Crimes of the Century

Ross Douthat, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, as well as common sense and a humanity he must have lost in a tragic childhood accident, thinks the last decade was a failure of meritocracy:

For decades, the United States has been opening paths to privilege for its brightest and most determined young people, culling the best and the brightest from Illinois and Mississippi and Montana and placing them in positions of power in Manhattan and Washington. By elevating the children of farmers and janitors as well as lawyers and stockbrokers, we’ve created what seems like the most capable, hardworking, high-I.Q. elite in all of human history.

And for the last 10 years, we’ve watched this same elite lead us off a cliff — mostly by being too smart for its own good.

We can’t disagree with Douthat’s general point that humility is the cure for hubris — the idea goes back to at least Socrates, who argued that acknowledging your own ignorance is the path to wisdom.

We also can’t argue with his offering of Bobby Mac — that would be Robert McNamara to you, since your neighbor’s mom wasn’t dating him in the 1980s — as the poster child of The Best and The Brightest.

Where we do part ways is the notion that the failures of the past decade had anything to do with intelligence.

And no, we’re not taking a cheap shot at our MBA Preznit.

The failures are, of course, Iraq and Wall Street. And the elites responsible are, on the whole, wicked smart. (You may redeem that cheap shot here.) And they certainly did drive us off a cliff.

The rest of us, that is.

But how did those elites do? Which Masters of the Universe are destitute, or in prison? Which war criminals faced justice, or at least disgrace?

If anything, the first decade of our Brave New Millennium was notable for its unbroken series of Perfect Crimes. Enron and Worldcom are distant memories, the only blemishes on the record.

It wasn’t a failure of intelligence. All the Rational Actors made off like bandits.

So what was the failure? The rest of us let them.

Our Reckless Meritocracy [NYT]

Yeah, Douthat’s editorial cought my atention yesterday, too, and I wrote some scattershot, disorganized thoughts on the subject on my blog.

Basically, Douthat is trying to put the best face possible on the GOP’s vulgar, knee jerk, anti-intellectualism. He’s trying to make it seem like an understandable reaction to an economic crisis brought on by a hyper-educated elite. But the fact that Douthat’s editorial was motivated by the disgracing of a former Democratic governor of New Jersey is already a red flag as to the essential dishonesty of his piece. Wall Street is basically the ultimate GOP country club. Theplace is run by people (until they need a massive bailout) are stallwart supporters of the GOP and its anti-regulatory anti-tax philosophy. The list of worthy Wall Street criminals could fill a book. And yet, it’s not ’till a prominent Democrat gets in trouble htat Douhtat takes notice? I call bullshit.

The truth is, the GOP elite stokes this vulgar anti-intellectualism born of petty resentment as an antidote to and bullwark against an emergent class consciousness. It is the educated elite that the GOP demonizes because it throws the scent off the financial elite who really run the country.

Wow I just finished “reading” the Douchehat piece o’shit.

Most of us here went go to school with folks like Jon “Unfit for Private or Public Service” Corizine. There is nothing wrong with being smart, ambitious and even being self-centered but except when you get to higher levels of leadership. The problem is when you are the leader is that you can’t be self-centered me first asshole. One has the lives of so many people in their hands and you need to see beyond yourself to run things well. Problem is that most people can’t or won’t. What is happening today is what we get is when people confuse ambition and assholish behavior for leadership.

@Serolf Divad:
I have to agree with you here. It was a kicking a douchebag while he’s down kind of piece. Douchehat could have wrote about the hundreds of Wall St Bozos with the same pedigree, but he had to pick the scumbag Demrat.

TJ/ Geek question in da clubhouse.

Thanks for that Nojo. After reading Douthat I had a lot of anger but couldn’t put it to coherent thought. But now, there you go.

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