Hear. Hear. WAlter Russell Mead, the best and most perceptive American essayist alive, on Establishment Blues
we have never had an Establishment that was so ill-equipped to lead. It is the Establishment, not the people, that is falling down on the job.
Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed.
Take Wall Street. (Please!) Our corrupt financial and corporate establishment has by and large lost its concern for the well being of the American state and the American people.
We have had financial scandals before and we have had waves of corporate crime. We have had pirates and robber barons. But we have never seen a collapse of ordinary morality in the corporate suites on the scale of the last twenty years. We have never seen naked money grubbing among our politicians akin to the way some recent figures in both parties have cashed in. Human nature hasn’t changed, but a kind of moral grade inflation has set in and key segments of the American Establishment are increasingly accepting the unacceptable as OK. Investment banks betray their clients; robo-signers essentially forge mortgage documents day after day and month after month; insider traders are lionized. Free markets actually require a certain basic level of honesty to work; if we can’t be more honest than this neither our markets nor we ourselves will remain free for very long.
Mead goes on to discuss other factors he calls Guild Mindset, Progressive Myopia, Blind Faith in Meritocracy, and
The Evaporation of Religion.
Too many American intellectuals today spend their time mocking popular expressions of American exceptionalism and other forms of patriotic thought without working to create and promote a richer vision of the country, a deeper and wiser patriotism that connects with the sentiments of ordinary Americans and raises them to a wider and more magnanimous plane.
A leadership class is responsible for, among other things, giving a voice to the feelings of the nation and doing so in a way that enables the nation to advance and to change. Most of the American establishment today is too ignorant of and too squeamish about the history and language of American patriotism to do that job. In the worst case, significant chunks of the elite have convinced themselves that patriotism is in itself a bad and a dangerous thing, and have set about to smother it under blankets of politically correct disdain.
This will not end well.
Read the whole thing.Posted by Jill Fallon at May 13, 2011 3:07 PM | Permalink