Newt Gingrich.

Posted by: rlritt | October 25, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

There's probably near-universal agreement that anyone who thinks he's better than others is acting like an ass, regardless of the reason why. I would argue that only a minority of educated people look down on uneducated people, just as only a minority of Christians see themselves as better than the "unsaved." From what I've seen, particularly among my own relatives, I think it's more likely that many people without educations feel needlessly insecure about this fact. Needlessly because a lack of education is not a character flaw. So they project that insecurity onto people who don't hide the fact that they're educated, which they misinterpret as flaunting that education. That's the insecurity that Spiro Agnew exploited and that Sarah Palin continues to exploit. They're actually expressing an anti-egalitarian viewpoint - they accuse educated people of being aloof from "regular people" yet their rhetoric assumes the existence of that same division. Murray writes as if he has his own insecurities about education. He might feel guilty over it and is projecting that onto other educated people.

Posted by: Carstonio | October 25, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Most recently, he attacked college education as "a waste of time," in part because most people aren't smart enough to benefit from it.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
If most people aren't smart enough to benefit from higher education, why now according to the GOP/TEA Party standards are they suddenly smart enough to write laws and vote on them for my benefit?

Posted by: AverageJane

Brava, Jane, brava!

Posted by: arancia12 | October 25, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I have to disagree Ms. Applebaum. I think the mood is more against those who have rarely wandered outside academia. People who have never changed a flat tire on the side of the road or worked on a factory floor or otherwise never really got their hands dirty working for a living. Cloistered I guess.
Beard-stroking professors issuing mandates from on high.

Posted by: spamsux1 | October 25, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

---

An idiotic comment. I recently visited Kent State. Blew a tire on the way into campus. I and the other beard stroking professor pulled into the lot and changed the tire without a problem (and without getting my favorite shirt dirty).

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | October 25, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

But does Charles Murray know who Jamey Johnson is?

Posted by: edlharris | October 25, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I am part of the old guard, when smart young people were specifically recruited for specific abilities and skill sets and encouraged to get their hands dirty, and I still walk around with rolled up sleeves under suits when I wear them as a force of habit (incase I need to change a tire or spark-plugs. lol), so I don't know what all this fuss about "New Elites" is these days - I figure it must be a backlash against too many talking heads on TV providing too much analysis no one can truthfully make much sense of or actually needs, damn the 24 hour news cycle. lol.

Back in my day "Elites" didn't try to become celebrities, they just quietly remained behind the scenes providing brains and substance to necessary actions of decision-makers. These days people see celebrity "New Elites" and celebrity "Anti-Elite Elites" duking it out on TV or in Newspapers, and everybody loves to watch a good fight, so it has become part of the entertainment cycle. lol.

Truth is, if you are reading this Newspaper then you are already part of the "Elite" either in person or in mindset or are intelligent enough to be so your kids will probably be part of the "Elite" 20 years from now, think about it - if that wasn't so you'd probably be sitting in front of the TV vegetating instead of reading and contributing to this discussion. lol.

Posted by: darkasnight1234 | October 25, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Anne- I always love your work.

The part of this I enjoy the most is the lemming-like behavior of most Tea Party activists- being led right over the cliff by the Koch Brothers, Rush, and Glen. Who are, in fact, busy setting themselves up as the next "elite" and who are going to fleece these sheep like the rubes they are.

I doubt you'll see Sarah Palin changing tires on the side of the rod anytime soon- she has Tea Party drones that do it for her.

Posted by: ball3991 | October 25, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

People are angry because of the state of the economy. That's pretty much it. Some of the targets of anger are more accurate than others.

The "educated elite" wields a lot less power in this country than the financial elite who actually have the resources to finance political campaigns. Yet guys like Beck tend to target the pointy-headed types as a grand distraction. Call it Nerd or Bow-tie baiting.

Meanwhile guys like Beck are laughing all the way to the bank and he's embracing guys like the Kochs who have been on a long winning streak in terms of their ability to actually shape policy over decades.

Murray has also made a nice career out of carrying water for the rich and powerful. Although I suspect if he could remember back to his own Harvard days I'd imagine that not many folks back then could name famous NASCAR drivers. He's being disingenuous when he states that this is some kind of a "new" phenomena. There have always been cultural differences which relate in some way to place of birth, education, family wealth, and a host of other factors.

Posted by: JPRS | October 25, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

I never understood the piece to begin with, sounded like it came from academia.

I mean, with Whites set to be the largest minority in 2050, there isn't a mainstream America to be elitist to.

I guess you could call them the elite because they run the country. But not because they are "out of touch".

The entire nation is increasingly suffering from a failure to communicate.

Posted by: camasca | October 25, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

The message of the Bell Curve: dark skin = lesser intelligence. Genetic explanations of socioeconomic status justify bigotry, especially when the grandee expressing them does not belong to the race or religious group of the underclass.

Posted by: Martial | October 26, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse


The Nazis liked to use "decadent intellectuals" as a rallying symbol. They purged the academy of the decadent types. Only professors who aligned with the Nazis were tolerated.

Those who do not learn, are doomed to repeat . . . .

Posted by: HumanistPatriot | October 26, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Jeez - enough already. Murray has put something out there that rings true with far-from-utterly-ignorant Americans "out there." It's totally true, there. Just as the analysis and think tank position papers are totally true. I, for one, am grateful Murray has embedded himself among the elites, write what is plain as day for the rest of us and has the dual cred that requires.

Posted by: nuffothis | October 26, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Sensitive aren't we...your time at Yale must make his remarks hit close to home. Charles Murry, also educated at one of America's premier universities, seems to understand. He says college isn't really worth it because most today see it as an end rather than the starting place, the foundation for your real education. Most people do not understand that. A college degree is merely a point of reference, certainly not enough to make you worth too much more than entry level salary...that is why (unless you are a Clinton) you can expect to start at the bottom. I further agree with the idea that many of those classified as "elites" beleive that because of their intellect and their degree they know more and are better equipped to tell other Americans how to best run their life. When in reality they have never accomplished anything or worked or suffered or celebrated what the majority of humans in the world go through. You have been lucky, a great education, great exposure to the world, and great jobs...but...you really truly do not know what the average American or for that matter how the average human in the world lives. I am sure you can give me great detail on the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. You can give me great information on economics but can you tell me what it is like to plant a crop and hope the weather holds until harvest or that sufficient rain falls. Can you tell me what it is like to walk down a street with a dozen of your closest friends knowing that maybe a sniper is waiting all the while wondering if your wife managed to get the dealership to repair the car under warranty or if you were going to have to find the cash to pay for it...We out here in reality see a Washington under the care of "elites" who do not understand reality. Our President has never held a real job. His staff, the majority lawyers from either an Ivy League school, Georgetown, Duke or Stanford. The majority of those people, intelligent one and all, are not prepared for life. Some can't even pay their income tax on time, something I have done for over 40 years. Face it the elites are to blame for the currrent economic and political situation, regardless of politics. I will just leave you with an old saying out here in normal land. Intelligence doesn't breed common sense...which isn't common. We need people with experience and common sense not another PhD or JD.

Posted by: staterighter | October 26, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Appelbaum and most of those commenting above prove Murray's main points: the object of criticism is not meritocracy, intelligence or education per se, but an elite rooted in detachment from and obliviousness to the reality in which most of us live; and this aloof elite's insistence on telling others how they ought to live, that "we (by virtue of our superior education) are qualified to be the rulers of you less educated ones." First, only 4-5 sentences stand between Murray's expression of "doubt that there's much to differentiate the... scholars at the American Enterprise Institute from those of the Brookings Institution" and a byline describing Murray as a "scholar at the American Enterprise Institute." Might the author and Murray's critics here be so careless in reading the text they criticize (all the while presuming to be the virtuous targets of the implied critique) as to miss his obvious and all but explicit acknowledgment that he's part of an intellectual elite? Are all these people such keen readers as to miss the fact that neither Murray, nor anyone else, identifies being well-educated with being aloof, detached and presumptuous in what you claim to know about those you want to lead? To note a regrettable correlation between two phenomena is not to identify them as one and the same thing. Coming from people who dismiss offhand Murray's intellect and scholarship as well as his suggestion that they might be disconnected from the reality staring them in the face, the failure to notice these obvious facts is almost as funny as any of Seinfeld's observations. Finally, those who fault a sociologist for writing "they" instead of "we" in an analysis of social phenomena (whether he exemplifies these phenomena or not is beside the point) need to have the authenticity of their academic records looked into, for one should never have passed a single 100-level course before shaking off the notion that a first person pronoun belongs in such contexts. In short, there's nothing wrong with a top-notch education; there's plenty amiss with those who complacently take greater credit (for erudition or intellect) than they merit, and much to be resented in those (think Obama) whose blindness to their own shortcomings leads them to think they ought to be hailed by everyone else as the omniscient leaders who'll lead us from darkness to light. This, by the way, is also related to what many of us find so off-putting in the less-than-well founded assumption that a "liberal analyst" like Juan Williams moves beyond the pale of civilized, enlightened discourse by the sheer act of joining in public debate with those Fox-sters whose views we despise and deem below our dignity to confront. (Surely that was his crime.) It's aloof, willful ignorance, not rational or liberal conduct, to act as though such views have no place in the marketplace of ideas, as though hearing or debating them couldn't possibly be of any value.

Posted by: ZviYC | October 27, 2010 2:16 AM | Report abuse

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